Hutton Marshall | Uptown Editor
On Wednesday, Aug. 6, Bike San Diego published an online petition calling for the resignation of Leo Wilson, the longtime chair of the Uptown Community Planning Group, a city-recognized advisory board focused on land use and development.
Sam Ollinger, executive director of the bike advocacy nonprofit, said the letter accompanying the petition was originally sent as an email from her directly to Wilson on July 8, but she received no reply. In the letter, Ollinger criticizes Wilson for an aversion to active transportation planning.
“Your leadership at Uptown Planners reveals a fundamental inability to address the concerns of anyone except automobile drivers and their near constant demand for more public space to store their private vehicles,” Ollinger wrote.
She also cites an inflammatory letter Wilson sent to a senior city planner, in which Wilson criticized “straight white bigots” threatening the integrity of “historic Hillcrest.”
“I object to certain straight white bigots attacking the members of the GLBT community accusing the Hillcrest community of being antiquated because we are asking that the character of Hillcrest, and other communities in Uptown, be preserved,” Wilson wrote in an email to Senior Planner Marlon Pangilinan. “If these people want to live in a high density environments, they need to move Downtown.”
Wilson, a former attorney who also runs another non-profit community organization, the Metro Community Development Corporation, has served as the chair of Uptown Planners for more than nine years between 2005 – 2014.
In the letter, which was published on the online-petitioning site Change.org, Ollinger cites multiple projects aimed at improving active transportation in Uptown, which encompasses Hillcrest, Mission Hills, Bankers Hill and a portion of University Heights.
“It’s interesting because Ollinger attacked me for the [2011 India Street bike lane proposal], but that would have taken out over 100 parking spaces. That would have been devastating to businesses,” Wilson said. “And I’ll be honest, with the [email to Pangilinan], I was tired of being attacked, so I was giving them a piece of their own medicine.”
When asked who she would support as a potential successor as chair of the planning board, Ollinger said she didn’t have a specific person in mind. She did, however, mention Chris Ward, an Uptown Planner running for the District 3 City Council seat in 2016, as someone who would likely benefit from showing leadership on the issue. Ward currently serves as chief of staff in State Sen. Marty Block’s office.
Ollinger said the future chair “should be a voice for the community instead of having a bias against community voices, that’s who I’d really like to see replace [Wilson].”
*This post was updated to include commentary from Leo Wilson.