Hutton Marshall | Editor
Old Town, as its name suggests, takes pride in its age. Known as the first European settlement in California, the roots of the “Birthplace of California” trace back to 1769.
But its aged amenities inevitably present infrastructure challenges. A prime example is Juan Street, a 90-year-old thoroughfare running through the heart of Old Town. City leaders on Aug. 26 announced the start of an $8 million project to improve both the street’s surface and the outdated infrastructure below it.
The project, which is expected to take 12 to 14 months to complete, is the first example of a new infrastructure approach known as “One Dig,” where several different improvements are folded into a single project. The project will repave the road, sidewalks and curb ramps as well as replace the under ground water main and improve storm drains and gutters.
The work — stretching from Taylor Street to Sunset Road — will inevitably impact the dozens of businesses with storefronts along Juan Street. The city will attempt to minimize the traffic and parking impacts by dividing the project into multiple smaller segments, according to a community representative in Council President Gloria’s office.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who represented Old Town for a portion of his time as a city councilmember before the area was redrawn into Gloria’s district, said the “One Dig” approach is ideal for Juan Street, as well as many others in the city.
“Juan Street was built in 1929, and it’s in desperate need of a makeover, not just on the surface but underneath the street as well,” Faulconer said. “This is going to be one of the largest concrete paving projects that the city has done in many years.”
Old Town San Diego Chamber of Commerce President Fred Grand, whose two businesses are located on Juan Street, said he’s been impressed with the city’s outreach efforts. Despite the impending interruption to his storefront, he’s optimistic about the project’s construction phase.
“Most recently, we had a Chamber of Commerce meeting where the head of the construction project said ‘Look, here’s my cell phone number if you need to get a hold of me, if you have any questions, if you’re wondering what’s going on in front of your business, you can call me,’” Grand said. “In a perfect world that’s what you would like to see things done.”
“Will there be impacts for traffic circulation, parking, things of that nature? Yeah, that’s the unfortunate nature of that work,” Gloria said. “The good news is that [Juan Street’s] current state lasted about 90 years; we don’t plan on inconveniencing the community for that same amount of time.”
Faulconer and Gloria both recalled voting on the Juan Street project in their early days on the City Council. Both men said comprehensive planning strategy and extensive community outreach were two reasons for the five-year gap between the project’s approval and its groundbreaking. Faulconer said the planning-heavy approach should be the new norm.
“The idea is to make [the “One Dig” approach] the standard operating procedure for doing business,” Faulconer said. “That’s why we’re doing our five-year capital projects now rather than just lurching from year to year.”
Gloria also pointed to the benefits of spending extra time in the planning and outreach phase of infrastructure projects.
“It’s one of those frustrating things to think back and realize, ‘Wow, I voted on that forever ago’ … but it’s part of the process to make sure that these projects are done right — and once,” Gloria said.