The community organizations of Greater North Park

There’s no better problem than an overabundance of organizations working for the community, as is the case in Greater North Park, the focus of this installment and the next in our series on community organizations.
With several of the most prominent organizations in our coverage area concentrated in the neighborhood, doing them all justice in two issues will be its own challenge.

Greater North Park encompasses a few different communities. While the bulk of North Park sprawls into fuzzy boundary lines with University Heights, Burlingame and South Park, the area’s epicenter is at University Avenue and 30th Street. A quiet residential zone just a couple decades ago, the intersection is now host to a lively bar scene that’s more hip than your grandma’s joint replacement.

While next issue will focus more on these businesses and the locals that frequent them, this installment will address the land use and urban planning changes seen in the area.
Like much of the surrounding region, North Park is balancing the burst of economic activity seen over the last decade with the increasing fight against gentrification and overdevelopment, all while planning to mitigate the hefty dollop of environmental impacts coming along with them.

—Hutton Marshall, Uptown Editor



North Park Community Planning Group (NPCPG)

Nearing the end of a community plan update, the NPCPG seems to realize that North Park is among the most rapidly changing communities in the city, thus greatly in need of updating its nearly 30-year-old community plan, which shapes how the community will grow in the coming decades.

Those with sustainability in mind — NPCPG’s Chair Vicki Granowitz included — have advocated for increasing density along transit corridors and creating more walkable communities. I warmly welcome the impending criticism when I say that North Park seems to be at the forefront of progressive urban planning in this newspaper’s coverage area.

Granowitz said the planning board has several other goals beyond updating its community plan. Helping to responsibly incorporate new, large developments into the community is a task every community planning group deals with, but with new developments like the North Parker on 30th and Upas streets, the NPCPG has its hands more full than other groups. Accounting for increased traffic and noise levels is already on Granowitz’s mind.

Similarly, the planning board has also been facilitating discussion between residents and the growing bar and restaurant scene, which, as anyone who’s frequented the area on a Saturday night knows, can get quite noisy.

Ensuring that bars follow the City’s noise-reduction rules already in place is a solution Granowitz said has been most effective in reaching a friendly understanding between the two groups.

In a previous installment of this series, I mentioned the “Between the Heights” region and the eastern area of University Heights as defined by the University Heights Community Association as a notably contentious area. Basically, some would like to see University Heights — currently divided between the planning districts of Greater North Park and Uptown — wholly adopted into the latter. Others, Granowitz included, would like to see that portion of University Heights remain under the jurisdiction of the NPCPG. Without delving into the arguments of either side, Granowitz would like to see more dialogue between NPCPG, Uptown Planners and the City, but there hasn’t been much to indicate such a discussion will happen before the plan updates move through the City’s approval phase.

North Park Maintenance Assessment District (NPMAD)

In speaking with NPMAD’s president Rob Steppke, it was quickly apparent that operating a MAD is no easy task, especially in the last few years. While the situation is slowly improving, many MADs in San Diego felt a serious burden during the recession as the City was forced to scale back neighborhood improvements during continuous budget reductions. Steppke said this was commonly seen in tree trimming. Historically a City-provided service, the NPMAD reluctantly picked up the slack over the last few years, but is beginning to see the City step back in once again.

While the NPMAD funds several ongoing maintenance services, Steppke said a looming concern for the organization is the shrinking scope of what it’s able to accomplish, creating the need to reform the MAD.

This is largely because of two things: One, when a MAD is first created, it has to be approved by a vote among the property owners it will affect. This vote dictates the amount these property owners will be assessed each year. The number is not completely set in stone; it comes along with an index dictating how much it can be increased each year to account for inflation. For the NPMAD, this assessment is now approximately $21, but the NPMAD is close to hitting the ceiling of the index, which will reduce its capabilities as inflation continues to rise.

The second limitation for the NPMAD is simply the scope of projects that it’s allowed to take on. When a MAD is formed, in addition to deciding how much it will assess residents, it decides what it can do with that assessment. NPMAD feels this scope could be broadened as well.
While Steppke is far from apocalyptic about the MAD’s future, he expressed concern over the campaigning process required to pass a new MAD. It’s lengthy, expensive and time consuming. North Park Main Street already went through an unsuccessful attempt to update the MAD several years ago, so many involved know the monetary risk of trying again. Steppke hopes a new MAD could be approved in five years.

In the meantime, working with SANDAG as the Bus Rapid Transit system and the Mid-City Bike Corridor are constructed will be high on the NPMAD’s list of priorities as well.
Check back next week, where we’ll discuss the business and residents groups in Greater North Park.


*The map above was amended to correctly identify the boundaries of the two organizations.

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