Guest editorial: Weighing in on North Park Community Plan Update

Posted: August 26th, 2016 | Featured, Opinion | 1 Comment

By George Franck

The North Park Historical Society (NPHS) has been participating in the North Park Community Plan Update process for a half-dozen years. We have commented on the Community Historical Survey and the draft Historical Element, as well as other land-use and design issues.

NPHS generally supports the intensification of the transit corridors as a way of improving our community and accommodating growth.

However, we oppose the current proposal to allow extremely high residential densities, high building height and increased lot coverage in the residential area between Howard Avenue and Lincoln Avenue. The objective of this proposed program is to replace the older infill (so-called “Huffman” apartment buildings), which have a paved front yard design (or streetscape) that makes walking and bicycle use difficult in much of North Park.

We oppose this high-density redevelopment concept because:

  1. While the proposed higher densities promote the redevelopment of Huffmans, they also encourage the redevelopment of bungalow courts, other well-designed multifamily buildings, and some remaining single-family homes. Many of these other residential buildings are potentially historic and most contribute to the historic, pedestrian-friendly design of North Park.
  1. In the central corridor, all of these existing residential uses — especially the Huffmans — provide significantly lower rental costs or purchase prices than units in the new, more intensive development. One of North Park’s greatest attributes is that the range of housing in the community accommodates a wide economic range of residents. North Park represents a truly balanced community; destruction of the Huffmans would reduce adequate lower cost housing.
  1. While the streetscape design of the Huffman type buildings is unfortunate, the scale of the buildings is more in keeping with community character. In contrast, the proposed city program would allow much higher multiple stories, out of character with the residential streets in North Park.
  1. Other treatment of the Huffman buildings should be implemented to improve pedestrian travel and community appearance. While not a perfect solution, supplemental front yard landscaping including major street trees is an obvious option.

While some of the buildings on University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard should be preserved because they are historic or potentially historic, these transit arteries are where redevelopment should be focused. NPHS continues to advocate those locations for increased density; we also support the preservation of an economically balanced North Park.

–George Franck is vice president of the North Park Historical Society.

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