Letters to the editor – Dec. 2

Posted: December 2nd, 2016 | Featured, Letters to the Editor, Opinion | 1 Comment

Spirit of the season

Re: “Dancing on wheels: ‘Differently abled’ dancers showcase,” Vol. 8, Issue 24, or at

Brought a big smile to my face and happy memories of wheelchair dancing with students at the Viking Center in the Grossmont school district. An especially beautifully written feature and photography for this Thanksgiving season, given the gratitude of the dancers for this program and the spirit of giving from Wheelchair Dance Organization leaders and participants.

Bonnie Bekken via our website,

Do not give up!

Angry, appalled, embarrassed, frightened. There are not enough adjectives to describe my reaction to a white America that could, in one election, potentially destroy any remaining moral authority, sanity and dignity that President Barack Obama nobly tried to restore to this country.

In my naiveté, I really thought that if Donald J. Trump received more than 25 percent of the vote, it would indicate a level of bigotry among my fellow-whites, which I would consider abhorrent.

What actually happened has shaken me to the core, and as a white man I cannot help but feel complicit. I would like to think my white friends and acquaintances share my concerns, but it doesn’t appear many of them do.

How did this happen? Call it a noxious stew of white victimology and toxic masculinity, stirred by a master manipulator devoid of any shred of character or decency. Throw in no small amount of fear, apathy and reflexive support for a Republican Party, which is now nothing more than a national version of the White Citizens’ Councils of Mississippi in the 1960s. Unfortunately, we are looking at a dystopian future that is hard to contemplate, and harder yet to forestall. However, giving up is not a decision moral people can make.

I am agnostic, but I probably know as much, or as little, about the Bible as those who deliberately take quotes out of context to justify hatred and bigotry. I prefer the values shown in the Beatitudes. However, the America that has been ushered in by the calamity of Nov. 8, 2016, is more reflective of Hosea 10:13, “You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruits of lies.”

— Mark D. McCool of San Diego via email

 Uptown Community Plan

Re: “Uptown CPU is approved; Gateway plan added,” Vol. 8, Issue 24 or at

The new Uptown Community Plan is a compromise that keeps residential densities at the current level. It takes the middle ground between the Uptown Planners’ recommendation to reduce densities below what is now allowed, and the city of San Diego Planning Commission’s preference for higher densities that would both increase the supply of housing, and fight climate change, by allowing people to live close enough to jobs, public transportation, and stores to walk or bike.

The Uptown Planners recommendation represented the view of the majority on the board who are against change in Uptown. It would have reduced the amount of housing that could have been built in the future, and driven up the cost to buy and rent for everyone; while at the same time hurting property owners financially by lowering the value of over $7 billion in property.

The Planning Commission has to consider what is best for the city as a whole, not just what one board recommends. Before voting on the plan, they talked about the housing crises in San Diego. They noted that other communities had increased densities when they updated their community plans, rather than trying to keep people out.

They also said that the newly adopted Climate Action Plan, which the Uptown Planners voted in favor of, calls for increasing the percentage of people who walk or bike to work. That means that we need to allow more people to live close enough to walk, bike or take public transit.

The compromise the Planning Commission voted to recommend to the City Council won’t result in much new housing in the 20 years before the next Uptown Community Plan, or do much to fight climate change. The proof is that the current densities haven’t resulted in much new housing in the 28 years since the last community plan lowered densities in 1988. While planners might say that if everything that could possibly be built were built, we would have 22,000 new residents at build-out; build-out never happens in an existing urban community like Uptown. The reality is that not everything that can be built gets built, and what is built rarely is built as big as it could be.

Since relatively few buildings were built in the last 28 years with the current land use densities, it isn’t logical to expect that many will be built in the next 20 years with the same densities. We have had only 0.4 percent annual growth in Uptown since the 1988 Community Plan. At this rate, (0.4 percent times 20 years), we would expect only 8 percent growth in population in the next 20 years, or an increase of only 2,880 people over our current population of 36,000. That isn’t enough growth to accommodate our own millennial children.

To build enough new housing for our children, and other people’s children, and fight climate change; we need to find ways to actually increase densities in the right places. The Gateway District is one of those places. It is close enough to walk to jobs in the Medical Complex, to stores and restaurants, and straddles six bus routes. This project is big enough to include infrastructure improvements, a public park, and finally a new public parking garage for Hillcrest!

Todd Gloria and most of the City Council voted to approve this compromise plan, because they considered it better for the future of the city of San Diego and Uptown, than lowering densities to keep our children out. For the sake of our children and their future, we should be thanking them!

—Sharon Gehl of Mission Hills, via our website

The creation of a Gateway District in Hillcrest is a tool the community can use to get the things that the city has been unable to provide like park space and an improved walking experience. In exchange for providing these public benefits, developers will be incentivized by increased density that allow for smaller and more affordable units to be built; also a public benefit.

As far as the Uptown planning group is concerned, they cannot disregard the city’s governing documents like the General Plan and Climate Action Plan and then cry victim when their recommendations are not adopted. Additionally, the planning group’s vote to downzone Uptown was not a unanimous one. That combined with differing recommendations from the city’s Code Monitoring Team, Technical Advisory Committee and Planning Commission, plus broad-based support for a more progressive plan from the business community, property owners, residents and environmental groups, the City Council’s vote could only go one way.

The plan that was adopted aims to serve the entire community instead of the established few. Well done!

—Elizabeth Robinson via our website

The just-approved CPU for Uptown includes many of things long envisioned for this district. Just as the Sears to Uptown Shopping Center (now HUB) redevelopment improved the Hillcrest neighborhood just after the adoption of the last Uptown CPU, the Uptown Gateway can remake a part of Hillcrest for the better. Some of the eyesores that have long been complained about (hello, Pernicanos) will finally be improved.

An increase in both market rate and low income housing will help moderate the cost of housing in this neighborhood.

The increased density will allow more businesses to thrive. Hillcrest has long been a destination for great shopping as many people drove from other ZIP codes to take advantage of the Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Hillcrest farmers market and the variety of local retail, eating and entertainment establishments. More neighbors in a walkable neighborhood will help all Hillcrest and Uptown businesses.

Some longtime Uptown residents may want to maintain the suburban density. That level of density will not support the mass transit, public spaces, interesting businesses, public art, services and amenities that everyone wants.

Every walking trip to a store takes one more car off the streets of Hillcrest and reduces the need for one more parking place. Increased density will make mass transit a more viable solution, further reducing cars on the streets. Improved bike infrastructure will also help tie the east and west sides of Hillcrest together. This was a vision in the last CPU that had never fully been realized.

It has been a long process and I am happy the City Council had the courage to move forward with a plan that will help this important neighborhood grow into the future. I am looking forward to the next vibrant phase of this over 100-year-old neighborhood. Let’s go!

—Glenn Younger via our website

At the City Council meeting on Nov. 14, District 3 Councilmember Todd Gloria lent a deaf ear, and turned a blind eye to the residents of the Uptown community.

There were more than four hours of testimony by dozens of Uptown residents opposed to a recently modified Community Plan. The plan will allow height increases in all six neighborhoods, and allow buildings of unlimited height in the heart and soul of Hillcrest.

Some of the testimony in opposition was tearful in pleading, some in anger, and much simply asking for consideration of an alternate plan. The alternate plan represents seven years of hard work by Uptown Planners, the city’s elected advisory body for land-use issues in the community. Instead, a green light was given to a developer’s dream.

It is hard to imagine how any councilmember could fail to see the questionable and undesirable elements in the plan they approved, but fail they did. Seven out of nine followed the failed leadership of Mr. Gloria who supported the plan and whose District 3 encompasses the Uptown community.

Not only is the approved plan questionable, but its last minute railroading through approval makes a mockery of the democratic seven-year process that preceded it — in the six neighborhoods, and at Uptown Planners. Some 500 pages of material was released in the last few days, with little time for public review.

The claim that only unlimited construction heights could assure affordable housing is ludicrous. Expensive high-rise condos is the far more likely outcome. Justifying unlimited height with compliance to the Climate Action Plan (CAP) is a red herring. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is, a small group of powerful and politically connected developers hijacked the carefully crafted work of the residents, and bastardized it to suit their financial goals. Only two of the nine councilmembers had the volition to vote against the plan. The others went along with Gloria and the well-heeled development lobbyists.

It was a sad day for the democratic process. Mr. Gloria announced that the next day would be his last City Council meeting. With a new, completely unexpected plan forced on the community, he gave a farewell finger to his constituents.

—Dennis Seisun of Hillcrest via email

Democracy is now dead in Uptown. We can dispense with the Uptown Planners group — total waste of time. Thanks, Todd!

—Donna Shanske via our website

The residents of Uptown who oppose the city’s latest version of the Community Plan Update have been unfairly characterized as against change, growth and density. This is simply not the case. We care about the quality of life throughout Uptown, about preserving character and history, about smart planning for the growth that will affect the core of Hillcrest and mobility on all levels.

We welcome new development and density but we know this can happen within the 65-foot height limit. The developers state repeatedly that if they don’t get 100-plus height limits, better yet none at all, nothing will be built. They seem to think if they keep repeating this line it will become true.

Looking around the neighborhood one can see a number of projects under construction or recently completed that are within or very close to the 65-food height limit, including 160-166 W. Robinson, 41 Maple St., and the recently reviewed project at 3534 Fifth Ave., the Strauss Fifth Avenue Apartments. So apparently building can happen at this height. The Atlas project, reasonable

height but huge for the core of Hillcrest, gives us a perspective on what 100-foot or taller buildings would feel like. Atlas, by the way, has never been fully leased.

The latest version of the CUP projects the demolition of over 2,000 single-family homes. I can’t quite fathom this. Where are 2,000 homes in our community that should be torn down? I can think of a few but 2,000? And most of this is middle-class housing, and it is green housing.

Mobility. My personal first choice is bike, next is bus. It is not getting better for either. Any of you riding your bike to work here? Or your staff? They must be hauling their bikes up to their offices. Have you noticed the deplorable, and empty, bike facility here at City Hall? The bus takes forever to almost anywhere but Downtown.

The bus system is just about what it was when I grew up here. Recently I wanted to take the bus from First and Brookes to the San Diego Zoo for an evening event, and found that would require two buses, two fares and 40 minutes.

Some things we need are in the plan but there is no budget for them. We need some basic things along with increased density, better transit, a library, an aquatics center, and under grounding. We need the wires out of the canyons, more critical everyday in this drought. And the new firehouse needs a ladder truck, which is not in the current plans, because of the density and the heights.

The larger community supports the Density Redistribution Alternative. Park Boulevard has improving transit. The core of Hillcrest is already saturated with buses and traffic.

The largest daily issue in Hillcrest is the homeless.

—Deirdre Lee of Hillcrest via email

In his final City Council meeting, Todd Gloria showed utter contempt for Hillcrest in a way that even shocked his staunchest supporters. The main issue of interest to Hillcrest before the council was the Uptown Community Plan Update.

A Community Plan lays out the rules that control the look and feel of a neighborhood. It does this primarily by regulating the density and height of new construction. The Community Plan is updated every so often and the current update has been underway for seven years. In those seven years, there have been tens of thousands of work-hours put in by the residents and businesses of Hillcrest. In a stunning display of hubris, Mr. Gloria ignored every bit of that input and calmly announced that he was supporting only the suggestions of a few special interests.

Over the last few years, in association with Mr. Gloria, the Hillcrest Business Association had molded a very delicate compromise dealing with the new bike lane to be built by SANDAG. With one sentence, Mr. Gloria casually threw out that resolution and said that Hillcrest would be subjected to the demands of the most extremist biking lobbyists. As a further insult, Mr. Gloria said the city would pay for these “improvements” — which is especially odd given that he has been virtually unable to deliver any improvements to Hillcrest over his eight years as our council representative.

But Mr. Gloria’s most truly horrific announcement was that of the special zone to be created to accommodate the ambitious building plans of the Uptown Gateway Group — which will forever alter the character of the core of Hillcrest. This special zone will have its own special height and density allowances. This zone will make up roughly half of the core of Hillcrest. The Gateway Group wants to build skyscrapers. I wonder what Fifth Avenue will look like with 20-story buildings on one side of the street and the existing one- and two-story buildings on the other side.

This whole business is appalling. What happened to representing the people? The only bright side of this unseemly business was summed up by a prominent local businessman who said, “At least Gloria’s going to be Sacramento’s problem now.”

—Bob Martynec has been the Hillcrest Town Council’s representative to the Uptown Community Plan Update. Submitted via email.

Well, we can dispense with the notion that San Diego’s community planning groups have any say in the planning process.

They were never more than advisory, but now we have a situation in which their advice wasn’t even sought — specifically a last-minute proposal to demolish nine square blocks of central Hillcrest and fill them with high-rises.

Calling this the creation of “affordable housing” is a joke. Units will sell for $750,000 up into the millions of dollars. No one will pay those prices without getting parking. And the residents of those buildings will “live, work and play” all over San Diego County, not just in Uptown. They will be driving cars, not taking buses.

Uptown’s population of 36,000 residents will increase by about 22,000 residents — with no increase in parking, recreational facilities, parks and other amenities. Most of that increase will be in Hillcrest, which already has traffic jams.

This “plan” claims to help reduce greenhouse gases. On the contrary, lines of stalled and idling cars will be increasing those gases and worsening the climate. Large buildings built to the lot line will eliminate trees and other vegetation, which absorb carbon dioxide. Hillcrest will become the proverbial soulless concrete jungle that could be anywhere — in Pittsburgh or St. Louis.

In the meantime, there is no commitment in the plan to fix roads and sidewalks, fill potholes, or replace aging sewer and water pipes.

Uptown already has a huge infrastructure deficit just for its existing residents. That deficit will be even bigger with 22,000 new residents. And then, of course, there’s the drought and San Diego’s permanent problem with obtaining fresh water.

The millennials who support demolishing Hillcrest always begin their spiel by claiming that they “love Hillcrest.” Yes, they love it only if it is no longer Hillcrest — a walkable, green and historic community.

It is easy to see what a bunch of phonies they are — shills for landowners and developers who couldn’t care less about climate change and affordability.

What they care about is making money, and what they are doing is called “gentrification” — driving all but the wealthy out of Uptown.

The good news is that this Community Plan Update can be defeated in court. It is not just a bad plan. It is not just unable to fulfill its promises of improving the quality of life in Uptown. It is outright preposterous. Yes, it’s a sick, pathetic joke.

The city, led by Councilmember Todd Gloria, has acted in bad faith with the community. So my suggestion is that the community stop giving the city the benefit of the doubt and take back all of the concessions it made before the city made its decision.

Instead of accepting a population increase of over 50 percent, it should demand that no population at all be added until the city has fixed our roads and eliminated the rest of Uptown’s infrastructure deficit.

After that, population growth should be limited to one half of 1 percent per year up to an absolute maximum of 10 percent.

If the city wants to do dense infill development, it can do it in places north of Interstate 8 where density is low — places like Scripps Ranch.

Uptown is already built out and as populated as it needs to be.

Andrew Towne via our website

The people of Uptown embraced plans for increased density and greater heights — at levels adequate to accommodate world-class mobility solutions. And at levels moderate enough to accommodate a high-qualify of life.

But that didn’t seem to work for the city of San Diego. Instead the city embraced the builder’s dreams of towering heights and excessive density. WITH NO COMMITMENT from the city for the required mobility solutions.

The developers will do their part, to be sure. Building will happen. But the city/county is not doing their part. The result will be even more of the same — traffic-congested, smog-choked, dirty urban centers.

Way to plan, San Diego.

—Tim Gahagan via our website

So much for planning

Re: “Guest Editorial by Tom Mullaney | Uptown Community Plan: 7 years of hard labor down the drain,” Vol. 8, Issue 23 or at

The monster version [of the Uptown Community Plan update] using the 1988 land-use maps was a split-second solution from the Planning Commission, which seemed to have little comprehension of the plan or process. Councilmember Todd Gloria, at the smart-growth committee, sent it forward to the Nov. 14 council meeting, with no recommendation, as I understood it.

We appreciate that at least he did not actually support a plan that the community does not support, but of course we would hope that our council representative would actually speak out strongly for the community, rather than paving the way for the developers.

The big issue is the height limit. The community wants 65-foot height limits, which still allows for a ton of density.

—Deirdre Lee via our website

Great synopsis of what has been churning under the surface of Uptown politics over the past seven years. It is amazing that so few of the 36,000-plus Uptown residents seem to be aware of the changes that could make our neighborhoods “un-livable:” more traffic congestion with decreased mobility/street safety, increased air pollution, more parking issues, gridlocked freeway accesses, etc. This could lead to our neighborhoods being like “December Nights” every day of the year. Please go to the Uptown resident website that is “for the people”:

—Donna Shanske via our website

Chris Ward profiles

Re: “Chris Ward, Parts 1 and 2,” Vol. 8, Issues 22 and 23 or at and

Interesting read. I have lived in San Diego all my life and formerly owned a home at Atlas, and Chris Ward is correct that development really helped that section of Hillcrest, and the La Boheme did the same for 30th Street in North Park; also 1 Mission in Mission Hills. I, for one, am for more density and the new life it brings.

—JT via our website

Very good article, Ken Williams, you always do a good job.

Many of us in Hillcrest know and like [Councilmember-elect] Chris Ward. This article helps explain why. He is ready.

I am looking forward to our future.

—Luke Terpstra, chair emeritus of the Hillcrest Town Council, via our website

Architect’s best work?

Re: “Discovering Irving Gill,” Vol. 8, Issue 20 or at

It seems odd to suggest architect Irving Gill’s work at the Barona reservation is some of his best work. It is certainly his most self-effacing work and it may suggest that Gill had, at that point in his life, developed a social agenda that architecture could uplift a low income community. And this may be seen as another way that Gill’s work so astoundingly anticipates future directions in modern architecture.

—David J. Gill via our website 

What a great idea

Re: “A world-class opportunity,” Vol. 8, Issue 21 or at 

Congratulations on the progress in your visioning processes on your cover project [an 8-acre park cap proposed to be built over state Route 94 between 22nd and 25th streets to reunite Golden Hill and Sherman Heights]. Our experience in City Heights, with our completed cover project, was that planning for multimodal transportation on, across and under the cover made the project possible. We built enhanced pedestrian plazas on the surface and reserved right of away below. Today, that foresight is paying off with the current construction of our bike routes to Mission Valley and transit links. All the best for the bright future you are planning.

—John Stump via our website

Pedestrians have the right of way

I’m a daily walker and I don’t mind having to share the sidewalk with bicycles when they don’t have a designated bike lane on the street, but pedestrians have the right away as far as I know. So please just give me fair warning when you are coming up behind a pedestrian! It can scare the crap out of the pedestrian, and most dogs are very uncomfortable with bicycles and especially skateboards.

—Brent via our website

Be wary 

Re: “A median, landscaped or paved? University Avenue re-do plan is at a crossroads,” Vol. 8, Issue 20 or at

Be prepared for more of these arguments. For their bike plans, SANDAG is also requiring that third parties such as maintenance assessment districts or parking districts be in place and agree to pay for taking care of any landscaping before they’ll install it. (Exceptions are federally funded projects, like the few blocks of Rapid Transit lanes on Park Boulevard, that are lushly landscaped.)

Problem is, these schemes require a subgroup, such as the adjacent property owners or those paying for parking, being forced to fund something everyone gets to enjoy. And California courts have not looked kindly on funding mechanisms that do not have a 1-to-1, pay-to-benefit relationship.

By refusing to figure in all the costs of the projects they present to the public, local governments and agencies are cutting corners on the cheap that end up costing more in future litigation than would being honest from the start.

—Mat Walstrom via our website

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One Comments

  1. Paul Jamason says:

    Kudos to Todd Gloria for vowing to fill the dangerous bike network gap on University Ave created by the Hillcrest Business Association. This gap wasn’t the result of a “very delicate compromise” as Bob Martynec’s letter states, but rather the tens of thousands of dollars the HBA paid lobbyist California Strategies to kill the Uptown Bikeway, behind closed doors at SANDAG.

    Martynec also describes unpaid, volunteer bike advocates as “extremist biking lobbyists” for daring to want a single safe bike route through Hillcrest. Meanwhile, Martynec shares a Hillcrest residence with Uptown Parking District Director and extremist parking lobbyist Tim Gahagan. Gahagan, along with HBA Uptown Parking Directors, strongly opposes any safety improvements in Hillcrest that would even minimally impact parking. Could this be because the tenants of Gahagan’s Hillcrest rental property enjoy free (city-subsidized) on-street parking?

    As San Diego aims to implement Vision Zero and Climate Action Plan projects, Gahagan and the HBA are leading a rogue, City-funded Parking District against these programs. Most recently, the Hillcrest Directors voted to demand SANDAG kill the 4th/5th Ave Bikeway in Hillcrest. Uptown Parking’s mission statement says it will “consider biking” – not actively oppose it.

    Nearly every foot of curb space, on nearly every Hillcrest street, is devoted exclusively to on-street parking. This totals thousands of on- and off-street spaces. Yet when asked how many could be re-allocated to safe bike lanes, Director Gahagan responded, “Ten”. I’m grateful that the actions of these self-interested residents and business owners will be corrected by the City. Our lives are worth more than a parking space.

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