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North Park Community Plan update nears finish line

Posted: March 25th, 2016 | Featured, News | 1 Comment

By Ken Williams | Editor

After more than six years of diligent and time-consuming work, the North Park Planning Committee finally got to see a hard copy of their labor of love: the March draft of the Community Plan update.

That means the difficult work is almost over and there is light at the end of the tunnel for stakeholders.

The thick document — handed out at the March 22 board meeting, which was attended by more than 100 people — contains more than 200 pages packed with facts, maps, charts, graphs and photographs.

The update will replace the 1986 Greater North Park Community Plan, which was preceded by the 1970 Park North-East Community Plan and the 1969 North Park Commercial Area Plan. The document — a component of San Diego’s General Plan — will be a policy guide for how the North Park community will grow and develop over the next 15 to 20 years. If the time line goes as planned by the city, the update would go into effect in January 2017.

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The paper copy of the North Park Community Plan draft update has more than 200 pages. (Photo by Ken Williams)

Jeff Murphy, planning director for the city of San Diego, told the North Park Planning Committee that the Planning Department expected to present the update to the City Council by year’s end for a final vote of approval.

The update includes specific goals and recommendations regarding the use and development of land, and it addresses mobility, economic prosperity, public facilities, conservation, open space and recreation, according to the document. The plan also envisions a sustainable community that preserves historic resources and North Park’s unique and aesthetic character.

At the March 22 meeting, the committee held informational discussions on “Interim Regulation of Potential Historic Districts” and the “Proposed Implementation Program.”

Senior planner Kelly Stanco gave a PowerPoint presentation about potential historic districts. She said consultants had identified six potential historic districts in the North Park area:

  • 28th Street residential south of Upas Street
  • 30th and University commercial
  • Kalmia Place
  • Park Boulevard Apartment (East)
  • Shirley Ann Place Expansion
  • Spalding Place

Steve Hon, president of the North Park Historical Association, said his group recommended designating Park Boulevard Apartment (East) and the 30th and University commercial corridor as historical districts.

Local resident Richard Walter urged planners to consider adding a bungalow community on Lincoln Avenue between Alabama and Florida streets, and several board members agreed with him that this type of housing should be protected from the wrecking ball.

Board member Lucky Morrison said his neighborhood along Ray Street should get consideration as well.

City planner Lara Gates, who is assigned to assist with the North Park update plan, gave a presentation on zoning implementation. She said the city’s goal is to transition North Park from an auto-oriented community into a pedestrian-friendly, multimodal-oriented neighborhood where residents can live, work and play without having to depend on driving somewhere.

Gates used neighborhood maps to show how the update would affect residents. As San Diego Uptown News has reported during years of coverage of the update process, North Park will be embracing transit-oriented development and density along the major transportation corridors: Park Boulevard, El Cajon Boulevard, and 30th Street, from Adams Avenue to Upas Street.

For the most part, the North Park Planning Committee has avoided public controversy over density, unlike the Uptown Planners, where the issue is heated, especially among Hillcrest residents.

But as the years have passed and the update plans have come into focus, it is clear that both Uptown and North Park planners have arrived at a consensus that density will be allowed along Park Boulevard (the west side is governed by Uptown and the east side by North Park) where SANDAG is planning to place a trolley line originating Downtown. That trolley line — which would hook right on El Cajon Boulevard and go east to San Diego State University — will replace the Mid-City Rapid Bus.

Talk of 100-foot building heights hardly raises eyebrows in North Park, and indeed it wasn’t an issue at the March 22 meeting. What had some folks riled up was a Nextdoor.com dialogue suggesting that some residents were trying to prevent North Park — the quasi capital of craft beer in San Diego — from allowing more craft beer pubs to open.

The iconic North Park sign on University Avenue, seen at dusk (Photo by Ken Williams)

The iconic North Park sign on University Avenue, seen at dusk (Photo by Ken Williams)

In actuality, local and city planners are creating San Diego Municipal Code policy that will govern “artisan food and beverage producers” — businesses that were hardly on the radar in the 1980s when the last update was being worked upon. Businesses affected by the new policy will include microbreweries, coffee roasters, ice cream, baked goods, confectioneries, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and other foodstuff.

Artisan food and beverage producers would need a Limited Use or a Neighborhood Use permit to operate. The policy states:

(a) These uses shall be limited to 10,000 square feet of ground floor area.

(b) All storage must be within an enclosed building or screened from the public right-of-way by fences or walls and landscaping. Stored items shall not be stacked to a height that exceeds the height of the screening.

(c) Hours of operation shall be limited to 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. so that neighboring residential development is not disturbed by noise and lights.

(d) Distribution facilities are not permitted adjacent to residentially zoned property.

Planners are also putting into the update a recommendation to allow Type 47 liquor licenses for restaurants along the main transit corridors so that they can serve spirits along with craft beer and wine. Almost a dozen restaurateurs — representing Urban Solace, Ritual Tavern, the Smoking Goat and other locations — spoke in support of this proposition, most saying that their profit margin is so tight that it often comes down to alcohol sales for their businesses to thrive or die.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverages defines a Type 47 license as “on-sale general for bona fide public eating place,” and those licenses are considered extremely valuable for resale.

Matt Gordon, owner of Urban Solace, said a Type 47 license would help him economically.

Fred Piehl, chef and owner of the Smoking Goat, said having a Type 47 license would allow him to offer diners “the full experience.”

Two residents warned of the consequences of allowing Type 47 licenses. One man said a noisy local bar kept him awake at nights, not his young daughter. Kathy Morrison, wife of board member Lucky Morrison, complained about the noises from dining and drinking establishments that had outdoor patios and rollup windows.

Planners said time limits are already set on restaurants that get Type 47 licenses, and that seemed to appease the critics.

Visit the city’s Great North Park website at bit.ly/1SidSA9 to read the Community Plan update, minutes from meetings, agendas and more.

—Ken Williams is editor of Uptown News and Mission Valley News and can be reached at ken@sdcnn.com or at 619-961-1952. Follow him on Twitter at KenSanDiego, Instagram account at KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.

One Comments

  1. Benny Cartwright says:

    FINALLY! I hope Hillcrest can get our act together and finish up the Uptown Community Plan update. It’s sorely needed so we can proceed into the next phase of Hillcrest!

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