Editorial: Looking forward: A new councilmember is on the horizon
By Christine Kehoe
When I was elected to serve our District 3 neighborhoods in 1993, we had many challenges to face. On the top of my list were decreasing crime, increasing access to community services, and initiating improvements to city infrastructure. Add to these overcoming stereotypes and proving that members of the LGBT community can lead. Making progress often felt like a tall order.
But progress has been made. Things have improved over the years, not only during my tenure, but also thanks to the strong leadership of those elected after me. Toni Atkins pushed the city’s first inclusionary housing policy and Living Wage Ordinance. Following Toni, Todd Gloria has worked to improve homeless services, update the city’s veteran hiring policy and make street improvements a priority. Both were selected by their colleagues to lead the city during mayoral resignations, and under highly unusual and stressful conditions they did so admirably and confidently.
Term limits prevent Todd Gloria from serving us with another term on City Council, and next year District 3 will be faced with a decision: Who will be able to build on the groundwork of the last 24 years and continue moving San Diego forward? Following a number of challenging years, the city found it was fiscally necessary to scale down city services and programs. Now, with a better economic outlook, our 100-year-old neighborhoods and infrastructure still need close attention; our public safety programs need strengthening and community plans require thoughtful implementation. Providing new facilities to keep up with neighborhood demands, and ensuring smart and sustainable growth continue to be important City Council issues.
After considering the knowledge, skills and service-minded approach I know will be necessary to address the district’s issues going forward, I am proud to endorse Chris Ward for District 3 City Council in 2016. With his background in urban planning and long history of service to his community, Chris possesses the skills we expect of our elected officials. As a father and a leader in the LGBT community, Chris has the forward-thinking and compassionate worldview that we deserve. I know that the record of service and leadership that we have built in this community will be in good hands with Chris.
I invite all of my neighbors and former constituents to learn about Chris’ record and message for yourself at his website: voteforward.com. Let’s use this time in 2015 to have these important conversations about the future of our community as we prepare to elect a new councilmember to implement that direction in 2016.
—Christine Kehoe, a former member of the San Diego City Council, the state Senate and the state Assembly, was San Diego’s first openly gay elected official.
Editorial: Finding compromise for safer streets
By Paul Jamason
Advocates for safer streets were encouraged by the Uptown News editorial from the Hillcrest Business Association’s Ben Nicholls about the SANDAG Uptown Bike Corridor [see Vol. 7 Issue 7 “Hillcrest businesses want bike lanes the right way”], particularly the HBA’s support for bike lanes and their commitment to work with others.
At the recent Uptown Planners Community Planning Group meeting, nearly everyone agreed that people who walk or bike deserve safer conditions. We are hopeful that supporters and opponents of the corridor can build on our shared goals and compromise on a plan for all stakeholders.
Addressing the concerns of both sides is a critical step. The parking concerns voiced by the HBA and others about the corridor are valid. The Transform Hillcrest Plan, which preserves nearly all parking on east University Avenue, was unanimously supported by the community. SANDAG is performing an engineering analysis of the plan. On west University Avenue, Transform Hillcrest was initially supported by the HBA, but it now favors running the bike lane on Washington Street through Mission Hills. Yet a protected bike lane on Washington would remove more parking (and from Mission Hills’ business district) than the west University route.
Uptown Planners voted unanimously to require SANDAG to replace all street parking lost to the new bike lanes. However, more than 200 new parking spaces have been added in Hillcrest in the past year, and Hillcrest parking lots and garages do not exceed 85 percent capacity. The Uptown Community Parking District (UCPD) has been soliciting community input on how to use its portion of $18 million dollars in unspent parking revenues. We recommend spending these funds on new parking (instead of diverting bike corridor funding), while lifting the restrictions that limit UCPD’s involvement in place-making projects like the Hillcrest Pride Plaza.
Many cities maximize their existing parking resources and turnover by setting meter prices based on demand, and charging for parking after 6 p.m. Neither of these market-based approaches are used in Uptown, yet they would generate additional revenue for more parking. The new smart parking meters in Uptown should be augmented with available sensors that provide real-time street parking maps to smartphone users.
The Five Points business district has significant parking impacts from the bike corridor. SANDAG proposed several street parking conversions to angled or head-in parking as mitigation. Some of these ideas are supported by the business district there, while others were rejected due to visibility issues and high traffic volumes. The Livable Streets Coalition identified these and other streets and lots where additional parking could be added.
Another valid concern about the bike corridor is the perceived traffic and business impact from SANDAG’s proposed closure of the University Avenue off-ramp from Washington Street. This would remove a dangerous bike/car conflict zone at the off-ramp. In addition, bridge supports on Washington prevent a bike lane there. More than 450 people have signed a petition in support of a safer University Avenue. We propose an extended test closure of the off-ramp to evaluate its impact on traffic, emergency services, and Hillcrest businesses before any permanent changes. Synchronizing traffic signal timing on Washington could also help address congestion.
Reynard Way was recommended by Uptown Planners as an alternative route to University and Washington in Mission Hills. One key criteria for the Uptown Bike Corridor to receive SANDAG Early Action Plan funding was that it connect to activity hubs and fill regional bike network gaps. A Reynard Way alternative route would disconnect the county’s proposed regional bike network, and bypass the Washington Avenue trolley station and International Restaurant Row. Reynard was already considered and rejected by SANDAG for these reasons.
Regarding Fifth Avenue, Mr. Nicholls described this street as “already narrow”, and suggested moving the bike lane to Fourth Avenue or Sixth Avenue. Yet Fifth is one of the widest one-way streets in San Diego: five lanes, with four lanes dedicated to auto travel or parking. The existing buffered bike lane, where SANDAG counts show huge ridership increases, would become a protected bike lane. No reduction in auto lanes would occur. Parking would be removed at each intersection for visibility standards defined in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.
The business case for adding protected bike lanes on commercial corridors like Fifth Avenue is well established, even if some street parking is removed. Further, studies show increased employment and higher property values associated with Complete Streets projects. An alternative two-way protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue was already evaluated and dismissed by SANDAG, due to the cost of installing traffic lights at every intersection.
Improving safety for people who walk or bike, while addressing local businesses and residents’ needs isn’t easy. But big challenges like this are one reason we elect leaders willing to bring all stakeholders to the table. For example, the city’s bipartisan Climate Action Plan increases bike mode share in Uptown by 500 percent in the next five years. Unless our leaders ask us all to compromise, how do we achieve this goal? Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened for the Uptown Bike Corridor. Instead, the Hillcrest Business Association and Mission Hills residents have lobbied our elected officials in private to change the route.
Some have suggested only local residents opposed to the project should have a voice in its outcome. If so, how was a damaging 10-lane freeway run through City Heights just 15 years ago? The Uptown Bike Corridor is part of a regional network built for all county residents, similar to our freeway network. The fate of public safety projects funded by our county TransNet sales tax dollars shouldn’t be determined solely by these opponents.
Let’s ask our elected representatives — District 3 Councilmember Todd Gloria, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and County Supervisor Ron Roberts — to step up and help broker an Uptown Bike Corridor for everyone. As SANDAG board members, they are uniquely qualified for this task.
—Paul Jamason is a member of the Livable Streets Coalition, a coalition of transportation nonprofits, planners, and designers that represent thousands of San Diego residents who are passionate about making safe, livable streets and neighborhoods in San Diego.
South Park business owner speaks out on Target opposition
I am writing this letter in response to the recently published Uptown News article “TargetExpress fight spawns South Park Town Council” [Vol. 7 Issue 7]. I feel as if I can no longer remain quiet concerning the actions of the Care About South Park group (CASP) or the South Park Town Council. To make things extremely clear and upfront, I am a local business owner in South Park and these are my personal views and I am not representing the South Park Business Group, of which I belong, or my business partners’ views.
I am an active and happy member of South Park. I served 20 years in the Navy and chose this neighborhood to settle down in. My heart, my future, and my focus are here. Myself, amongst other business owners in South Park, helped pioneer our quarterly walkabouts which have helped transition this neighborhood from what once was known as being unsafe and run down to one of the most coveted places to hang out and live in San Diego. It has been amazing to be a part of our vibrant and eclectic neighborhood, and I, and many others, have dedicated many years of service to South Park and are proud at what it has become. This community has been my home for the last 20 years and my business that I co-own, South Bark Dog Wash, has been a proud member of South Park for the past 15 years. I believe in contribution, kindness, and ethical small business.
I am all for people having the right to protest and share their opinions over the TargetExpress issue. I have listened to both sides of the issue and kept an open mind as to my personal opinions on the subject. I encouraged activism and peaceful protest for those who chose that route as well as allowing Target to present their plans and negotiate neighborly conversation as they come into our community. While myself and many other business owners in our community have talked with the CASP group, it seems that the group has their own agenda in mind. Even though many of us consider the fight to be over, since it is the property owner’s right to rent to Target if he chooses to and the contract has been signed, I still support peaceful protest.
The reason that I am writing is because CASP, and Mark Arabo have threatened the very things they say they are fighting against. They misrepresent the business group in the press and make claims that are untrue. They have picketed in front of South Park stores and made customers feel uncomfortable. While boasting to help small businesses, they in fact have disrupted our businesses and their picketing caused a loss in sales for our stores. What was once a peaceful, happy and friendly neighborhood is now threatened by this group that continues to ignore any community feedback that differs from their own.
The organizers and self-appointed heads of the South Park Town Council and CASP have a singular agenda in mind: to stop TargetExpress from coming to this community. I am not even sure that many members or organizers are even from our neighborhood, and they have not made contributions to South Park prior to this issue. They have threatened not to shop in our businesses and accused us of apathy. If this group wants to have their say in this community, actions speak louder than words. The leaders of this group should put in their time like myself and fellow business owners have by cleaning up the sidewalks, painting our trash cans, fixing lights, cleaning up graffiti and by devoting weeks of time to apply for grants that can better our community.
CASP has every right to picket and have a community forum but please manage your activism in a more efficient, positive and motivating way.
I applaud Chris Ward’s enthusiasm for the Uptown Community Plan [see “Editorial: Banner year in community planning ahead” Vol. 7 Issue 5].
I’ve lived and worked here since 1984. I’ve been involved in two community plan updates.
The updates have not achieved much, but we have spent a great deal of time, a lot of money, and heard a variety of opinions as to how our neighborhood should grow. The lack of progress within our community is very sad. The Interim Height Ordinance stopped a potentially wonderful mixed-use project and gave us a Walgreens. Just what Hillcrest needed: another one story, chain drug store with surface parking.
Unfortunately, this kind of boring, run-of-the-mill development is what our updates have given us. Worse, in Mission Hills, we are retreating backward to about 1926, an era that gave us good architecture and livable community, but reflected the racism and economic fragility of the times.
What do we need in a community plan? First, the ability to create sustainable neighborhoods. This is not a feature of the current draft plan. It is still highly reliant on cars. We are not catering to families whose children would attend our schools. We are not integrating education, commerce, recreation and culture via mixed uses and walkable, linked developments. We are most assuredly not promoting high-paying, quality jobs.
The Scripps/Mercy and UCSD Hospital area once was home to medical R&D. Sadly, that has moved, replaced with ticky-tacky apartments and condos. There was absolutely no effort made to designate land uses for medical, technology, R&D or similar uses.
Traffic is getting worse and worse as the major Downtown streets (First, Fourth and Fifth avenues) fail to provide simple access to the hospitals and potential job-creating areas north of Washington Street.
No thought has been given to bus turnouts along Washington Street, unimpeded of traffic north of Washington Street or other improvements that might help relieve the nightmarish traffic on University Avenue and Robinson Street. Our community plans create congested cul-de-sacs and bottlenecks instead of fostering walking and biking via workforce housing near jobs and connected areas of retail and institutional uses.
Uptown has very few parks. While we have schools that have playgrounds and land that could be used jointly, no effort has been made to do so. The Uptown plan actually counts parkland that is outside the boundary of our community planning area.
Finally, the Uptown plan fails to integrate our community into the greater city of San Diego. It presumes we are in competition with other parts of our city for jobs, retail sales and amenities. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are one city, one people, but with many varied interests.
It is very sad, but Hillcrest is diminishing in importance as a destination for all San Diegans. There are more vacant retail spaces in Hillcrest than any nearby community. We have far fewer indicators of sustainable community growth—from jobs to school quality to community spirit than many other places in San Diego.
Our Uptown Community Plan is fossilized. A relic. It fails to create the vision and flexibility needed for future generations of San Diegans.
Peter H. St Clair,