Opinion – February 27

Editorial: Banner year in community planning ahead

Neighborhood elections could set vision, have impact on community development for a generation

By Chris Ward

Nearly 10 years ago, a proposed 12-story residential, commercial and public parking development at Third and University avenues sparked a firestorm of conversation in the Hillcrest neighborhood about the future of the community.
Exchanges about character, infrastructure, traffic, parking and quality of life arose from passionate urbanists and preservationists and those in-between. Interestingly, many on both sides pointed back to one guiding document as their evidence it was or was not appropriate: the Uptown Community Plan. Ambiguities from a 1980s plan, coupled with the positions of those that spoke up, left the question very much open to interpretation, and answers were ultimately evaluated by a group of elected neighborhood leaders at the local community planning group, Uptown Planners, who voted to oppose the project. It was never built.

Community planners weigh in on developments of all sizes in their neighborhoods (

Community planners weigh in on developments of all sizes in their neighborhoods (

Community planning groups are the city of San Diego’s recognized organizations of volunteer individuals tasked with reviewing proposed projects and plans. Planning groups examine compatibility with community goals and vision, and provide recommendations to city staff, the Planning Commission, and the City Council. Members serve two- to four-year terms and can significantly influence the conversation of neighborhood priorities and the future of communities. Residents and local business owners know their communities best. Planning groups share their expertise and give guidance to decision-makers at the city. The community planning process also helps link the public to the project proponents, answering questions about proposals and gaining insightful feedback which is often incorporated into final projects.

Planning groups provide a remarkable sounding board for some pretty exciting work as well — pedestrian improvement plans, identification of opportunity sites for tot lots and community parks. They also keep participants up to date about major initiatives like the Climate Action Plan, airport plans, bicycle infrastructure and more. Topics like these can be broad in concept, and then the agenda can turn to a very specific question — for example, whether to put a stop sign there. Speaker Tip O’Neill probably never attended a planning group when he stated “All Politics is Local,” but his observation underscores the energy when the context becomes hyperlocal. And that politics is driven by the people.

Essential to the success of these groups is public participation. Even with the best plans in place, there is a degree of subjectivity involved in determining qualitative impacts. Whether your opinions prevail, or those of neighbors with opposing views, depends on who shows up. In 2015, there has never been a better year to be in the room because of two major events on the horizon.

First: Who are the deciders? Elections for new, or renewed, planning group members will determine the makeup of these neighborhood advisers. Residents, business owners and property owners are eligible to serve on planning groups, and to vote in elections. You can show up and help decide your community’s future. See the schedule in the box below for your community’s March election meeting.

Second: What is guiding the deciders? In Uptown, North Park and Golden Hill/South Park communities, we are expecting to finalize a multi-year effort to update and renew community plans to culminate in drafts and feedback this year. Want high-density buildings with affordable housing? Preservation of the historic character around you? Streetcars and bicycle lanes? All these planning goals and more are under debate, and when the process is finished, we will have a vision for 20-30 years that outlines our agreed upon goals and objectives for each community. Future projects, plans and conversation will tie right back to that work.

Decisions are made by those that show up. To be sure, nowhere is that more important than right in your own backyard. Just like national policies change at the whims of Democrats and Republicans voting or staying home, your own community is shaped by those that participate.

—Chris Ward is a member of Uptown Planners, which represents the communities of Bankers Hill/Park West, Middletown, Mission Hills, Hillcrest and portions of University Heights. He is a resident of University Heights and a 2016 candidate for the City Council in District 3.

Upcoming Meetings and Community Planning Group Elections:

Uptown Planners: Tues, March 3 – 6:00pm
Joyce Beers Community Center, 3900 Vermont Street
7 of 15 positions up for election (4 year term)

Normal Heights Planning Group: Tues, March 3 – 6:00pm
Normal Heights Community Center, 4649 Hawley Boulevard
7 of 15 positions up for election (2 year term)

Old Town Community Planning Group: Wed, March 11 – 3:30pm
Whaley House Courtroom, 2482 San Diego Avenue
5 of 15 positions up for election (3 year term)

Greater Golden Hill Planning Committee: Wed, March 11 – 6:30pm
Balboa Park Golf Course Clubhouse, 2600 Golf Course Drive
8 of 15 positions up for election (2 year term)

Kensington-Talmadge Planning Group: Wed, March 11 – 6:30pm
Copley-Price YMCA, 4300 El Cajon Boulevard
8 of 15 positions up for election (2 year term)

North Park Planning Committee: Tues, March 17 – 6:30pm
North Park Christian Fellowship, 2901 North Park Way 2nd Floor
8 of 15 positions up for election (2 year term)


Tallying two-wheeled trauma

While I found this article written by the editor of the SD Uptown News to be quite informative and helpful [see “How dangerous is bicycling?” Vol. 6 Issue 4], it neglected to address two pertinent issues regarding safety and bicycling.

First, as stated in an article written in the U-T San Diego on Nov. 22, 2014, “According to the 2,515 accident reports on crashes between cyclists and motorists resulting in injury or death of a bicyclist in SD County from 2011-Sept. 2014, it was the cyclist who was most often found at fault, when fault was determined.”

It goes on to state that in 2012 cyclists were 60 percent at fault, in 2013 they were 56 percent at fault, and in 2014 they were 57 percent at fault. While the Marshall article discusses many accidents, it never mentions this fact.

Secondly, the article lists several ways a cyclist can protect himself, such as helmets, mapping out routes ahead, etc.; it never mentions the most important fact (law) that a cyclist is supposed to follow. The cyclist is supposed to follow the same laws the motorist follows, including stopping at stop signs, riding with the flow of traffic, stopping for pedestrians crossing streets and roads, not weaving in and out of traffic, not riding on sidewalks, and using turn indicators (or hand signals) to indicate their intent. Many times I have driven in San Diego and watched bicyclists dart in front of me, swerve around a pedestrian in a crosswalk or on the sidewalk, or blatantly ride right through a stop sign without even a hint of stopping. If bicyclists start follow the laws, I wonder how many accidents will be prevented?

W. Reed,
Bankers Hill

TargetExpress and its future neighbors

I hope you will print this letter regarding the Target debacle in South Park [see “South Park TargetExpress delays opening” Vol. 6 Issue 4].

While Target claims to want to be a future good neighbor in South Park, their positioning of a TargetExpress is merely corporate greed. I have to ask why, when there is so much opposition, Target would still insist on locating on the corner of Grape and Fern streets. Agreeing to stock belts, sunglasses, hardware and organic vegetables will not compensate for the fact that a traffic nightmare and safety hazard will result from a Target at this location.

At noon on Friday, Feb. 13, I tried to visit the Mission Valley Target store. I say “tried.” Apparently the parking lot was full. I could not get anywhere near the place, and it took me 20 minutes to re-route myself to Texas Street.

Aren’t there other locations that would welcome Target and where their presence would be welcomed? Why push — unwanted — into the South Park community? However Target veils its motivations and bends over to provide organic vegetables (when possible), it’s still nothing but corporate greed. Be a good neighbor, Target and please leave. It’s just not a good match for our community.

Connie Dahl,
South Park



  1. Justin G. says:


    I find it comical that you’re worried about the increase in traffic because of Target coming into South Park, but have no problem being part of the the Target traffic in Mission Valley. Thanks for being a textbook NIMBY.

  2. Paul Jamason says:

    Isn’t Ms. Dahl somewhat hypocritical when she criticizes Target’s “corporate greed”, yet still shops there?

    It seems Ms. Dahl is just fine with contributing to the traffic congestion that Mission Valley residents must suffer. Is this because Mission Valley residents are “lesser” than those in South Park? Meanwhile, because of traffic, she seeks to prevent her neighbors the option of walking, biking, taking public transit or a short car trip to their own tiny Target – instead forcing them to drive to Mission Valley.

    Would Ms. Dahl be opposed if a corporate Whole Foods or Trader Joes were opening in South Park? Perhaps there is a bias against lower-income clientele that might visit TargetExpress.

  3. Paul Jamason says:

    I’d like to paraphrase W. Reed’s letter from my perspective, as a bicyclist who follows traffic laws:

    Many times I have biked in San Diego and watched drivers dart in front of me, swerve around a pedestrian in a crosswalk or on the sidewalk, or blatantly ride right through a stop sign without even a hint of stopping. If drivers start (to) follow the laws, I wonder how many accidents will be prevented?

  4. KDK says:

    Thank goodness the Uptown Planners didn’t let that mixed use development with underground parking go through or we wouldn’t have that lovely Walgreens now.

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