Uptown Planners discuss canyon restoration, affordable housing

Posted: June 15th, 2018 | News, Opinion & News, Uptown Planners | No Comments

Sara Butler | Editor

The June 5 meeting of Uptown Planners focused on indoor and outdoor spaces in Bankers Hill and Park West.

Though no action items were on the agenda, two informational presentations were given: one from the city about the Maple Canyon Restoration Project; the other by a development nonprofit about two affordable housing plans.

The evening started off with the upcoming storm drain improvement project in Maple Canyon of Bankers Hill/Parks West. Elham Lotfi, associate engineer and employee of the Public Works Department, is the project manager of the restoration’s phase one.

Lotfi and the city have been working with the Friends of Maple Canyon, a subset of San Diego Canyonlands, on the project. Roy, a Bankers Hill resident and representative from the group, also attended the meeting and expressed his support.

The scope of the project includes extension of the pipeline, expansion of the placement of the inlets, and installing energy dissipaters to slow down the velocity of water runoff to minimize the erosion of the canyon. The city has completed the full design and is seeking recommendation to move forward with planning process; construction is slated to begin in early 2020 and be completed by the end of 2021.

Board chair Leo Wilson expressed concern from nearby homeowners about the grading and restoration of the natural habitat, as well as the impact installing the new pipes will have on the trees in the area.

“Unfortunately, there will be some trees — because of the alignment of the pipeline going through — that may not make it because the roots will be too damaged to be stabilized to remain in place,” Lotfi said.

“But we have an extensive revegetation plan and we are required to replace those trees that have been lost to the maximum extent as possible,” she continued, adding that they have surpassed the minimum requirements to maintain the area and replenish the biomass.

She also noted that though they tried to redesign the project to keep those trees in place, any plan will require some tree removal. However, Roy added that the current realignment will not affect any valuable trees, such as the six native oaks; most of the trees removed will be small eucalyptus and California pepper trees. Only one jacaranda will have to be sacrificed.

Other board and public comments included an inquiry of potential relocation of the trees to places such as the San Diego Zoo; encouragement to coordinate with the Climate Action Plan representatives on deciding what revegetation to plant; suggestion to work with designers to ensure the redesign looks natural, rather than engineered with massive concrete elements; and appreciation that the project is working with local groups who “are significant stakeholders and really do know that area — their backyards — better than the city does.”

The second phase, which will begin following approval of phase one, will restore the streambed and take care of any erosion that has already occurred to try to restore it to the natural state.

Following the presentation, the meeting focus shifted indoors. Housing Development Partners (HDP) — a nonprofit affiliate of the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) who serves as “the development arm” of the city commission — offered an overview of their upcoming rehabilitation and affordable housing project, which was presented by senior project manager Josh Hoffman.

In December 2017, SDHC acquired the 1830 and 1840 Fourth Ave. properties in Bankers Hill/Park West and transferred the projects to HDP. These two buildings will soon be rehabilitated and become affordable housing, partially supported by Section 8 supplements. Formerly, the properties operated as hotels: the 47-unit complex West Park Inn and 91-unit complex Quality Inn.

Currently, each former hotel-style room has its own private bath, shower, and small closet; some include compact kitchens. Major renovations for the units, which are over 30 years old, will include: repairment and upgrades to roofs, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; restoration of the building’s exterior; updates to shared common areas; attaching kitchenettes to as many apartments as possible; and adding a new social services space at the former Quality Inn location.

“This is sort of a refresh of an existing resources thing neglected for a long time, and will be preserved for the next 65 years,” Hoffman said.

An open courtyard space and a residential lobby will also be included in the redesign. One community member suggested also incorporating “user-friendly sharable transportation options” to accommodate disabled and senior residents.

The project will offer low-cost housing to those making 80 percent or less of area median income (AMI); however, this is the highest threshold, and Hoffman noted they will likely serve much lower income levels.

The population identified for these permanent, supportive housing units at 1830 Fourth Ave. will be homeless, low-income seniors. HDP will work with nonprofits — such as St. Paul’s PACE and Serving Seniors — to find tenants.

In addition to seniors, the larger 1840 Fourth Ave. property will accommodate veterans and foster care youth (ages 15 to 20) who are exiting the system.

All units will require a one-year lease. Construction “has an aggressive schedule,” expected to start at the end of 2018, with a year of turnaround time.

Both groups are expected to return to the board to present with more information; Maple Canyon Restoration Project plan to present again in August and HDP/SDHC in September. Hoffman noted that the HDP will also present the project at the Bankers Hill Community Planning Group on July 16.

Uptown Planners meets on the first Tuesday of the month but will take a hiatus in July; the next meeting will be held on Aug. 7 at the Joyce Beers Community Center.

— Reach Sara Butler at

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