By Ken Williams | Editor
The construction of Olive Street Park in Bankers Hill is the top priority for the Uptown Planners, the citizen-elected volunteer board that advises city planners on matters related to growth and development in the Uptown district.
On Oct. 3, the Uptown Planners voted to prioritize five community projects, which will be recommended to city planners for inclusion in the city’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for fiscal year 2018.
Olive Street Park is more than a century behind schedule. The lot, which measures 80 feet by 120 feet, was donated to the city in 1909 by the Ford, McKee and Woods families with the deed stipulating: “forever for use as a public park.” To the dismay of descendants of the three families as well as Bankers Hill residents, the vacant lot located along Third Avenue at Olive Street and overlooking the eastern edge of Maple Canyon has never been turned into a pocket park.
Last year, Todd Gloria — in his final year as the District 3 council member before his election to the state Assembly — spearheaded an effort to get the park built by suggesting that a proposed AIDS memorial could be located on the site, so that enough funding could be rounded up and the project could move forward. Since then, a city task force has recommended Olive Street Park as the site for the AIDS memorial and is currently preparing to choose a design for the project. The funding for both the AIDS memorial and the pocket park has not been finalized, however.
The four other projects placed on the list by priority are:
No. 2 — Normal Street Linear Park, a redesign of Normal Street from University Avenue to Lincoln Street.
No. 3 — University Avenue “Vision Zero” pedestrian improvements, including midblock pedestrian crossings on several wide blocks in eastern Hillcrest between Richmond and Normal streets.
No. 4 — Washington Street pedestrian and bikeway improvements through University Heights.
No. 5 — Grant Elementary K-8 Joint-Use Park in Mission Hills.
While the Uptown Planners set priorities, it is now up to the city planners to decide which projects will make the CIP list.
Hospital District update
Officials from UC San Diego Health briefed the Uptown Planners on long-range plans for the Hospital District, part of a series of community meetings to inform local residents of future projects.
The UCSD Medical Center, located at 200 W. Arbor Drive in Hillcrest, must be replaced by 2030 to comply with California’s Hospital Seismic Safety Law.
The hospital tower, which was erected in 1963, has been operated by UC San Diego Health since 1966. The new medical center will be constructed north of the existing tower, which will be demolished and replaced by a park. Also, the two existing parking structures will be replaced by a large underground parking garage.
Robert Clossin, director of physical and community planning for UC San Diego, said Bachman Place will be improved from Mission Valley to the Hospital District. Removal of the large parking structure off Bachman Place will allow the street to be redesigned to connect better to the hospital campus. Also, an old fire road that starts near the bottom of Bachman Place will be utilized to provide a more direct entrance into the underground garage that is being built.
Clossin said UC San Diego would also build housing on the western edge of the campus as a way to generate income for the various projects. Some of the housing will be targeted for graduate students and staff, but the rest would be offered to the community as rental units.
First Street will be straightened to provide a direct route to the new medical center, Clossin said.
Another important goal is to create wayfinding tools to welcome visitors to the hospital campus.
Planning of the new master plan is in the early stages, Clossin said. The final report is expected to go before the university’s regents for approval in November 2018.
At a previous community meeting, Clossin said it typically takes 10 years to plan and then construct a new hospital. He said the biggest challenge is that the 56-acre campus has only 25 acres of vacant, usable land. The site has more than 37 buildings of all sizes and ages, comprising 1.1 million gross square feet and accommodating a daily population of 7,000.
More DecoBike locations
An informational item about the expansion of the city’s bike-sharing program turned into a contentious debate between Ahmad Erikat, an associate engineer-traffic with the city’s Transportation and Storm Water Department, members of the Uptown Planners and the audience.
DecoBike will be removing a number of low-performing locations within the beach communities and relocate them into urban locations, Erikat said. The Uptown, Downtown and North Park neighborhoods will get the bulk of those relocations.
When Erikat insisted that an average of six daily DecoBike users in Uptown was considered a good figure, people scoffed at him. Leo Wilson, the Uptown Planners chair who is himself a bicyclist, sternly told Erikat that “you don’t take away valuable parking spaces in Uptown” to locate bike-sharing stations.
Gerrie Trussell, executive director of the Uptown Community Parking District (UCPD), echoed those feelings. The 14 new bike-sharing stations will eliminate 10 parking spots throughout the Uptown district, and Erikat noted that MTS was the agency which had recommended all those locations that would require eliminating parking spots.
Amie Hayes, a member of the Uptown Planners who is also involved with Save Our Heritage Organisation and is president of the Bankers Hill Community Group, blasted DecoBike for wanting to place bike-sharing stations along Sixth Avenue on the swale between the roadway and the sidewalk. Erikat said the stations would have advertising panels, and Hayes warned him that ads are banned in Balboa Park. He contended that the swale is not “technically” part of Balboa Park, which drew a public rebuke from Hayes. Stay tuned on this matter.
Trussell, from the UCPD, told the Uptown Planners that her agency is planning wayfinding signage for International Restaurant Row in Mission Hills and various sites in Hillcrest. She said Mission Hills decided not to participate in the project.
Sebastian Sarria with the Climate Action Campaign made the case for the Community Choice Energy proposal, which would allow the city to provide alternative utility service in order to meet its goal to have 100 percent clean energy by 2035. A representative from Sempra Energy has been invited to the Nov. 7 meeting of Uptown Planners to explain why SDG&E opposes the proposal.
- On the consent agenda, the Uptown Planners approved map waivers allowing the creation of three residential condominium units at 2552 Second Ave., five condo units at 4079 First Ave. and five condo units at 4373 Cleveland St.