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A path toward mixed reaction

Posted: April 1st, 2016 | Featured, Features, News | 6 Comments

Neighborhood organizers concerned about the Mobility Plan

By Dave Fidlin

It has been touted as the next step toward making Downtown San Diego a community that is truly friendly toward bicyclists and pedestrians.

But it also has drawn ire from other civic and community organizations because of its impact on parking spaces.

Officials within Civic San Diego — the city-owned nonprofit corporation that oversees such issues as long-range planning — began crafting the Downtown Mobility Plan two years ago. In the time since, there have been a number of moving pieces.

A revised, 100-page document was unveiled and approved by CivicSD’s board on Wednesday, March 23. It includes a decade-long timeline before all components are in place.

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Artist’s rendition of an added “greenway” along 14th Street (Courtesy STEM)

In its entirety, the plan could cost upward of $64 million if all of the components are implemented. Accommodations aimed at enhancing bicyclists’ and pedestrians’ experiences stretch across 9.3 miles. The plan also includes 5.5 miles of pedestrian greenways, or naturally designed trails.

The Downtown Mobility Plan impacts a number of neighborhoods, including Cortez Hill, East Village, Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy and the Marina District. It also extends into portions of nearby Bankers Hill and Barrio Logan.

Several neighborhood organizations have gone on record and opposed portions of the plan. Two of Little Italy’s most prominent organizations — the Little Italy Association (LIA), which advocates for area businesses, and the Little Italy Residents Association (LIRA) — have been especially vocal about how the plan in its current form would impact parking spaces within the community.

The heart of the controversy, from the eyes of organizers within LIA and LIRA, is along portions of Ash, Beech and State streets, where 50 or more parking spaces could be eaten up to accommodate bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly features.

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Comparable “cyleway” in Prospect Park West, New York City (Courtesy STEM)

For a community with a progressively growing residential base, that net loss is a concern to LIRA President Anne MacMillan Eichman.

“For our little community, this is a big deal,” Eichman said. “We’ve made concessions before, but we’re digging our heels in on this one.”

Luke Vinci, a LIA board member, echoed similar concerns. Speaking to the loss of 50 parking spots, he said, “It might not seem like much, but it does to the residents who live here.”

The groups’ concerns do not stop with the impact on residents. Both organizations have frequently asserted CivicSD’s plan in its current form could adversely affect two of the most venerable institutions within the neighborhood: Our Lady of the Rosary Church, 1629 Columbia St., and Washington Elementary School, at 1789 State St.

“Our Lady is known to have a number of events throughout the year, including funeral processions, and we’re concerned about senior citizens’ safety,” Vinci said. “Washington School has 500 kids on a weekly basis, 70 percent of the year.”

Eichman and Vinci have each taken aim at the process of assembling the Downtown Mobility Plan document. But Brad Richter, CivicSD’s assistant vice president of planning, said that process was not done in a vacuum.

“We’ve done public outreach and we’ve shared details on our website,” Richter said. “We looked at every street Downtown and we’ve accepted input from residents and business owners.”

Richter concedes there are a number of complexities to the project and trying to appease everyone’s interests throughout the coverage area is a difficult, if not impossible, task.

“Nothing is perfect, but we have come up with a good network,” Richter said. “It’s been planned in a safe and balanced way.”

Not all organizations are opposed to the Downtown Mobility Plan.

Immediately after CivicSD’s board approved the document, members of the San Diego Bike Coalition went on record in support of the decision.

“Our city needs a long-term solution to address the predicted 90,000 people living and 165,000 working in Downtown San Diego by the year 2030,” said Andy Hanshaw, executive director of the Bike Coalition, in a statement. “This plan ensures we address the projected density and plan for a vibrant Downtown that gives the people safe transportation options to increase mobility, reduce pollution and keep San Diego the great city it is.”

Eichman and Vinci each emphasized they are not opposed to bike- and pedestrian-friendly accommodations and have supported other initiatives CivicSD has spearheaded in the past.

“We want this mobility plan to be a success,” Eichman said. “But there has to be more of a sense of synergy. We have to try and find that common ground.”

Richter said he and other officials within CivicSD are open to continuing dialogue with Little Italy resident and business groups and those in any other Downtown neighborhood.

“We’re going to try and continue working with everyone to see where we can try and maximize parking,” Richter said.

With the CivicSD board having signed off on the Downtown Mobility Plan, the document is now scheduled to go through several channels at City Hall. The Planning Commission is slated to comb through the document at 9 a.m. Thursday, April 14.

At least one other panel, the city’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee, is also slated to weigh in on the plan before it goes before the full City Council in May.

For more details on CivicSD’s Downtown Mobility Plan, visit downtownsdmobility.com.

—Dave Fidlin is a freelance journalist with a special affinity for San Diego and its people. Contact him at dave.fidlin@thinkpost.net

6 Comments

  1. Paul Jamason says:

    In your Downtown Mobility Plan article, Little Italy resident Anne Eichman said the plan needs “more of a sense of synergy”. If I understand correctly, the plan removes no existing street parking in Little Italy – it only decreases the number of planned angled/head-in parking conversions from 135 to 85. Residents and visitors will be able to safely reach neighborhood businesses by bike, while drivers will enjoy increased street parking (not to mention a new 640 space parking garage). That is synergy. Removing all of the planned protected bike lanes from the core of Little Italy, as Ms Eichmann is advocating, is not synergy.

    The Little Italy Association (LIA) also opposes any reduction in the number of future street parking conversions. Yet LIA removes dozens of existing street parking spaces every Saturday for its Farmers Market.

    At the Downtown Community Planning Committee meeting, a Little Italy business owner said the Plan would “destroy our community”. Considering that Little Italy is thriving now, how would adding 85 street parking spaces, plus safe bicyclist access to businesses, destroy it?

    • Christopher Morgan says:

      Paul,

      You don’t understand correctly, but that’s no fault of yours because the facts are being obscured by the private, paid consultants who stand to gain by the passage of the Downtown Mobility Plan.

      First to clear-up the easiest misconception; the 640 space parking garage was built to accommodate county employees. It is only open to the public from 5pm – 11pm and no vehicles may be parked there overnight. The cost to park in the structure during those 6 hours is $10. No overnight parking is permitted. It is simply not a viable option for residents, employees, customers, or visitors to park.

      Second, the installation of physical bike lanes, as advocated by this plan, will remove about 50 parking spaces from Beech St., Ash St., State St., or Kettner Blvd. Essentially, the Plan will remove all parking on 1 side of whatever streets would receive physical bike lanes. The unknown element is that while the DMP original draft called for the installation of a bike lane on State St., the Board of Civic San Diego unilaterally placed that lane on Kettner Blvd. without notice or review. Either way, this is a *net loss* to existing parking.

      Additionally, the installation of a physical bike lane will prohibit the planned angled parked on any street with the new lane. This means the planned and approved parking gains would not happen. 85 spaces may be gained from conversion on streets without the lane, but an additional 50 spaces will never happen.

      This is also before we account for the planned parking losses on both sides of both Grape and Hawthorne Streets to accommodate additional airport traffic.

      Hope this helps.

  2. […] Diego’s Downtown News looks at opposition to the city’s bike and pedestrian plan for the downtown […]

  3. Brad C. says:

    this seems like a very debatable subject. I can see the benefits on both sides for sure, As a business owners, I was actually looking to expand a shop in Downtown San Diego Just so i could be in the heart of the city, but now I’m not so sure. Thank you for taking the time to write this article

  4. DANIEL FRANKLIN POND says:

    Could we address the lanes already in are being barely used. Instead most ride their bike on sidewalk or right side not using lanes intended for the use. Dan Franklin Pond

  5. San Diego is pretty bike friendly compared to a lot of other metro cities. I think what’s not helping is the landscape of SD and the shortage of real estate. I think San Diego is busy trying to accommodate the ever growing cars.
    A good ol’ Infrastructure vs growth

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