A more walkable and livable Downtown
By Dave Schwab
Urban planners heard from architects and residents who weighed in on plans to create a north-south, pedestrian- and bike-friendly path through the heart of Downtown’s East Village.
Public input came at a June community workshop on the 14th Street Promenade Master Plan sponsored by Civic San Diego (CivicSD). The plan seeks to create a more livable and walkable Downtown by reclaiming under-utilized public right-of-way.
The 14th Street Promenade project would create an approximately 30-foot-wide pedestrian promenade/linear park connecting City College to Barrio Logan through East Village.
The workshop’s purpose was to envision the creation of a comprehensive, sustainable streetscape design; emphasizing non-motorized circulation, enhancing public access and helping to meet the growing social and recreational needs of Downtown.
Workshop participants got an overview from urban planners on the Promenade proposal, before breaking up into small groups to review maps and discuss possibilities for how — and where — streetscape could be improved.
The project’s boundaries are from C Street on the north to the Commercial Street/National Avenue intersection on the south.
Mark Caro, senior planner/landscape architect for CivicSD, said the master plan’s intent is to create “green” streets and “put them on steroids” by creating a promenade consisting of a network of “30-foot-wide linear parks through Downtown.”
Caro added the Promenade will connect two parks and ultimately be one of six promenades creating a network of open spaces, linking all Downtown parks and neighboring communities.
Richard Barrett, a principal with MIG, a private urban design firm, gave a slideshow presentation at the workshop showing existing examples of streetscapes offering sculpture, kid’s play areas, comfortable street furniture and parklets.
“There are not many opportunities to take a 14-foot sidewalk and make it 30-feet — more than double,” Barrett said. “What can be done with that extra 16 feet is really a blessing.”
Caro said additional Promenade pedestrian space is created by eliminating a parking lane on the east side of the street and reducing the width of the existing travel lanes to gain approximately 16 feet, in addition to the existing 14-foot right-of-way from property line to curb.
“It is envisioned that this widened public realm will provide open space within a five-minute walk of thousands of existing and future residents and workers, safer pedestrian circulation and recreational opportunities in the neighborhood,” Caro said.
Downtown is San Diego’s densest community projected to reach a population of 90,000 by 2035. East Village is an emerging neighborhood slated to absorb the majority of residential units planned for Downtown. So the addition of public open space is critical to create a more livable and walkable environment.
Caro said the architectural design team will now prepare three alternative concepts, based on the feedback it received from the first workshop, stakeholder meetings and its background research. Those alternatives will be presented in another public meeting this summer, then be consolidated into one preferred master plan by this fall.
Caro said the master plan will ultimately have to be approved by the city.
— Dave Schwab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.