Placemaking: creating urban spaces people love

By Kris Michell | Downtown Partnership News

The desire to reshape and reimagine public spaces is not a new one. From large plazas to small parks, shared spaces connect people and promote community character. In Downtown, the opportunities for placemaking activities are endless. However, the lack of a clear permitting process significantly hampers these opportunities.

At the Downtown San Diego Partnership, we host more than 100 free community events each year. From movies in the park to workouts in the street, we’ve brought thousands of San Diegans together to celebrate all our urban core has to offer.

The Partnership’s Clean & Safe team works tirelessly on community enrichment and beautification projects such as tree lights along pedestrian corridors, art murals at popular intersections, and enhanced landscaping efforts across town.

Unfortunately, our vision for placemaking events and beautification endeavors is limited by San Diego’s municipal code. Currently, the permitting process for placemaking activities is discretionary and cost prohibitive.

For this reason, the Partnership team is working closely with Circulate San Diego and other community partners to advocate for much-needed reforms to streamline the process.

The proposed changes will make it cheaper and easier to acquire the permits necessary to enhance our community. Projects that were once too expensive because of permitting, will now be possible.

After months of hard work, proposed municipal code changes will come before City Council for consideration in the fall. This is a fantastic opportunity to expand placemaking and beautification activities in our community. Let’s spend less time worrying about permits and more time improving Downtown.

—Kris Michell is the president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, a nonprofit, member-based organization that oversees the Clean & Safe program and serves as the leading advocate for the revitalization and economic health of Downtown. For questions or comments, email

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