“We thought about calling it 'soapbox derby night,' but [then] we thought 'open-mic night' might be more politically correct,” said director of City Planning and Community Investment Bill Anderson. This first open-mic meeting, held April 26 at the Balboa Park Club, was an opportunity for stakeholders in the Uptown, North Park, and South Park communities to add their vision for the community-plan updates.
The six groups scheduled for the night were the North Park Historical Society, Uptown Partnership, San Diego Canyonlands, South Park Business Group, Community Gardens/1 in 10 Coalition, and the American Institute of Architects.
While groups such as San Diego Canyonlands advocated to restore and preserve canyons, and Community Gardens/1 in 10 Coalition pushed planners to make community gardens more available, the closest the event came to a “soapbox derby” occurred during discussions of density and parking.
Uptown Partnership, the agency that manages the Uptown parking district, was the second group to present. Board member Jim Frost spoke to the need for more parking in uptown communities. “Public parking is a public asset,” said Frost “The people that use the parking should pay for that parking. Parking is not free. When parking is free you have the problems that we have right now.”
Frost explained Uptown Partnership's desire to improve parking meter utilization. Frost touted the capabilities of the new meters that are coming to Uptown, saying that the ability to regulate time and parking meter rates by a flick of a switch will steer drivers away from free residential parking.
“In the economic condition we are in,” said one resident after Frost's presentation, “I think it is ludicrous to put in meters everywhere and drive people away from businesses.”
Another soapbox moment came when a representative from the American Institute of Architects, Philip Bona, brought up “the ugly ‘d’ word -- density.”
Bona advocated for more mixed-use building projects. He suggested removing large parking lots and constructing buildings in their place that provide underground parking. He promoted grouping high-rise buildings near transit areas.
After Bona's presentation, the same audience member commented on the notion of bringing more density to the uptown communities. “A professor has said that Hillcrest is the most densely populated community in the city. Whose water and electricity are we going to use? Yours?”
Visit sandiego.gov/cpci for information on future open-mic meetings.