(Left to right): Georgette Gomez, Michael Stepner, Stephen Haase, and Howard Blackson III.
About 50 people attended the March 26 Allied Gardens Community Council Town Hall meeting where a panel discussed issues related to updating the 1982 Navajo Community Plan, a document focused on the neighborhoods of Allied Gardens, Grantville, San Carlos, and Del Cerro.
Michael Stepner, author of the City of San Diego's original community plans and a professor at the NewSchool of Architecture & Design, said Navajo in the 1980s was "one of the fastest growing communities in the city." There was building on vacant land and in the already established communities of Grantville and Allied Gardens, he said.
A critical issue was development proposed on Cowles Mountain, then known as S Mountain because of the white "S" painted there to represent SDSU. Stepner recalled 1982 community-plan discussions to preserve at least 10 acres on S Mountain. He attended planning commission meetings where school children came and "dumped" numerous letters containing the message, "Save S Mountain." As a result of actions like that, land including Cowles Mountain was preserved in Mission Trails Regional Park.
Stepner told the group, "You need to have that consensus and support." He advised residents to think about their vision when starting out rather than what they didn't want in an update. "Get around and look at other parts of the neighborhood. Do it with a group [of six]; you have six different visions," he said.
San Diego planning commissioner Stephen Haase said to consider values in the update, noting that streets aren't widened in a historic district. "It means people drive a little slower." Money is instead spent on things like pedestrian amenities and a pocket park, said Haase, former chair of Navajo Community Planners, Inc.
Georgette Gomez spoke about the 1978 Barrio Logan community plan update. The original plan didn't include zoning, resulting in "elementary schools surrounded by industry. Now we're trying to go backwards, to correct zoning. We did it without the city. We organized about a year [and] went literally door to door" said Gomez, an update advisory-committee member and associate director of the San Diego Environmental Health Coalition Toxic-Free Neighborhoods Campaign.
Howard Blackson III, a principal and director of planning for PlaceMakers, LLC, said a plan update could cost $1 million. When San Carlos Area Council president John Pilch asked about City funding, Blackson said, "You have the means, why not try it on your own?" He said that a Caltrans grant was used for planning in Ramona.
Haase cautioned to "act fast" because Caltrans was cutting grants in half, and then they would be "gone."
Also discussed at the town hall was the clock tower in the median at the intersection of Waring Road and Zion Avenue in Allied Gardens. Anthony Wagner, council president and NCPI chair, said in an interview that the clock was installed in 1990, and a water leak was discovered last December. Diana Palacio, 7th District Councilman Scott Sherman's spokeswoman, said in a March 28 interview that the City located the leak and did repair work.
Read more about this subject on the Allied Gardens Holler page.