The first time I heard about the San Diego Association of Governments’ plans to significantly change the street alongside my house was at a planning-group meeting — for a different community.
I was stunned for so many reasons: the plan had been in the works for two years and I didn't know a thing about it. No one told me or my neighbors that our street had been picked to become a bike boulevard, which means we will lose our left-turn lanes, some parking; gain roundabouts and other "traffic calming" structures; and, at the time, our street would become a dead-end street at half-mile intervals.
(I walk, bike, and drive Meade; my driveway comes out on Meade and I shake my fist at drivers speeding along Meade all the time — many of whom are my neighbors. None of the eight neighbors I talked to knew about this, BTW.)
So, that's my conflict of interest, but it appears that it may well be the experience of many home- and business-owners and residents around the 13 miles of bike corridor planned for the North Park–Normal Heights corridor.
"You have to work hard to find out about this stuff," says Don Leichtling, who also lives along a proposed bike route. "I go to the meetings and maintain my own email list, so I keep about 300 to 400 people informed. But the average resident doesn't have a clue."
The association of governments began planning the bike routes in 2013 and 2014 but hasn't yet notified people on the streets being changed.
"We are planning to put out door-hangers for the Landis area project soon for the March 9 meeting we are having," says Linda Culp, principal planner for the agency. "We are looking at the end of April or May for the Georgia-Meade project."
The current iteration of the plans will be posted online after the meetings, Culp said. The design phase has ended and the engineering phase is underway.
City-council candidate Chris Ward was at the packed February 24 Uptown Planners meeting, at which the group rejected the agency’s bicycle plans loudly. He said he respects the association of governments and values their work but understood why residents were angry.
"You live there, you have the experience, and you haven't had anyone ask you about it until the plans are already drafted," Ward said. "They are trying to be efficient in their process, but it was important to do a better job of staying in touch with the people who live there….
"It can't be that expensive [to communicate with the residents] and how we engage the public is critical to making anything they do work," he added.
Culp said the agency has worked at the 13 miles of designs "from a very high level.... We don't look at every driveway or at parking numbers during the design phase," she said.
The projects are part of the association of governments’ regional transportation plan that was approved in October 2015. Designs for the bike projects began much earlier, however, in 2013 or 2014, Culp said. Agency representatives took the plans to the local planning groups well before the regional plan was finalized — I saw them in April 2015, and they received input and support. (I can find no record of my comments at the North Park meeting, which were: I live on this street, why hasn't anyone told me about this?). The planning groups bore the responsibility for neighborhood outreach, Culp said.
The association of governments maintains a list of interested parties and they are contacted about the coming meetings, Culp said. The agency is looking into whether those lists are public record and can be released.
The Landis bike route, from Alabama Street to Chamoune Avenue, will have its meeting March 9, and the association of governments will put out notification hangers on doors along the route 75 feet in each direction and 30 feet from the intersections, Culp said. She estimates that between 1600 and 1700 doors will get one.
The Robinson Avenue project — from Park Boulevard to Alabama Street — comment period is closed, according to the SANDAG website, and the final engineering phase is underway.
The Georgia-Meade route is next, with meetings tentatively planned for late April. The plans feature roundabouts, the elimination of some parking and left-turn lanes, bulbed-out pedestrian crossings, and a lot of paint.
Some of the things I was most concerned about — the effective dead-ending of Meade at Texas and 30th streets, for example — were eliminated when modeling showed they wouldn't force enough traffic off of Meade for the street to become a bike boulevard, the top class of bike-lane streets. Instead, the current plan means wide bike lanes, narrower traffic lanes, and roundabouts.
While SANDAG is planning ways to "calm traffic" along the bicycle routes, the organization isn't considering what vehicles will do to replace lost travel routes, Culp said. But making the bicycle routes less attractive to through-traffic is part of the goal, she said.
"We want to get a higher level of safety," Culp said. "We do traffic studies that tell us where traffic is likely to divert to; we'll do that analysis." What happens to vehicles that are diverted is up to the city, she said.