On May 12, the final public workshop was held before plans are finalized to transform 11 blocks in downtown’s East Village into a linear park for pedestrians and cyclists.
The streetscape revamp originated with Civic San Diego, the agency responsible for downtown planning and permitting since the city dissolved its redevelopment arm four years ago.
To accomplish the project’s goals, one sidewalk will be widened, both vehicle lanes will be narrowed, and parking on one side of the street will be eliminated.
The businesses I surveyed on the “demonstration block” (between G and Market streets) all said they supported the project. I also spoke to other residents and merchants in the area.
Claudine Scott said, “I’m incredibly excited about the renaissance going on in the East Village. I think we’re going to be the envy of San Diego.”
Tod Firotto, owner of San Diego Restaurant Supply at 1202 Market Street, has run his business in the East Village for more than 50 years. He wasn’t as gung-ho about the project.
“This thing as far as I understand it is a unique idea, as long as it doesn’t choke up traffic and cannibalize parking,” said Firotto. “If CivicSD wants to take street parking away, they should be prepared to immediately spend on building public parking structures to compensate for the hardship. All the new commercial and retail space has vacancies for lack of parking. Developers are not forced to provide onsite commercial or retail parking, hence few tenants. Vibrant business and jobs are the result of good access by patrons and auto parking.”
Adrian Granda from councilmember Todd Gloria’s office said on May 16, “We do get complaints about parking pretty often, but commercial and residential developments have parking minimum requirements. Public parking may not be used to meet those requirements. I can’t recall any business or space that is vacant because of [lack of] parking.”
While some parking will be lost to the “urban trail,” there will be more than 200 new spots coming by the end of 2017 in the form of a new parking garage, said Civic San Diego spokesperson Kathleen Brand. The location of the structure will be west of 14th, along G street.
“There is $12.75 million in the FY17 Parking District budget to pay for the design and construction of the garage,” said Brand. “We are currently working with the parking design consultant to refine the design and prepare preliminary cost estimates….
“The master plan has an urban trail for 11 blocks on 14th Street, but we only have funding from SANDAG for one demonstration project on the block between G Street and Market Street,” said Brand.
A $1 million SANDAG grant for the demonstration block is funded by voter-approved TransNet sales tax revenue. Brand said an additional $250,000 will come from the FAR Bonus Fund (a fee developers pay to increase density in their projects).
As far as the other ten blocks, Brand said that funding will likely come from grants and development impact fees over the next decade.
In a March internal CivicSD memo concerning the downtown mobility plan, it is stated that an estimated $62.5 million is needed to implement all recommended pedestrian, bicycle, vehicular, and parking improvements within the plan over the next 30 years. A recommendation within the memo states that any parking spaces lost due to implementation of the mobility plan must be replaced.
“With the widening of the sidewalk, there’ll be more vegetation than any other block downtown,” said Brand. “The other [noteworthy features are] the pedestrian gateways for each of the three districts. There will be an archway element to distinguish each area, bringing in historical elements unique to each area. We will have interactive displays or urban artifacts with some historical significance.”
The three districts referred to will be the “Urban Discovery and Play District” (south of C Street to F Street); the “Park District,” which includes East Village Green with the new Fault Line Park (south of F street to J street); and the Innovation and Entertainment District (Third Avenue to south of J Street).
“The finalized plan goes to the Civic San Diego board and committees in June,” said Brand. Construction on the demonstration block will begin nine months to a year from now with completion planned by the end of 2017.