Circulate San Diego, a local nonprofit whose mission is to remove people from cars and increase pedestrian and transit-oriented travel, is lobbying city officials to build a controversial freeway connector through the master-planned community of Civita north into Serra Mesa.
The group submitted a lobbyist disclosure to the City of San Diego on October 20 revealing their support for a "street connection between Phyllis Place in Serra Mesa and Franklin Ridge Road."
For years, as reported by the Reader, residents of Civita, a transit-oriented master-planned community near Highway 163 and Friars Road, have spent years lobbying against the road. They say they moved to Civita to get closer to transit and to live in a more sustainable, pedestrian-friendly community. They claim that the road, which is estimated to serve 35,000 vehicle trips per day, will destroy the community. In regards to bike and walking paths to Serra Mesa, residents say those will be there with or without a road connection.
In addition, residents of Civita and Serra Mesa say that even the project's environmental reports show that while the road connection will be a shorter distance to travel, traffic at the new on- and off-ramps to Interstate 805 will have significant delays.
Despite their efforts, the city and Civita developer Sudberry Development — a major donor to Circulate San Diego — are moving forward.
And, as seen in the recent lobbying efforts, bike-advocacy groups are also jumping onboard in support.
Cindy Moore, a resident of Civita, said she and another member of a Serra Mesa planning group subcommittee attempted to meet with Circulate San Diego to discuss the potential impacts but their requests were denied.
In a September 11 email, Maya Rosas, advocacy manager for Circulate San Diego, told Moore that "because of limited staff bandwidth, [Circulate San Diego has] decided not to spend much time on this issue."
One month later, Moore learned that Rosas and Circulate San Diego had enough time to lobby city officials to get the road approved.
"The road connection creates a direct route to the I-805 freeway," says Moore of the group's lobbying efforts. "In advocating for the road connection Circulate San Diego is encouraging auto-dependency and is not promoting the use of transit and bicycling. A tremendous increase in traffic from the connection will increase the risk for pedestrians and bicyclists in both Serra Mesa and Civita."
Colin Parent, Circulate San Diego's interim director (and a current La Mesa City Council member), says that Circulate San Diego supports the road connection "because it will accommodate non-car modes, and it will reduce vehicle miles traveled, which will help the City of San Diego meet its Climate Action Plan goals."
As for Sudberry and other developers donating to Circulate San Diego, Parent says their support, as well as the support from others, is "because of our longstanding advocacy for smart growth and transportation choices. Our positions on policy matters are based on their merits and our organizational mission, which does not always align with the desires of our donors."
The city council will decide whether to amend the Serra Mesa Community Plan on Monday, October 30, which will give final approval for the road to be built.
Some opponents have expressed their willingness to seek legal action if the road connection is approved.
UPDATE 10/31, 9:25 a.m.
San Diego city councilmembers approved the road connection through Civita. District 1 representative Barbara Bry was the only one to oppose the road. It is unclear whether Civita residents will challenge the road in court.