From city plan. “They completely disregarded what the public wants."
  • From city plan. “They completely disregarded what the public wants."
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After several years of hard work developing bike lane plans, Normal Heights business groups and the city parking district were stunned when City Councilman Chris Ward – and then the mayor- launched their own plan that includes removing parking along 30th Street from Juniper north to Howard, and likely up to Adams.

“We thought they would take what we’d done already,” said Tootie Thomas, director of The Boulevard. “They completely disregarded what the public wants and the business community wants.”

Video:

Chris Ward deflects criticism

30th St. parking concerns

30th St. parking concerns

The Adams Avenue Business Association, the Boulevard and North Park Main Street collaborated with the Mid-city Parking District on the effort that began about three and a half years ago, only to see their work ignored – particularly the steps the final two draft plans took to make the project work for the businesses and residents, Thomas said.

North Park Main Street was included in the process, but no one carried the news to the other groups.

“The Adams Avenue Business Association hasn’t been included in the conversation,” executive director Scott Kessler said. The Mid City Parking District also does not appear on the list of groups Ward’s office has met with since March. “The parking district should have been included, obviously,” Kessler added.

Ward’s office didn’t communicate with them ahead of time – though the groups know his policy analyst, Kathleen Ferrier well since they paid her to work on the project before she was hired by Ward.

Ferrier worked for Circulate SD, a nonprofit city-registered lobbying organization that has spent a lot of time with Ward and staffers since January, according to lobbyist reports.

The business groups and parking district hired her as a consultant to do public outreach, and while they felt she was effective at reaching people, several sources say she took a hard line on parking: it all has to go.

“Even though she did the community outreach and must have heard the concerns of the residents and businesses, she was adamant that all the parking should be removed,” said Scott Kessler, executive director of the Adams Avenue Business Association. “It’s seems interesting that a current staff member of District 3 who worked on these plans would have forgotten about who she worked with and what we found people wanted.”

The collaboration’s proposed projects can still be seen on the Boulevard website, TheBoulevard.org.

Asked about their process, A.J. Estrada, Ward’s communications director, sent an email laying out the office’s timeline, starting in November 2018 at the city Bicycle Advisory Committee. Just three of what appears to be 11 committee members – including Joshua Clark, a SANDAG planner appointed by Ward – were present for the meeting, according to the recording. (minute 41)

There were a series of presentations at community meetings in March, according to Estrada.

But how much was said and whether or not groups could act isn't clear.

For example, minutes from the March Boulevard meeting indicate that Ward's representative included the 30th St. project in his brief report to the district. It was not an agenda item and the group could not take any action on it; nor is any visual presentation noted.

In the interest of fairness, the district 3 response to these questions is printed in full at the end of this story.

The preferred plan did take some parking, but much less than the Ward-Faulconer plan.

“It’s always been our intention to never impair our business community by taking parking,” Thomas said. “Our best plan took some parking and created about 100 spaces nearby.”

Thomas said one of the baffling elements of the Ward-Faulconer plan was the determination that so much parking had to be eliminated. The notion that people must choose between safe bike lanes and parking seems like a strange paradigm. “The framing is wrong,” she said. “We support the biking community. We support the business community. We see those as one and the same goal.”

El Cajon Boulevard won’t be profoundly affected by the current plan that takes about 420 spaces from end to end, Thomas said. The group is also working on a pilot project to create a buses-only lane for the boulevard to speed up bus service, and thought the bike lanes should be treated as a pilot project, too.

The groups brought in Long Beach consultant Charlie Gandy to help create a community-friendly, safe design – or five – they could show the community. With input, they narrowed it down to two.

None of them look like the one formally launched by Ward after Circulate SD Policy Committee member Matt Stucky wrote a touching story about his seven-year-old daughter bicycling ice cream in Voice of San Diego, where no one mentioned his affiliation with CirculateSD.

Ward stunned 30th Street residents Tuesday night by advising a mom concerned about her 19-year-old daughter’s safety while walking six blocks down 30th from the University Ave. parking garage where Ward said they should park that she might consider living somewhere else..

Ward’s spokesman said he contacted the young women the next day and apologized for the remark.

Critics were quick to point out that the architects of the plan stand to suffer no impact from ideas like these because of the upscale homes, garages and driveways they own. They’ve noted that parking economist Donald Shoup studied how cars cruise for limited parking in Los Angeles’ Westwood Village concluded that people drive just under a million extra miles per year – searching for parking. Eliminating parking increases cruising for it.

While the city is taking public parking off streets in front of homes and businesses, it voted at its December 3, 2018 meeting to increase city employee parking from 1,350 spaces, adding hundreds of new spaces that qualify for 75 percent employee reimbursements, including spaces in the Central Library, 101 Ash St. and Horton Plaza, which agreed to lease 100 spaces for about $131,000.

Between December 2017 and February 2019, Ward and his staff received about $1,230 in parking reimbursements for City Hall parking, according to city records.

  • From: A J Estrada (D3 communications director)
  • San Diego’s Bicycle Advisory Board, at its November 2018 meeting, voted to request that city staff evaluate the feasibility of implementing improved bicycle facilities on 30th Street between Juniper Street and Redwood Street in the North Park community. Immediately following this, Councilmember Ward requested a full evaluation of 30th Street between Juniper Street to El Cajon Boulevard following the 30th Street Pipeline Replacement project.
  • City staff created five different designs for this project and each was presented to the following community groups:
  • Burlingame Neighborhood Association: March 10th
  • Informational item at North Park Planning Committee’s Public Facilities Sum-Committee: March 13th
  • North Park Main Street: March 14th
  • El Cajon Business Improvement District: March 21st
  • Greater Golden Hill Planning Committee: March 21st
  • South Park Business Group (and business canvassing): March 27th
  • North Park Maintenance Assessment District: April 8th
  • Information item at full North Park Planning Committee: April 16th
  • North Park Main Street: April 25th
  • North Park Main Street Special Meeting: May 9th
  • Action item at full North Park Planning Committee: May 14th
  • Our office also canvassed businesses along 30th Street to distribute information and answer questions. Additionally, the proposed project was reported on by major news outlets in San Diego, further informing the community on the issue. Our office was in regular contact with mayoral staff, providing updates on the community feedback we received, and after the recommendations from North Park Main Street and the North Park Planning Committee, Mayor Faulconer directed staff to install protected bike lanes along the corridor with the option to remove all parking, albeit prior to an opportunity for Councilmember Ward to provide a formal recommendation to the Mayor as the process was explained to the community.

Marty Graham is a member of the Normal Heights Planning Group.

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Comments

Cassander July 15, 2019 @ 3:50 p.m.

This article makes it clear that so many are in the pocket of their developer pimps, pols like Ward and Gloria can openly tell their constituents to go have intercourse with themselves—and count on their fellow stable whores in the news orgs and lobby shops to spin it as a PSA for colorectal screenings.

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Cassander July 16, 2019 @ 10:23 a.m.

Will "site staff" inform me what violation I allegedly made, so I can rephrase my otherwise popular comment?

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mb2121 July 16, 2019 @ 11:58 a.m.

Sorry, we removed your comment by mistake. :)

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AlexClarke July 16, 2019 @ 5:30 p.m.

Citizens and neighborhood groups are a pain in the a** to the elected elite.

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PRabbit July 16, 2019 @ 5:18 p.m.

I would like to see a copy of the apology by Mr. Ward made public.

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Geranium July 16, 2019 @ 8:43 p.m.

The too cozy relationship between Circulate SD and Ward's office needs to brought to light by journalism. Of course that would also mean shedding light on Gloria's relationship as well. Clearly Circulate SD is mainly a lobbying organization for developers and the building industry. But it seems they also have a distaste for community (unless its their version of what a "community" is) and regulatory oversight, essentially what we expect to see from a Republican position. Ward's, Gloria's, and Circulate's motto is essentially "Build, Baby Build" in response to the housing crisis, just as Sarah Palin's was "Drill, Baby Drill" in respond to the energy crisis.

Ward and Gloria have decided it's a winning strategy (for both them and their funders) to work with Circulate to actively divide their communities over development issues, hoping the YIMBYs can dominate the dialog over the nuanced dialog many members of their community want to have over development issues. I suppose we'll see how this strategy works as we move towards the 2020 election.

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RescueHillcrest July 18, 2019 @ 4:31 p.m.

More evidence of what everyone here is seeing:

Our July Membership Mixer will also serve as the launch of the Sustainable Growth Community Planners (SGCP)! The SGCP is an independent and self-governing group of Community Planning Group members whose purpose is to engage and empower Community Planning Group members who believe in addressing climate change, supporting good land use decisions, and implementing equitable transportation policies.

Interested in learning more and meeting the founding members of the SGCP? Come to the launch on July 18! Are you a member of a Community Planning Group who supports the SGCP’s mission? Join here!

Until now, Circulate has created front groups like Rise-Up-Town and YIMBY Democrats (whose secretary is Ward staffer Brittany Bailey) to undermine the independence of CPGs. Now they've given up pretending.

I have asked the City Attorney's office to look into this evident violation of the City Council Policy governing CPGs, which bans "slates" (Art V Sec 3). Wonder if the money Mara Elliott's received from Cushman, Sudberry, McMillin, and those who bankroll Circulate and their other front groups will influence her decision?

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Geranium July 18, 2019 @ 5:42 p.m.

RescueHillcrest, are you suggesting there is a problem with like minded folks having a "mixer"? Of course its troubling that that both Rise Up Town and YIMBY "Democrats" seem to actively work to use tribalism to both excite those who join it (I assume the leaders encourage members to attack Boomers because its fun), and to tragically create a "them" and "us" dynamic within communities. Of course the goal of Circulate SD is to keep the developer cash coming in, but sadly some of their foot soldiers actually think building roof top pools will solve the housing crisis and save the planet.

But is there a law against motivating folks to take action with false information? Doesn't seem so.

But I assume Circulate SD is a registered lobbying organization, and certainly a tax paying organization (non tax paying not-for-profits can't do all the lobbying and political work they do).

But it does seem weird that a staff member of Ward's office is an officer in YIMBY Democrats. Seems like a conflict if her job is to represent all in his district, but maybe that isn't how they see their role...

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BabyKat July 21, 2019 @ 5:20 p.m.

Yes! Circulate SD is a registered 501(c)3 organization! A NON-PROFIT! But let's be honest, they are really PAID LOBBYISTS presenting themselves as "advocates" and "partners with government." You only need to look at their website to see their biggest supporters, uh, "MEMBERS!": https://circulatesd.nationbuilder.com/corporate

Here is a link to their most recently posted 990 form: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/circulatesd/pages/639/attachments/original/1554124735/2017_990_-_Disclosure_Copy.pdf?1554124735

"Circulate San Diego is deeply engaged with public policy to achieve our mission..." it seems that is AT ALL COSTS!

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BabyKat July 17, 2019 @ 8:43 a.m.

Too cozy? One could go as far as to say, "incestuous" relationship of this very tight-knit group… Let's see, Kathleen "Kate" Hawthorne Ferrier formerly of Circulate SD, and now Chris Ward's office, is BFFs with Angie Landsberg of NPMS. Kate is also a former NPPC member. Angie is BFF's with Tyler Renner, et al of Chris Ward's office. Matt Stucky "the ice cream man" is involved with Circulate SD, new NPPC member (the week before they voted kind of NEW), and close friend of Colin Parent. Colin is the director of Circulate SD, close friends with all of the above, and a La Mesa council member. Interestingly, Colin's campaign manager (Estrada) is now Chris Ward's Communications Director. Throw Everett "The Erv" Hauser into the mix as the Mayor's Traffic Engineer; he’s a former SANDAG intern, very vocal and avid cyclist who attends Tuesday night races at the Velodrome, an Ironman and Grand Prix racer (seriously, check out his FB page... he is beyond stuck on himself and if it wasn't so gross, it would actually be funny). But really, how is The Erv's being a CITY traffic engineer who recommends policy in the city NOT a conflict of interest given that he is such a single-minded and avid cyclist? Ahhh, but I digress... all of these people have job hopped and glad-handed in order to position themselves within the city so they could get this ridiculous plan in motion before Chris Ward and Kevin Faulconer term out. Chris Ward needs to clean house and Kevin Faulconer should be embarrassed that this has happened under his lame duck watch. Both Ward and Faulconer should be focusing on the homeless situation in this city instead of playing with businesses and residents’ lives just so their little group of friends have aCYLCE TRACK on 30th Street. It will be interesting how their future political aspirations are affected by the cesspool they are leaving us in SD. *(Oh, I don’t have room to get into but don't forget Andy Hanshaw, Molly Burgess, Rachel Laing, Vicki Granowitz, Liz Studebaker, and Lisa Harvedt [the VOICE that is strangely quiet these days], all supporting players and part of the same group of friends who hang together, ride together, and recreate together as those discussed above).

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Geranium July 17, 2019 @ 5:45 p.m.

There you go.....sounds like this is the tip of the icky iceberg of all of this. I suppose another way to put it be that Ward's office and Circulate SD are not incestuous, but really the same thing. And you need to add YIMBY Democrats (which is such a misnomer, it should really be YIMBY Libertarians) which is just a recruiting arm to dupe Millennials that the only way to bring their rent down is to call Boomers greedy for caring about their neighborhoods. I assume you can look at every land use situation Ward has been involved with and you will find the same folks calling the shots and playing the various roles to insure the predetermined outcome happens. The 6th and Olive project had the same cast of characters making sure the community input was ignored.

Sadly this is just more of the insider, self serving, business as usual we have seen for way to long in San Diego. We really need to find a way to get a city government that is working for the people of the city, not well connected folks playing monopoly with our city.

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BabyKat July 17, 2019 @ 11:13 p.m.

Yes! They are one and the same! "Playing Monopoly" with our city is exactly what they are doing... as a stepping stone to their next political fiasco, leaving SD to deal with their mess.

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RescueHillcrest July 19, 2019 @ 2:22 p.m.

Although partly in response to Geranium, this is too important to bury in a reply.

According to recent disclosure filings 179146457 and 179289497, Circulate not only lobbies the City to promote its anti-democratic and class-warfare agenda: they've been paid by Chris Ward and Scott Sherman with taxpayer dollars for unspecified "contract services," as well as by the Sustainability Department and San Diego Police.

This is how corrupt we have become: the powers that be believe graft is excused so long as it's reported, and paid endorsements okay if they are shameless.

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Geranium July 20, 2019 @ 8:15 a.m.

All the new posts are making it even clearer there needs to be the daylight of a in depth journalist investigation of Circulate SD and its relationship to our elected officials.

Clearly one of Circulate's main goals, like any business entity, is its own financial well being. And clearly given its donor list and its growth, Circulate is successful at that. Of course part of the problem with taking money from someone is that the people you get it from usually except something in return for it.

Seems to me the connection preventing pedestrian accidents/deaths and deregulating development regulations for the benefit of developers is both odd and tenuous. But Circulate seems to feel its cover enough to obscure all of the lobbying work they do for a myriad of businesses. Whats both more remarkable, but also more troubling, is that Chris Ward and Todd Gloria feel they can use Circulate SD as cover for their actions and ambitions. If Circulate is doing most of the heavy lifting for developer lobbyists then Ward and Gloria can pretend they are doing something other than doing what their political funders want.

What's perhaps even more troubling is seeing Ward join in on one of the main strategies of Circulate and their many tentacle organizations (Circulate Inc): to try to neutralize neighborhood organizations through ageism and tribalism. The goal is to prevent a hearty multi-voiced dialog about land use. Instead of a complex dialogs from how to wisely add density to a neighborhood to how the concentration of wealth is leading to a concentration of real estate ownership (and how that impacts housing availability and costs), Circulate Inc encourages the out loud attacks on boomers, suggesting they should move if they don't like Circulate Incs goals for the city. Clearly Ward slipped up by using his "out loud" voice to espouse this position at the meeting, but its at the core of his and others strategy for land use.

So I'll say it again, we need to shine daylight on all this.....for the well being of our city.

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CFP July 21, 2019 @ 2:19 p.m.

Cory Briggs wants to do a story exposing SD Circulate for who they really are.

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Geranium July 21, 2019 @ 10:55 p.m.

I would assume Cory Briggs is also exploring the possibility of legal transgressions by Circulate SD and Ward's office.

Regarding the bike lane issue, I would assume both Circulate Inc and Ward need to make sure they power through a few bike lanes to help provide cover for their main agenda, serving the big developers, land owners, out in the open lobbyists, and other business/corporate concerns that fund their ambitions. While I would love to see a more pedestrian and bike friendly San Diego, its depressing to see such cynicism associated with the cause. I recently heard someone use the phrase "The Trojan Bike" to describe what is going on. That would be funny except for the very real negative impact on our city, and the damage to peoples lives is tragic.

It doesn't take a lot of effort to realize the only hope we have to solve the climate crisis (and the housing crisis) is to diminish the control corporations have over the politicians and the political process. How is helping mega real estate corporations and REITs take over our housing market going to help. Do you think all the money being funneled into Circulate SD by business to distribute in various hidden ways into subverting our community process really intended to solve the climate or housing crisis? I have no idea if the Republicans who espoused supply side theory 40 years ago thought it would trickle down to help all levels of the economy, nor do I know now if those running Circulate Inc believe building luxury housing will bring rents down. I think a consideration of the situation that isn't self serving would suggest a more complicated and nuanced solution is required.

But one thing is clear, the destructive tribalism Circulate Inc (and Ward) put so much energy into is not helpful.

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ericafernandes July 23, 2019 @ 2:50 a.m.

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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