From city plan. “They completely disregarded what the public wants."
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.”
Chris Ward deflects criticism
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.