Hillcrest loves them some cars

Revised Uptown bike corridor plan up for a vote June 5

The business owners and small group of residents who opposed turning University Avenue into a more pedestrian-friendly street appear to have won over planners of the San Diego Association of Governments.

During a June 5 meeting, the group’s boardmembers will vote on a scaled-down version of the Uptown Bike Corridor Project, which, if approved, abandons previous plans to close a block-long portion of University Avenue and construct a dedicated bike lane leading into Hillcrest's business center. In addition, the plan called for the removal of some parking to make room for the pedestrian-friendly changes.

Businesses and some nearby residents rejected the plan from the outset. They said closing any portion of University Avenue would only increase an already congested Washington Street. At the same time, a few business owners also attacked the association of governments for removing any amount of parking in Hillcrest.

Despite staunch support from cycling advocates, the association appears to have bowed down to the business owners and small group of Mission Hills residents who opposed the plan.

According to an association of governments staff report: "Much input has recently been received from the community regarding portions of the University Avenue section of Corridor #2, between Washington Street and Normal Street, including both support for the project and expressions of concern for potential impacts to parking, neighborhood access, and traffic.

"In response to this additional community feedback, [the association] is seeking direction on a change in project features for this project section to a more constrained bikeway project than the original design concepts. In general, this alternative proposes shared travel lanes rather than protected bikeways along the more constrained sections of the corridor."

The Hillcrest Business Association is already onboard with the plan:

"Equally important, it’s our understanding the revised scope will maintain eastbound vehicular access to University Avenue from Washington Street, and it will also minimize the parking loss along University Avenue throughout the Hillcrest business core.

"The [Hillcrest Business Association] has always advocated for a balanced plan — one that provides alternative transportation options while still respecting the reality that many customers access Hillcrest businesses by car. We feel both goals are met under the revised scope, and we respectfully ask for the Transportation Committee’s support."

While the business group and the association of governments appear to be on the same page, cycling advocates feel the constrained approach only adds tighter restrictions on cyclists and does nothing to improve San Diego's poor standing on the list of pro-cycling cities.

According to survey website Redfin Research Center, San Diego ranked 115th on the list of bike-friendly cities, just two spots better than Des Moines, Iowa.

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There are places I do not go, like Hillcrest, because of the traffic congestion and lack of parking. While it sounds like a good idea to walk/bike it is hard to shop and carry stuff around on a bike or while using public transportation. I doubt walkers and bicycle riders and public transit users buy much stuff.

When is the last time you rode the bus? People get on with shopping bags and those fold-up grocery carts all the time.

It has been a while and yes some do bring bags and carts with them and usually take up two seats. The amount of groceries etc. is limited vs. a SUV.

If the bus is crowded, you are supposed to, as a courtesy, put your bag(s) on your lap, and not hog two seats. That's what I do.

People do shopping trips by bus or trolley all the time. Your guesses indicate that you haven't ridden public transit much, if at all.

It's also possible to carry stuff on a bike. Some bikes are even designed for this like cargo bikes which can carry a lot of groceries.

True but not always possible to carry everything. And you are correct that it has been a while since I have used PT on a regular basis. The trolley is fairly efficient but the bus service is ok in some areas and horrible in others. Both are good if you work a regular day schedule M-F otherwise you are forced to use a POV.

It wasn't that a small minority scuttled it. It is that a small minority brought serious issues to the attention of the Peter Pan's running the cycling portion of SANDAG. I am a cyclist and not an advocate, but I spoke up and opposed the closure of University for four reasons:

  1. The transportation folks at SANDAG, you know the ones who know all about ingress and egress and emergency planning, claimed to know nothing about the closure of University. In fact, in answer to my email, they claimed that any changes like that would have to go through emergency planning review. There are only two ways out of the Midtown area of Mission Hills. This plan would have blocked one of them. Also, there are two major hospital complexes along the route. If I could reach out to the SANDAG transportation division, why weren't the bike folks doing so?

  2. As far as I can tell, nobody reached out to the legal folks who defend the numerous county lawsuits either. Bike that route. See all those little driveways to houses and condominiums? Hmm, don't you think maybe those property owners might have some kind of right of access to those driveways? I'm sure some lawyer knows. Too bad the bike folks at SANDAG don't.

  3. The claimed disclosure to the community about closing University never happened. Look at the SANDAG bike route on their web site. See any mention of closing University? How can you claim you made significant community outreach, when you never mailed the people in the neighborhood something along the lines of, "Just so you know, we're thinking about closing your only way out of your neighborhood. You may want to attend the next meeting." Instead, my neighbors and I read in the Reader about how the signs put up, not by SANDAG, but by an advocate, were taken down. Where were SANDAG's signs?

  4. Parking does matter, and technology is making cars not the enemy they were. We have an aging population, particularly in Mission Hills, where a bunch of middle income workers were lucky enough to buy cheap condos in the 1980's and can't afford to move. In New York and Chicago, parking cannot be destroyed unless it is replaced elsewhere. If you want to take the parking out, buy some vacant lots and build some garages for the (electric) (and I hope self-driving) cars

When I wrote Councilman Gloria's office, they "backpedaled" claiming closing University was a single idea from a community member and that it was not in the final phases of being voted on. Really? Glad a "small minority" noticed.

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