City holds garage sale next to homeless center

Make an offer (disclosure: asbestos present, accessibility limited)

216 above‐grade parking stalls, but "ramps make it unsuitable for rational reuse,” said Gary Smith, president of San Diego Downtown Residents Group.
  • 216 above‐grade parking stalls, but "ramps make it unsuitable for rational reuse,” said Gary Smith, president of San Diego Downtown Residents Group.

Downtown's "World Trade Center" at 1250 Sixth Avenue started out as the San Diego Athletic Club in the late '20s and eventually became home to publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; they vacated the building in 1993 and donated it to the city, according to a U-T article by Roger Showley.

In 2010, the San Diego City Council voted unanimously to convert the building into a “one-stop” homeless center/residence called Connections Housing Downtown.

Affirmed Housing Group became the developer of Connections Housing, and the project was completed in January 2013. The adjoining seven-story, 250-stall parking structure (1245 Fifth Avenue at A Street) was not part of the redevelopment deal and was retained by the long-since-dissolved San Diego Redevelopment Agency.

As part of Civic San Diego’s disposition of six non-housing properties, the parking garage (built in 1969) will now be offered for sale by real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle. Per CivicSD’s plan submitted in January 2017, “net proceeds” will go to the San Diego County auditor for “distribution to Affected Taxing Entities.”

Ground floor of garage

Ground floor of garage

CivicSD’s assessment of the garage shows some problems. The garage building no longer “has direct access to an elevator, and does not meet the 8-foot, 2-inch headroom clearance required for van accessibility by Title 24 accessibility requirements under the California Building Code.”

The parking structure also lost its “utility power source” after renovation of the adjacent building. But, in CivicSD’s recommended action, “the site is still capable of supporting a mixed‐use project as envisioned by the Community Plan.”

‎Jeff Graham, former president of CivicSD and currently executive director of real estate at ‎UCSD, says, “My recollection, during my tenure at CivicSD, was that we only studied the feasibility and cost of improving the garage so that it could reopen as a public parking structure.”

Graham said that the structure needs improvements to vertical circulation for life-safety, asbestos abatement, new lighting, paint, automated parking-fee equipment, etc.” (“Vertical circulation for life-safety” means the movement of people between multistory buildings, and specifically refers to having entrances, exits, ramps, stairways and elevators up to code.)

Gary Smith, president of San Diego Downtown Residents Group sees the site as a “tear-down” due to “fire sprinkler lines covered in asbestos, too short for trucks, some SUVs." Smith said “ramps make it unsuitable for rational reuse.” The “land [is] too valuable to just sit; makes sense to sell."

According to Jones Lang LaSalle, the garage property sits on 0.34 acre. As configured now, the building offers 11,660 square feet of retail space. The current zoning is “CCPD (Centre City Planned District) – Core”; this requires “at least 50 percent of gross floor area to be dedicated to employment uses such as office, education, cultural, retail, or hotel. Residential uses shall not exceed 50 percent of gross floor area.”

Graham sees redevelopment as feasible. “Now that the B Street corridor is finally receiving a lot of vibrancy with the WeWork space, proposed redevelopment of the California Theatre block, and new residential development at Eighth Avenue,” Graham said, “I would think the redevelopment of the parking garage site makes more sense than it did several years ago.”

JLL’s marketing brochure boasts: “The property can be redesigned with maximum efficiency to cater to the pent-up parking demand of the surrounding urban neighborhood. The strategic location coupled with tightening market fundamentals provides investors the ability to acquire an asset with a tremendous capacity to create value through redevelopment.”

Interested buyers can apparently just make an offer. There’s no “asking price” at this point, according to JLL public relations spokesman David Ebeling.

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Interesting, maybe demolish it and build an arts center on the lower floor with rent-able arts related spaces. Add a couple floors for small businesses and top it off with a restaurant/bar to generate income for the arts center.

Sounds interesting, but who would pay for it?--the City, a private foundation, a local billionaire?

It's possible since San Diego does have its' share of wealthy philanthropic individuals who like to see their names on buildings and a lively arts community to support it.

They generally want their names on university buildings, museum wings or major hospital structures.

Jeff Zinner, senior project manager at CivicSD, emailed me, saying: "Property has been marketed, and offers have been received. Negotiating Purchase and Sale Agreement for consideration by City Council hopefully in next few weeks."

That use of "hopefully" always grates on my ear. Used that way, it also means that nothing may ever happen, whether in [the] next few weeks, or a few months, or a few years, or many years.

And, as they used to say in the South, "if the crick don't rise."

I am sure there is a scam in there somewhere. The building seems to have too may problems to be financially viable.

Well, as some have stated, the value is in the lot, not the structure. With San Diego's ongoing building boom, developers need land to build on. That means buying old, outmoded buildings, and demolishing them.

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