The main roadway connecting North and South Park may be on the eve of a massive transformation. Councilmember Chris Ward is spearheading an ambitious plan to improve the bikeways on 30th Street that run from Howard Avenue in North Park to Juniper Street in South Park. The changes are meant to improve safety for cyclists who use the road but could come at a cost of losing as many as 420 parking spots.
The plan has been divided into two segments. The first runs from Howard to Upas Street and has three potential designs. The second runs from Upas to Juniper and has two design options. The safest options for the bikers on both segments eliminate the most parking spots.
The potential changes were the subject of an impassioned meeting of the North Park Main Street Association on April 24. Besides voting on their recommendations for the two segments, the meeting included a lot of public comments from local residents and business owners.
Longtime North Park resident Claudia Flores chimed in that she was against the plan because it had the potential to hurt the local businesses.
“You guys are just thinking about North Park residents shopping here and eating at your shops,” she said. “You’re not thinking about the people coming from down south or North County or East County. Where are they going to park? They’re already having an issue with parking as it is. People circle, and they get frustrated and take off. They’re going to take their business elsewhere.”
Other speakers opposed to the changes mentioned safety concerns due, primarily, to longer walks from parking spaces at night. Cheryl Robertson, the co-owner of Berger Hardware, cited the relocation of handicapped spaces as a major issue as well.
“To expect people that are already handicapped to have to walk an extra half a block, or even six parking spaces is too much to ask. We don’t have enough ADA parking as it is, and to take out what they have to make them accessible to their homes, to their businesses, to get their hair done, to get their dogs to the groomers — whatever it is, it’s ridiculous,” she said.
Robertson spoke about the potential snafu that the planned bike lane changes could have on incoming delivery logistics for the local businesses.
“Already there are no loading zones. UPS, FedEx, Amazon have to stop in the center lane on 30th Street to unload. There is no viable alley to the east of 30th Street. Ours is always so blocked up with people illegally parking that it’s been difficult for them to deliver back there,” she said.
There are two band-aids for the potential lost parking spots. The first is the large parking structure that the city owns on 30th Street near University Ave. It has 383 spots and never topped 55 percent capacity in 2018. It operates at a loss, so the city would benefit by the increased use of the structure. The wildcard becomes whether or not customers arriving by car are willing to pay for parking in an area where they are accustomed to getting it for free. The logistics of the parking garage are a problem for businesses like Berger Hardware.
“The parking garage is not viable for heavy merchandise. We sell hardware. People cannot carry 200 pounds of hardware to the parking garage. That’s going to drive people away from our business,” Robertson said.
The second potential parking remedy is converting parallel parking spots on nearby streets off 30th to perpendicular spots. Residents often oppose this change, though. This was the case with the residents on 29th Street between Upas and North Park Way who recently nixed this conversion — though it would have created 70 new spots. There are currently no guarantees this will happen. Depending on which bike lane designs are selected, these side streets may become the default loading/unloading zones for the businesses on 30th.
The general consensus on the other side of the fence was that although the loss of the parking spots could come with a little pain and sacrifice, the bikeway changes would be a positive change for the community that would benefit the environment and future generations.
John Pani, the owner of 30th Street’s Waypoint Public bistro and bar, said “I have nothing against parking, and I have nothing against bikes. I don’t think this is an issue between businesses and neighbors or anything like that. It’s just a simple issue of whether or not we support the evolution of people and our climate and things that are important overall. I don’t know if I’m going to lose business or if I’m going to gain business, and frankly it doesn’t matter because I feel the issue at hand is greater than that.”
Judi Tentor, a representative from the bicycle advocacy group BikeSD, mentioned that building protected bike lanes leads to a bump in business.
“Businesses will open, and more people will come to your business. It’s been proven over and over in cities across the country, but I know a lot of people are afraid, and I think these are all problems we can work out,” she said.
The public’s viewpoints were pretty evenly split, and by the time the members of the association delivered their comments many were on the fence about the potential changes.
“I think this board has a responsibility to our businesses that run along 30th and University of the district, and I think having a completely protected bike lane and losing those 420 spots is a big, big ask. I don’t think our businesses in our district have had enough time to weigh in on it,” David Gamboa said.
Steve Blasingham added, “I’m all for bike lanes. I feel like this one is being done too quickly without enough homework. I think there are other options that would be safer and wouldn’t impact parking as much. But if I have to pick one, I’m going to pick the floating bike lanes for now, even though I don’t really like it. I just feel like 30th is too busy to have it, and there are alternatives that run parallel. But since that doesn’t seem to be an option, I guess I would have to go with floating.”
The meeting concluded with the association voting to recommend option C for segment one and option A for segment two. Option C will eliminate the center lane on 30th, add a buffered bike lane, and eliminate 111 parking spots—all of this between Howard and Upas. Option A eliminates all of the street parking on 30th from Upas to Juniper (162 spots) and adds protected bike lanes on each side of the street.
The North Park Planning Committee will discuss the bikeway plans at a meeting on May 14. After that, Councilmember Ward will make a formal design recommendation to the Mayor’s office in June. If approved, the goal is to have the work done at the same time as scheduled pipeline replacements on 30th street.