It’s tough to believe at this point, but North and South Park made it through about four months of 2019 before terms such as floating parking, sharrows, bollards, and NIMBY entered their daily lexicon. The debate over the new 30th Street bike lanes went into overdrive in April, pitting the advocates of protected bike lanes against the contingency that is attempting to save at least some of the street parking on a stretch of 30th that runs from Juniper Street in South Park up to Adams Avenue in North Park.
I first wrote about the issue in April, when the North Park Main Street association was voting on design recommendations for the bike lanes. Their views and those of the North Park Planning Committee were forwarded to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who would take their advice into consideration before making the final call on the design. The Main Street and Planning Committee meetings were filled with impassioned public comments from both sides of the issue, and provided a worthy preview of the fight that was brewing.
In May, Faulconer revealed that the city was going to pursue fully protected bike lanes. This meant all the street parking (420 spots) from Juniper to Howard would be eliminated. His memorandum stated that he was “directing staff to evaluate additional blocks north of Howard Avenue to Adams Avenue for protected bikeways and to include them in the final design.”
Since then, the opposing sides have dug into their trenches and continued to battle. The cyclists in support of the protected bike lanes rallied at a group ride down 30th Street on August 4. Councilmember Chris Ward revealed in July that he supported the floating parking plan for the stretch of 30th between Upas and Howard. This would preserve about half of the current street parking in that segment. This is the same design that North Park Main Street voted to recommend back in April, and their executive director, Angela Landsberg, has been vocal regarding her support of this design in recent weeks.
The wild card that seems to have come out of nowhere is a lawsuit spearheaded by the grassroots effort Save 30th Street Parking. The suit centers on the notion that the city didn’t properly inform the public about the proposed bike lanes in relation to the California Environmental Quality Act.
Save 30th Street Parking was founded by Pat Sexton. She has lived in North Park for the better part of 40 years, and is no stranger to a fight like this. She got her first taste when she started the original planning committee for Kensington and Talmadge. She gathered signatures all over Southeast San Diego in an effort to ban loitering outside of liquor stores in that region. The ordinance meant for that area was eventually passed city wide.
“That told me what grassroots efforts could do,” Sexton said.
Sexton hadn’t stepped into a conflict like this in ages, but the fear of a return to the “boarded-up storefronts” on 30th Street motivated her. This stems from a concern that the loss of storefront parking will hurt 30th Street shops, bars, and restaurants. Sexton said she knows of one business that is moving if the fully protected bike lanes go in.
“There have been others that say the outcome of this whole thing will determine whether or not they renew their leases,” she added.
At this point, Save 30th Street Parking functions as a donation box to pay Craig Sherman’s legal fees as he works this case. Sexton gathered $2700 in donations in less than 24 hours after she first met with the attorney. Her movement continues to generate donations to pay for his work.
“The donations I’m getting are from the building owners. They’re scared. If they don’t have tenants they’re screwed.
“There have been people that have said, ‘I’m really sorry, but there were some other people in here that were for the bike lanes and they said they were going to pass the word not to come in here anymore to buy anything or eat. I’ve heard it from restaurants. I’ve heard it from some of the little boutique shops. A lot of the little businesses on 30th Street already operate on a shoestring budget. So, what we’re getting is a lot of people are financially supporting our legal fund, but they’ve taken our posters out of the windows. That’s okay. I don’t blame them. I’ve been in business for myself, and I know if you’re operating on a shoe-string budget the last thing you want to do is offend even one client,” Sexton said.