When San Diego basked in national fanfare last month by pledging to cut its greenhouse gases in half over the next 20 years, it was committing to make more places like North Park: dense neighborhoods where taking the bus to work or walking to dinner are reasonable options.
But even as the neighborhood has become a sort-of template for city planners – a place with homes reserved for low-income residents, mid-rises with craft beer bars on the ground floor and multiple bus lines with frequent service – it’s still facing some of the usual tensions as it tries to map out its next 20 years.
The dispute is a reminder for the city that cutting greenhouse emissions in half is harder than simply announcing it wants to.
City planners have spent seven years and more than $3.1 million writing a new blueprint for the community, in hopes it’ll let many more people live there. To make good on the city’s climate promise, and to make way for more affordable housing options in desirable, safe communities, the city’s trying to increase development in North Park.
The city released initial plans in the summer to widespread dissatisfaction. Planners began rewriting certain sections, and released those just before the end of the year. They hope to get an environmental review of the plan done this spring, and to get the final plan approved by the end of the year.
The city presented its new outline to the North Park community planning group this week. Though the group took a vote supporting the plan’s general direction, there’s still a lot of dissent.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
For years I have been fighting with our Planning Committee who do not believe that a safe community is an aware community. Crime in North park is as high or higher than most every community in San Diego County, in 2014 the rate was 7 times higher than any other community yet Granowitz refused to allow crime stats to be discussed at meetings and regardless of how many requests for this issue to be put on the agenda it has never even been entertained even remotely, WHY? Why I say follow the money, who gains by more bars and denser housing? As yet there is still an assailant on the lose who brutally beat a women in 2014 and yet Angela Landsberg of North Park Main Street still insists that only four women were beaten? Coming from a Women this is shocking, from a Politician in the pocket of developers, not at all surprising. This is what happened to me and Todd Gloria's Office said it was my own fault because I called the Police. He and our esteemed Business Leaders have done nothing to help our end of the community that is still terrorized by the patrons of Tobacco Rhoda's. #TakeBackTheNight http://www.nbcsandiego.com/on-air/as-seen-on/North-Park-Residents-Take-Back-the-Night-277373951.html
As President of the North Park Historical Society, I have signed many letters to the City giving our organization's input on the constantly evolving community plan update. Our primary interest has been on stressing preservation of the historical integrity of the neighborhoods which is why many people have chosen to live here. In general we have not been opposed to increased density along the major transportation corridors such as 30th Street, El Cajon Blvd. and University Avenue. Nor have we sought to roll back the areas zoned already for multi-family development. Within in the land along the major transit corridors and existing multi-family zoned area there is more than enough area for increasing the population housed within the North Park community without destroying the community character of the neighborhoods where there are many single family homes with a wide variety of architectural styles that make it pleasant to live here and walk around.
We have consistently opposed the proposals for density bonuses for developers which would create a backdoor means for increasing density in other areas with the blessing of the City and would circumvent community desires.
Most of the "Huffman's" were built between University Avenue and Adams Avenue and were probably the result of how the College Hill Land Association laid out the University Heights subdivision in the late 1880s with wide streets and alleys in the middle of all almost all blocks and the lots were fairly large at 50' X 125". The large lots combined with alley access made it ideal for Ray Huffman and his imitators to tear down a single family home and put up a 6-8 unit apartment building with parking spaces in front and in back off the alley.
South of University Avenue North Park has over 20 different subdivisions with a wide variety of lot sizes and no consistency of whether there were alleys. If you look at the subdivision boundaries you can see that south of University Avenue alleys begat "Huffman" apartments and much less so where there were no alleys. The boundaries also explain all the dog legs in street intersections and horribly narrow streets like Ray, Upas east of 30th and 28th Street north of Upas.
If this has been in the work for seven years, why does it appear to be a surprise to the general public?
Would North Park continue to oppose density if they were allowed to keep most of any additional tax revenue from the higher density? Right now they would have to split that tax revenue equally with the rest of the city, which reduces their incentive to allow higher density. So I think it's safe to blame the city itself for the clumsy way it collects and spends tax revenue.
@Richard Gardiol Incentives always matter. (Ask any economist if you don't believe me.) Therefore, it's about the money.
@Derek Hofmann It is not about the money; it is about the quality of life for long term North Park residents who must face the prospect of losing the quiet enjoyment of their property to satisfy a megalomaniacal City Government in need of more tax revenue to cover what they have already wasted on special privileges for special interests.
Thank you for the informative article!
These increases in density are great! I live at 30th and Upas and really enjoy the new North Parker building because it has brought great new restaurants to the corner. And there are beautiful apartments there too. I work next to the new 4 story senior living building they are constructing near 32nd and University (on Iowa St). It's great to see a project going up! I love the activity, mix of businesses, and transportation choices you get in higher density communities. And the new bike lanes going down Pershing and over Florida Canyon at Robinson are going to be very convenient. Parking has never been an issue for me in North Park as I either walk or bike everywhere. I sold my car in 2010 and have a Zero Electric motorcycle if I need to go somewhere father than 5 or so miles away. Plus riding a motorcycle makes everywhere you go way more fun!
Some people like their single family homes, cars, parking, and quiet feel of the neighborhood, but this comes with it's costs in terms of not allowing us to make the increased density needed so that people can drive less and reduce the causes of climate change. We can keep doing the same thing and let the next generation deal with the consequences, or we can make changes that help the environment, and that many people like regardless of the environmental effect. We'll never all agree on this, but it seems that there is sufficient support for these change to have the traction to move forward.
I agree that we need more density south of North Park Way... and no one can say that I have a business interest in this or that I'm in the pocket of developers. I just like the feel of a denser community : )
@Richard Gardiol @dstein I'm defiantly wrong in saying that no one can say that I want higher density because of business interests... you just did : ) My point is that I'm not pro-density for business reasons, but because I live here and like higher density. There are much bigger trends in the world that affect my business more than long term development goals in North Park. Also, I own 6 stores around San Diego, so only 1/6th of my income comes from North Park. I'm blessed to be a good financial situation and to live a simple life that doesn't require much money, so I'm not thinking "increased density = more customers". In fact, the store in North Park is always full, so we're trying to move customers over to the Kensington store as much as possible. Thank you for pointing out my incorrect statement though... someone can definitely say that I have a business interest in this if they want to!
@dstein "no one can say that I have a business interest in this" Really?
Q: What is your name, where do you live and work?
A: Dennis Stein, live and work in North Park.
Q: What do you do professionally?
A: I own and operate six UPS Stores in San Diego.
One major problem for the neighborhoods is the neglected infrastructure over the last 50 years as the city diverted resources to subsidize sprawl development north of I-8. Driving yesterday morning in Clairemont dodging 6-8" deep potholes reminded me how hollow the mayor's claims about having street maintenance under control are. If the city wants to allow developers to increase densities in older neighborhoods, it must first find a way to bring their neglected, dilapidated streets, storm drains, parks and other infrastructure up to existing city standards. "Updating" neighborhood community plans to allow more density without addressing existing infrastructure deficiencies is a sure formula for antagonizing current residents and getting the local city council member voted out of office when they run for reelection.
Sounds like the City wants North Park to be the guinea pig for their "Climate Plan" that will do nothing but raise taxes and not change the weather.
The developers, their lobbyists and their supporter were at the meeting in support of increased Density but their were few from those against Density, I predict that will change as the "new" filters down, since so many just don't attend NPPC meetings because the time to speak is so short, there is not chance for discussion, just "sound bites."
If the area S. of North Park Way and north of Upas St. (for example) remain about the same as it is now then this area (The heart of North Park) will become even a more desirable place to live since it is has been "walkable" for decades, since it contains mostly original 1920's single family craftsman bungalows. This is why many of those living there are interested in it becoming designated a "Conservation Area" which while not have the tax advantages of a "Historical" designation area, would help maintain the scale and "feel" of the area until it becomes an "Historical" area sometime (hopefully) soon in the future.
If the Business District (which has seen most of its building "Improved" is being considered for a Historical Business designation (to attract even more customers) then it is only common sense that the area the area just S. of it also be given the same Historical Designation since many of the home were built before most of the building!
It is a fact that North Park has more Low and Low Moderate income housing than any other part of San Diego and to "plan" on adding thousands of new units without FIRST add the infrastructure to support it is POOR Planning. Traffic is already nearing gridlock animist of those that already live in North Park are not excited about how our area is being slammed while other parts of San Diego remain "insulated" from Density.
If the goal is to increase the number of dwelling units in order to provide even more housing for those near the bottom of the income scale then the City needs to put restrictions on new developers that a much higher percentage of the units being built (especially with Density bonuses) be set aside for then instead of just allowing "market rate" housing to be built which really only benefits the Developers that will make greater profits from selling more units per project.
Since the area N. of University Ave has very few residents as compared to renters, very few of them actually know what is in the works for their neighborhood and therefore very few are speaking out in opposition to the new plan, which will make their area an area of HIGH Density with buildings much higher than what is currently there now. It is true that the higher Density will have some review of new projects (that Developers can now avoid by building to current code, the end result will be many more "approved" projects that will also increase the Density.
Another point to consider is the crime stats, which are usually done per thousand people. Since North Park has increased its Density of liquor licenses (which started about 6 years ago) the amount of crime in North Park has grown so much that both Pacific Beach and North Park are now the areas having the most crime in San Diego.
When North Park applied for and won designation as one of san Diego's City of Villages, we were to receive amenities to go along with the additional Density but North Park only got the Density, since the City then decided that it could not afford the amenities. This is why so many now say, "Show us the AMENITIES before adding any more Density."
@Founder Hi there. Would you want to write an op-ed on the subject?
First of all, North Park is already dense enough. I live in PB and it's too dense also. How do you expect to reduce greenhouse gases by making a community more dense? If the old structures are torn down, it's too expensive to rebuild and make a profit. If you build where there are now parking lots, where is everyone going to park? The arguments go on and on.
@cindy Heffington Time for a change in leadership at NPMS and NPPC they are in the pockets of developers and don't give a rat's patooty about us. This is what we will continue to see with more violence and crime.
@Ryan with Cupcake @cindy Heffington North Park is a distant suburb. The majority of jobs in San Diego are in Sorrento Valley, La Jolla, and University City. This means that the increased density is needed in those communities and in their surrounding communities (Carmel Valley, Mira Mesa, Clairemont, etc). In that way more people can walk or bike to work and the ones who take a bus have a much shorter bus trip than if they have to commute from North Park.
@cindy Heffington Increased density reduces greenhouse gases in several ways.
First, people have to live somewhere, so it's important to consider what the alternative is. A person who lives in a distant suburb and drives over and hour each way or who moves from San Diego to a city with higher per capita greenhouse gas emissions is going to cause more emissions than someone who lives close to their job.
Second, density makes mass transit a lot more feasible. Double the density, and a bus line can support buses running with twice the frequency, which would probably be used by a larger fraction of the people because a bus that runs every 15 minutes is a lot more useful than a bus that only runs every half hour.
Third, infrastructure is a lot cheaper per person for dense areas. For example, it would take a lot less pipe to connect a single apartment complex with ten units on a lot than to connect ten houses on ten lots.
With respect to profit, that isn't a problem. Most of the value in a house in an urban area is in the land that comes with it. Splitting that cost across several units makes each unit a lot more affordable than the single house that they replaced. Parking can be addressed using the dedicated parking lots or garages that complexes build for themselves.
@cindy Heffington That assumes people want to live close to their jobs versus where there are more things to do outside of work. Why would I want to live in a sterile, boring, unwalkable suburb if I could instead be closer to places like Balboa Park and downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods with a much broader range of activities and mobility options? It's difficult to turn places dominated by wide, high-speed arterials and cul-de-sacs into places that one would want to do much of anything other than drive much less walk.
@Sam Ballard @cindy Heffington Do you have any statistics to back up your claim of increased violence and crime? North Park was a very dangerous place in the mid-1990's with heavy drug activity, violent crime and prostitution. The neighborhood has become much more safe since then, so much that people complain about its "gentrification".
What difference does it make if the City Council passes a new North Park zoning ordinance when City officials continue to ignore the law in favor of special interests ?
I own a single family home on 30TH Street in a commercial zone (CL-2) in a mostly low income residential neighborhood. Non retail alcoholic beverage outlets with tasting rooms, and industrial small beer manufacturers (otherwise known as microbreweries) are prohibited from locating here by the municipal code and with good reason. Microbreweries are loud and stinky, and they attract people that abuse alcohol and act up. Microbreweries are not an appropriate use in an area that is populated by families. Yet, there is a new microbrewery in the midst of my neighborhood.
How did that happen ? The San Diego Department of Development Services simply ignored the law requiring a conditional use permit be obtained for nonconforming uses ( industrial microbreweries in residential neighborhoods). I think it was to deny residents written notice and a process of appeal if they objected to having a rowdy beer bar and brewery at their doorstep, because the morons at City Hall think there is something romantic about beer drinking and will screw their own citizens in order to entice microbreweries to locate here.
So long as City Government is being led by the unscrupulous; community input and environmental studies, Community Plans and the San Diego Municipal Code won't make any difference.
@Richard Gardiol Thank NPPC for this. Granowitz and Gloria are in the pockets of the developers, we now have increased our bars to over 150 and they don't give a dam about crime stat's. Try getting them to discuss this topic ad a meeting, Vicky will slam you into the dirt! Tobacco Rhoda's was up last year in October for a re-evaluation of their license with the entire neighborhood terrorized NPPC did not show for the hearing, the bar is still open and many more to come! Having been beaten and watching so many other issues of violence take over our streets the entire NPPC needs to go, they don't care about us! Thank God Todd is going to be out, he wants kids put in jail for graffiti but his buddies in the promotions business get a free pass.
"Just because it’s good for a developer’s bottom line to build in North Park, doesn’t mean it’s good for North Park."
Putting housing near transit isn't about a developer's bottom line. It's good for the environment, walkability, jobs, housing, social equity, seniors, renters, first-time buyers, the city's economy, infrastructure costs, climate change, air pollution, preserving single family neighborhoods, and traffic congestion. Kudos to North Park Planning Committee for addressing housing affordability while Uptown Planners blocks new housing through downzoning and reduced height limits.
I agree all neighborhoods should be required to take on more affordable and middle class housing (which they are, by state law), but why would we add high density housing in Rancho Santa Fe, far from jobs and transit?
Scapegoating developers, who are simply meeting the needs of the market, is just an excuse to block housing - which boosts property values even further. At least Mr. Leichtling is honest about the last part. But forget about 30% or 75% gains; his home value has increased by over 400%, despite all that affordable housing in North Park. Exclusionary zoning from wealthy single family homeowners is the real problem, not developers.
@paul jamason For those current owners that oppose new development in order to constrict supply and drive up home prices, I wonder how much of that opposition would soften if Prop 13 went away. As it is now, they get all of the potential advantages of large price appreciation while being substantially insulated from the property tax increases that would occur much more rapidly absent Prop 13.
@paul jamason Granowitz Gloria and the likes of Angela Landsberg NPMS are to blame, they really don't care about us only revenue for their developer buddies, time for a change of leadership. Gang violence is up and problem bars like Tobacco Rhoda's will only get worse as they blindly hand out liquor licenses. For over three years I have called for discussions about the crime rate they will not discuss it, "Bad for business" I say an aware community is a safe community, they say shut up and put up with it.
@paul jamason why is it good for the environment to place the denser housing so far from the majority of San Diego's jobs? Whether it is a trip by car or by bus, NP is still farther than many other neighborhoods from most of the jobs.The city needs to provide a map of where the majority of the jobs are and up the density there. The next priority should be the schools. Place the next level of density where the best schools are. Those are the two major factors that should direct where denser housing is needed.
@Sam Ballard Except crime is not up in North Park as one can see by looking at the crime stats. It's been steadily declining since 2001:
I remember the much greater contrast between HIllcrest and North Park around 2000 when North Park was derisively referred to as "Ghettocrest". It had greater crime problems at that time. North Park has come a long way in 15 years while Hillcrest has stagnated. The new community plan has a lot to like and if it's followed, North Park could be a lot better than it is now in another 15 years. Just because higher density is possible doesn't mean it will happen overnight. It won't. it will be gradual and incremental. That allows lots of time to adjust to the changes.
@beans Part of the transit-oriented development goal for San Diego would be for more companies to locate downtown where the level of public transportation service is best, and where younger workers are moving. Just because the majority of jobs aren't downtown now doesn't mean it always has to be that way. Across the country, there's been a big corporate move to downtowns (http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/06/18/heres-how-45-firms-explained-why-theyre-moving-downtown/) but I agree this hasn't been as pronounced here.
There is a transit line planned to Sorrento Valley from North Park in SANDAG's plan, but unfortunately it's pushed out to 2035 or 2050 as they widen freeways instead. And if you recall, a condo project was planned near Qualcomm HQ around 2005, but it was opposed by the companies there and killed. I believe new housing is largely prohibited in that area now.
@paul jamason @beans The biotech industry, which was recently shown to contribute to San Diego as much as tourism, but to be growing at a much faster pace will never relocate to downtown. It is firmly rooted in the La Jolla/Sorrento Valley area. If new growth is not allowed in Sorento Valley, the other adjacent communities are Mira Mesa, Carmel Valley, UTC, Clairemont, Linda Vista, etc, which continue to grow and are much closer to the majority of jobs. North Park is close to downtown and is close to a significant supply of jobs, but it is not the area of San Diego that warrants the most growth. It just happens to be an area where developers can make more profit than if they build where growth is most warranted. North Park also has an unlimited supply of historic properties than none of the other communities have. Why tear down a historic property when you can build closer to jobs, closer to better schools and in an empty lot? The only reason is increased profit, not need. Development is certainly not bad, but it should be driven by the needs of the communities.
@beans I agree with your point about the biotech industry location. More housing in the neighborhoods you mentioned would help (Mira Mesa and UTC have built a lot of new housing near transit). However Carmel Valley and Clairemont are ridiculously NIMBY, and killed much of One Paseo's housing and the new trolley station development, respectively. How would you suggest overcoming this? Because the NIMBYs in these communities are writing the community plans that the city must follow for the next 30-40 years.
Biotech is only one component of our economy though. There is still plenty of room to locate large tech facilities in East Village: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/jan/28/downtown-stadium-university-east-village/. Further, those suburban neighborhoods are going to require some major retrofitting to create mixed-use areas that lend to transit-oriented development. I'm guessing the zoning in much of CV and CM prohibits mixed-use, multi-family housing. Are you suggesting we tear down the single family homes there? Because that will never happen. And there's not a lot of "empty lots" in any of those areas anymore.
The existing mixed-use zoning in North Park lends itself to more local job opportunities in the first floor of commercial spaces under housing above. CV/CM is going to require a pretty good walk from the cul-de-sac to the local strip mall job. North Park does have a lot of historical properties, and I'm a big supporter of historical preservation. But El Cajon Blvd and the surrounding blocks, where the upzoning is, has mostly strip malls and Huffman 6-packs, neither of which are historic. Single family home areas in North Park are not being upzoned.
Anyway, good points and I'm not expecting to change your mind, just giving my thoughts.
Glad to see this Andy. I live in North Park and was at the meeting to support. Glad to see this move forward. Agree more density would still be welcome along 30th street corridor. The support for the density bonus at this week's meeting clearly outweighed the opposition. The support came with a stated desire to improve housing affordability, take advantage of the BRT on El Cajon Boulevard, preserve the diversity in our community which helps make it great. I disagree with comment that residents were angry. They were just not supportive of the higher density.
North Park is has evolved in a vibrant, fun part of town to either live in or to visit without the red tape associated with a community plan. Many of the people who live there would welcome lower rents, but nobody is clammoring for public housing projects.
And in spite of all of these in-fill and densification of neighborhood ideas, survey results of renters in San Diego in the SD U-T listed one thing more important than anything else--parking.