Until a few months ago, Jim Frost was just an architect enjoying his retirement in Bankers Hill.
Then he got a phone call from SANDAG, the agency that plans San Diego’s transit future.
SANDAG was having problems with its plan to add more bike lanes along University Avenue in Hillcrest. To get there, the plan would cut way down on street parking, a possibility that inevitably angered business owners.
So, SANDAG asked Frost and a few other designers to take a fresh look.
His response, Frost said, surprised SANDAG. He completely redesigned much of the plan: Instead of narrowing travel lanes, he deletes them altogether. And instead of gutting parking, he adds more of it to the north side of University Avenue.
“I think they were a little bit taken aback because it was so different from what they had,” Frost said. “But it was certainly never ruled out.”
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
What does MTS think? University Ave. is a major corridor and changes there could have significant effects on their operations.
Why not add Robinson into this? Here is a possiblity, make University one-way between 1st and 5th heading west, do the same to Robinson heading east. This makes the block surrounded by 4th, 5th, University and Robinson essentially a giant roundabout. You can have bike lanes, parking and cars and an easy way to change from going west to east.
@Carlos W While I'm not sure the specifics of why it was ruled out, SANDAG officials told me that a bike lane going down Robinson Street in lieu of University Avenue was an option in the early stages, but it was ruled out early in the alignment phase a couple of years ago.
The only thing that could derail the Transform Hillcrest plan is Level of Service (LOS), the discredited method of measuring traffic efficiency still used by The City and SANDAG. Even though the SB743 and the OPR made it clear that LOS is harmful for the environment, discourages bicycling and walking, and is detrimental to infill development, The City is still using LOS as an excuse to reject safe bike facilities in San Diego. LOS runs counter to The City of Villages concept and walkable, bike friendly communities. It should not be considered seriously when evaluating the Transform Hillcrest plan.
Hillcrest has said emphatically that it prefers reducing travel lanes (road diet) to loosing parking or to having a substandard bike facility. SANDAG and The City should pay attention and take the opportunity to create a world class street out of University Ave.
The speed limits in Hillcrest tend to be low. I find it pretty easy to ride there as it is. Just use the full travel lane in most places and you will be fine. Of course, you have to deal with the occasional idiot. I was using the full lane going west on University near 5th a couple of days ago, when an idiot used the right turn only lane to pass me on the right at less than the 3 feet required by law, and then he ran a red light on 4th, a good 3-5 seconds after the light turned red. Drivers like that should not have licenses.
Only in the bizarro world of bicycle infrastructure does pushing potential customers away from a business make sense. I, for example, commute by bike past the businesses on University Ave several times a week, going up and down 4th and 5th Ave. Even though I've thought of stopping to pick up food on the way through, I never do because the lack of bike lanes or a place to lock my bike discourages me. Driving in a car on University is even too much, I don't want to take my chances biking. Maybe I'm overly sensitive or not the type of customer these businesses want, but if they push out the bike lanes, they push out the possibility of attracting certain customers (i.e., the young, affluent professionals that are choosing to commute by bike rather than by car). I look at the Frost Plan and think that I would love to ride my bike there and bring the family to stroll down the street. That never happens with the current design.
If the number one concern is parking, there are plenty of open storefronts in other area of the city available that offer an abundance of free parking. My guess is that if these bike lanes go in, whatever street they are on will flourish and become the new hot spots. So these business owners have to ask: do they want that to be their business, or someone else's?
@Matt At last year's Uptown Planners business meeting on the bike lane, someone remarked that "bicyclists don't have enough change in their pockets" to spend at Hillcrest business. While this sentiment isn't universal in the community, there's an underlying class issue among many business owners: people on bikes are of a lower status. Yet some of these same folks fought for LGBT equality for decades.
Jim Frosts plan considers the sense of place, the health of the business AND residential community and he has taken ideas from almost every presentation he has made. This is how planning works best, and it works for everyone.
The Hillcrest Business Assn, The Uptown Parking district, the Hillcrest Town Council and the Hillcrest CDC all have come out in support of the plan. It continues to evolve and the "JOG" may, or may not, make sense to the overall plan. It will rise or fail based on it's merits. How planning can be!
I am excited to see what is possible.
Full disclosure I'm at 10th and University and so I am in the big middle of any University Ave changes.
Although Hillcrest wants more parking, there is ample evening and weekend paid parking within a few blocks of wherever you want to go. Eliminate all street parking on University--it poses more problems than it is worth. And require whatever goes on the Pernicano site to have below ground paid parking.
@David Cohen I couldn't agree more. The HBA and the Uptown Planning Commission have been a total failure for the past 15 to 20 years. They have driven away the pedestrians that used to frequent their businesses while at the same time trying to preserve excess parking while taking away much of the limited sidewalk space for pedestrians on the south side of University between 10th and Centre. The sidewalk space they have taken away is only fully used for a very limited amount of time each day at most. They should be able to expand to no more than 3 or 4 feet from their outside wall onto the sidewalk and be charged enough annual rent to discourage that use unless there is enough regular usage to justify that expense.
@David Cohen Agreed, and I'd go further: make University pedestrian only, and consider pedestrian access bridges. The real problem is the pedestrian traffic at every intersection in the whole area. Find ways to change that with focused parking and pedestrian bridges or other routes, and the options for traffic circulation increase immensely.
Great objective piece on the furor over either Transforming Hillcrest with a comprehensive plan, or preserving the Status Quo to benefit a loud but minority faction of business owners with a plan scant on details and support in the community.
As Dalour Younan, the Vice President of the Hillcrest Business Association points out, the proposed Jog alternative plan as presented by Benjamin Nicholls, interim director of the HBA, was never presented to any official meeting of the HBA or any of it's advisory committees, and has the fingerprints of HBA's President Johnathan Hale and Treasurer Cecelia Moreno all over it. Hale Nicholls and Moreno, the troika of power at the HBA, seek to run things their way, and damn the torpedoes of community input. Its all about their vision of an endless supply of parking for their customers alone. As Nicholls' presentation pointed out, there have been plenty of spaces added recently, but apparently that is not enough for them, and they are demanding none be lost by any plan.
What else isn't enough are the details, or lack thereof, on the Jog plan essential for it to even be considered. Will place making totally ignore the western stretch of University Ave. leaving us with a mishmash of design and traffic nightmares, or will place making occur along both University and Washington, which will no doubt double the cost to preserve a handful of parking spots for a handful of businesses?
The real problem that Hillcrest is experiencing is an exponential grown of eating and entertainment establishments over the years that demand far more parking and traffic capacity than the small village was ever designed to handle.
Where in the past there were a small handful of dinning choices, now there are dozens and dozens, many of which have routinely failed. Where there used to be many small stores, and shops not dependent on multiple seatings of diners, now there are just a scant few. A view of History and the big picture is in order here, not shortsighted cries of "Don't touch MY Parking!"
Return Hillcrest to the community and the people, and not the automobile and short sighted business owners and supposed community leaders out to preserve the status quo.
The universal support for the Frost plan (including the Hillcrest Business Association) was great news after a year of fighting over parking. So it was a surprise when Nicholls presented the Hillcrest Jog plan, which uses a route already rejected by SANDAG for numerous reasons.
Since Nicholls is the HBA executive director, I assumed the HBA was supporting the Hillcrest Jog instead of the Frost plan. Instead, the Jog was apparently put forward by "a private business owner", which wasn't stated. This might be Chris Shaw, who owns Urban Mo's on western University and wrote an editorial here opposing the bike lane (Shaw is represented on the HBA by employee Eddie Reynoso). The owner could also be Cecilia Moreno of nearby Crest Cafe, who supports the Hillcrest Jog.
This odd sequence comes after the HBA was criticized for questionable activities (http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/06/19/fireworks-and-calls-for-hale%E2%80%99s-resignation-fly-at-hba-meeting/). To an outside observer, Moreno and/or Shaw appear to run the HBA based on their personal agendas. When they don't get their way, they do end-arounds like the Hillcrest Jog, or sack the HBA executive director without a board vote.
Jonathan Hale, president of the HBA, said we should "all work together to find solutions" to the bike lane issue, and the Frost plan is just that. The Hillcrest Jog is the opposite: a product of business owners who feel they run Hillcrest, are only concerned with preserving "their" public on-street parking, and have zero concern for the safety of fellow residents who bike on University.
If the business owners want parking, why don't they build it themselves?
Could it be because it's not really worth the high cost and so it's cheaper to lobby SANDAG to build it for them at taxpayer's expense?
@Derek Hofmann That's exactly what was suggested at the forum - SANDAG should buy the $12 million Pernicano's site and put in a parking garage. After demolition and construction costs, this would likely exhaust the entire Uptown Bike Corridor budget without adding a bike lane.
@paul jamason "A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury."
Hillcrest may be on to something here. When SANDAG said that there needs to be safe bike facilities in Hillcrest, the community balked at SANDAG's top down approach. Instead the community took on the task of designing it themselves, and now nearly everyone is on board.
This approach of providing mandates and metrics, but then allowing the community to provide the solutions that work best for them may be a model for how to grow and change San Diego. Top down design from The City an SANDAG has time and time again proved to produce little more than rancor and distrust.
As for the "Hillcrest jog" ... it is not even a serious consideration.