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Nine Miles of Bike Lanes vs. 500 Parking Spots

Which would you choose?


The City of San Diego wants to add new bike lanes and expanded sidewalks to downtown | Photo by Jesse Bowen

This special edition of Hot Blocks talks about the city’s new Downtown Mobility Plan, which aims to transform central San Diego into a hub for biking and walking with 9.3 miles of bike lanes and 5.5 miles of pedestrian “greenways.” The deadline for the public to comment on the project is this Friday, March 11, so if you live in or commute to the downtown area, read on.

Despite having mild weather and a downtown with wide streets, San Diego doesn’t rank as a good place for bicycling. Minneapolis, Long Beach, and New Orleans have us beat. The City of San Diego has spent the last two years working on a grand plan to help commuters, bicyclists, and pedestrians coexist downtown, and Civic San Diego released a draft of the Downtown Mobility Plan earlier this year.

The report is more than 100 pages long, and we waded through it so you don’t have to. Here are some key elements to know:

  • The plan includes a network of new bike lanes and expanded sidewalks with trees and benches (pedestrian “greenways”) that will reshape about two square miles downtown. Affected neighborhoods include Little Italy, Cortez Hill, the Gaslamp Quarter, Marina District, and East Village, along with parts of Bankers Hill and Barrio Logan.

  • If approved by the city council in May, the short-term plan (adding the bike lanes and some greenways on 14th and E Streets) is estimated to take two years, and long-term plans (installing the remaining greenways on Cedar and Union streets, and Eighth and Island avenues) can take up to ten years, depending on funding. The project’s total cost is listed at $64 million.

  • Broadway and Market Street, which the report says have the most collisions, are not getting any bicycle or pedestrian improvements. Brad Richter, assistant vice president of planning for Civic San Diego, said the purpose of the pedestrian greenways is to connect downtown’s public parks, and that Broadway’s transit stops and varying right-of-way widths make for a street that’s difficult to develop.

  • Adding room for bike lanes and greenways means shortening the width of lanes, or removing some lanes altogether and eliminating street parking. A loss of 223 parking spaces is noted in the short-term plan, and a net loss of 731 spaces is listed in the long-term plan.

How 14th Street in the East Village (between Market and G streets) appears today.

A rendering shows what the street will look like after a pedestrian greenway is installed.

Even though the report says that 223 and 731 parking spaces make up only 2 and 8 percent of the available on-street parking spaces downtown, and the city also plans to build an underground lot in the East Village, the loss of street parking is what’s made headlines. And we’ve seen in recent years that San Diego has a love-hate relationship with bicycles.

Any time we feature an article about cycling on the cover of San Diego Magazine, that month’s issue will nearly sell out. But when proposed bike lanes threaten to take away parking on city streets, some business and community groups rally together to stop them. Hillcrest businesses paid a lobbyist to fight new bike lanes, because they feel fewer cars means fewer customers. Coronado residents banned them last fall because they were “ugly looking,” and a group in Bankers Hill sued the city for adding a bike lane on Fifth Avenue.

Richter said that a net loss of 731 parking spaces is a worst-case scenario.

“Unfortunately in our effort to be conservative and fully disclose what the ‘worst’ impacts would be, we believe we have overestimated the real parking losses,” Richter said in an email.

Richter said the addition of 200 underground parking spaces in the East Village (that were not included in the report’s parking loss section) should really be characterized as a break-even parking impact in the short term, and that the number of parking spaces lost in the long term will also depend on final designs and community input.

So far, the Little Italy Association and Jimmy Parker, former executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Association, have vocally opposed the plan. Naturally, the nonprofit group BikeSD lauds it.

What do you think of the plan? Go here to find out how to make your voice heard. (Just remember: All of your comments will become public record, so easy on the caps lock key.)


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San Diego real estate news and gossip, from businesses opening and closing around town, to the neighborhoods that are buzzing with construction and which homes and buildings are being sold and where. Parklets, placemaking, lofts, design, cool workspaces, cool living spaces, big buildings, and tiny homes are things we find fascinating, especially right now in San Diego. The cranes are back in the downtown skyline, and so are many of our sources in the real estate industry, so you might see a heavy bent towards the urban neighborhoods here. But we see you up there, Torrey Pines Mesa. We know about your new companies, institutes, and hidden foodtrucks in office parks and cool cafes on the bluffs. And Del Mar and Carlsbad and everywhere in between. If you see a “For Sale” sign or a “coming soon” sign that we should know about, or just have a question about a building or a place, send an email our way.

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