There are two realities in the older, streetcar neighborhoods* of San Diego:
1) The street layout has been set for decades.
2) Properties fronting the street are nearly 100% built out.
(*Hillcrest, North Park, South Park, Golden Hill, Park West, Bankers Hill, Mission Hills, University Heights, Downtown, etc.)
Unless we start tearing down homes to widen roads or make new streets (not going to happen) these two realities won’t change. Whose homes and businesses are we willing to seize and tear down for wider streets? Who decides?
Whose homes and businesses do we tear down first to widen streets? Who decides? The reality is that we cannot increase street capacity in San Diego's older neighborhoods.
Therefore, here are two more realities:
3) There will be no increased street capacity for automobiles in the older San Diego streetcar neighborhoods (street capacity means widening roads or making new roads to accommodate more cars.
4) San Diego’s General Plan and Community Plans call for increasing density in these neighborhoods.
See the issue? More people, but no more street capacity. And that is what the anti-density, anti-development, anti-traffic crowd has been screaming about for years and years.
So what are we to do?
One alternative is no more people – bring growth to a near halt. However, that is impossible to do in a democratic society with a capitalist economy. The government would have to put so many restrictions on people, land, and economic development, that San Diego would come to resemble a totalitarian, socialist regime from the 20th century.
The only real solution is to acknowledge these realities in City policy. San Diego’s Transportation Plan must acknowledge that no new street capacity will be built in these older neighborhoods, and that accommodation for all new transportation growth will be through improvement of transit, walking, and cycling.
Likewise, transportation modes must be prioritized: 1) Pedestrian 2) Bicycle 3) Transit 4) Commercial Vehicles 5) Personal Use Vehicles. All planning and funding decisions shall be made according to mode priority.
Impossible? Not only is it possible, it’s neccessary. If we don’t act, we will be drowning in traffic.
16 years ago, (1997) Vancouver set the following 7 principles for their Transportation Plan:
1. We will accommodate growth in demand for transportation using the existing road network, without increasing road capacity.
2. Growth in demand for transportation, particularly to the Downtown, will be accommodated by improving alternatives to the car: transit, walking and cycling.
Now wait just a minute! These two opening, bold principles from 1997 are jaw dropping to us in San Diego in 2013. Yet in San Diego’s older neighborhoods, they reflect our reality. We must use the existing roads without increasing capacity. Therefore, we must accommodate growth by improving alternatives to the car.
The remaining five principles support the first two, but are nonetheless as bold.
3. The car will continue to be a major form of transport particularly for areas not well served by transit. Regional measures to manage traffic demand, such as carpooling, parking limits, bridge tolls and electronic road charges, will be supported.
4. The importance of maintaining good truck access in the city is recognized by maintaining the existing truck route network. Improved access to the Port of Vancouver and Vancouver Airport will be pursued, where it can be achieved without unreasonable impacts on local neighbourhoods.
5. Traffic calming measures will be supported to slow the speed of traffic and prevent short-cutting to reduce the impacts of vehicles moving through neighbourhoods.
6. Residents of Vancouver and the region can help to achieve a more sustainable transportation system by leaving the car at home and using alternatives where practical.
7. Planning and development policies for the City will support local retailing, personal, business and community services so that residents can find more of the services and jobs they need closer to home.
Reality dictates that we cannot rely on increasing growth and increasing automobile use at the same time.
As San Diego continues to update the Community Plans, it is no longer acceptable to have a Land Use policy that calls for increased density, and a transportation plan that relies on ever increasing growth in automobile use. Reality dictates otherwise.
Now is the time to demand, especially in the older neighborhoods, that the Community Plans reflect today’s reality. Streets must be made for all users, with an focus on increasing walking, cycling and transit use, while maintaining or decreasing automobile use. That means you, Uptown, North Park, Downtown, and Mid-City.
Complete Streets are required by California law for updated General Plans. Take a look around your neighborhood and ask yourself, do we want to continue to accommodate more and more cars? How would they possibly widen my street? Or should we plan to make it easier for you and your neighbors to walk, cycle or take transit to work, school, shops, and restaurants instead?