Community Plan Update Approved by Midway District Planners

by on March 27, 2018 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

After 15 years in the making, final approval of the Midway Pacific Highway Corridor community plan update is within reach.  At their regular meeting Wednesday March 21, the Midway planning board voted to approve the final draft of its community plan. The community plan will go

  • to the Planning Commission on April 26,
  • to the Smart Growth and Land Use committee on May 24,
  • and to City Council for final approval on June 26.

15 Year Process

The community plan update process started in 2003, the first move being removal of the “bay to bay” part of the old plan, the idea of connecting San Diego Bay and Mission Bay or what was jokingly referred to at one time as Susan Golding’s Canal.  Not much happened until 2005 when the update restarted but then went on hold again in 2008 while the city redid its General Plan. The update was restarted in 2011 and drafts were created in 2011, 2013, and 2017.

The “Villages”

Vicki White of the Planning Department provided a presentation of the final plan at the meeting that covered the 15-year history of the effort. White explained that Midway is designated a sub-regional employment area and it will contain several “villages.”

The villages are:

  • Sports Arena,
  • Dutch Flats,
  • Kemper, and
  • the Hancock Transit Corridor.

Each village will have a purpose or designation.  For example, Dutch Flats is “employment focused” with some residential.  There will be public space, a Rapid Bus Station, and a linear park.  Another area is designated residential commercial.

The Rapid Bus system mentioned for Dutch Flats will replace the existing service with limited stops and the ability to leapfrog traffic lights.  Although it sounded appealing, there is no plan to put this in until 2035.  When the board heard that, they questioned why it was even mentioned if it was not going to occur until so far in the future.  White said there were some SANDAG issues, meaning that SANDAG had to be involved and SANDAG is broke.

“Fort” Sports Arena?

At one point, White showed a rendering of what the development might look like at the Sports Arena site and it could only be described as looking like an Army fort, a large collection of blocky looking buildings with a small park in the middle.  White blamed the look on the 30-foot height limit.  What will happen with the Sports Arena site is still unknown.

All told, there will be 30 acres of parks or park equivalencies.  What the maps showed were basically four small green areas within the whole Midway District that now also counts the Marine Corps Depot as within its boundaries for the first time. The plan does not contain any information about this area other than that it is military.  A recreation center was included but not shown anywhere.  For more detailed information go here .

When White finished the presentation, the board made comments and asked questions. There was concern about the parks attracting the homeless. There were questions about tandem parking.  A board member asked if there were any studies about the effectiveness of tandem parking and there are apparently none. The concern was that the residents would not use it and this would put more cars on the street because of the inconvenience of using tandem spots.

 Lack of “Creativity and Thoughtfulness” on Transit Issues

The biggest disappointment, articulated by chair Cathy Kenton, was the lack of “creativity and thoughtfulness” concerning mobility within the Midway area. Kenton believed the plan was seriously deficient in assuaging transit issues that exist now and will only get worse in the future.  She mentioned the problem with military traffic on Rosecrans and wondered if the plan could have included a provision for a tunnel or a flyover to eventually solve the traffic problems.  She wanted to be sure that the plan as it was would not preclude these ideas in the future and White said it would not.

Finally, there was a motion to approve the plan with policy language added for “creative and thoughtful” transit improvement in the future. The mood in the room was that the plan was not perfect and no plan would be but it was time to move it along to final approval and the motion passed with a unanimous vote.

Board Approves Letter to City Attorney Re: 30-Foot Height Limit

The only other action item of note was a request for approval of the 30-foot height letter this reporter has been taking to the planning boards within the Proposition D area. The letter asks the city attorney to review the DSD’s current interpretation of Prop D and provide an opinion on whether or not that interpretation conforms with the requirements of the 30-foot height limit.  The Midway group approved the letter even though they are not entirely in agreement with the height limit for their area, which is far from the coast and largely commercial.  To their credit, they approved the letter because they disapproved of developers using tricks to get around building rules.  The letter has now been approved by all six of the planning boards that it went to.

Board Election

Finally, the board held its elections the same day as the meeting.  The turnout for the Midway election is very small, even though they properly advertised it.  The area is much more commercial than residential and that seems to affect the community interest. All of the incumbent members running were re-elected.  One new member, Jason Viera, was also elected.

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tony D Muir Avenue Ale April 4, 2018 at 11:01 am

Nice job Geoff, thanks for the coverage. But I find the Golding’s Canal thing very troubling. Maybe with your experience as a planning board chair, you can explain.

All planning boards belly ache about how they don’t get enough attention and “Look at how the city likes other planning areas better, that’s why they get Community Plan Updates and we don’t.” These updates require lots of research the city can’t seem to do in-house so they’re super expensive, as you know.

So when Midway did its last update (in the early 90s?), all the property owners and stake holders operated under the assumption of the canal. Presumably, the basis for this canal was verified by lots and lots of expensive reports and public hearings. Conceivably, a lot of property owners were restricted by the assumption of the coming canal. Others may have been led to believe in opportunities that would result.

Get my point? Now the canal, with no more than a giggle and a shoulder shrug, is being tossed down the memory hole. To me it really calls into question the usefulness and even the legitimacy of the whole process.

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