As I recently wrote about, Balboa Park is a city treasure, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. It is also home to many high-speed roads which greatly diminish the quality of the park, use large amounts of high-value land, and pose health dangers immediate (being crushed by a car) and long-term (developing asthma and other disease due to very poor air quality in San Diego). It is time to eliminate the most superfluous high-speed road in Balboa Park – Florida Drive.
This year is the 100th anniversary of Balboa Park and there would be no better way to celebrate that than by returning a significant portion of the park to it’s natural state. (Or at least we can offset the deletion of another canyon in Balboa Park by the San Diego Zoo that is currently approaching completion.) We can expand the size of the open park space, and the quality, by closing Florida Drive to automobile traffic. To avoid inconvenience to cars – which must be the first consideration for a conversation to even start – this would only be a closure of Florida Drive from Morley Field Drive to Zoo Place.
San Diego’s canyons are a tremendous asset for the city and residents. They are a tiny foothold for local flora and fauna in our beautiful and bio-diverse region. They provide an opportunity for our youth to experience the outdoors in their backyards, across the city. They show that we value nature, heritage, and the environment. They are well worth protecting and in this case, worth restoring.
Florida Drive mirrors Park Boulevard and a closure of this portion of Florida would have little to no impact on vehicle traffic. It certainly would not cause back-ups. At the same time, it would provide a peaceful setting for those enjoying the canyon and an expanded sanctuary for the snakes, lizards, birds, and other animals that call this area home. A park should be a park, not an extended Interstate on-ramp that is a park in name only.
How to proceed:
Immediately install temporary concrete bollards blocking Florida Drive to automobile traffic at the Intersection of Morley Field Drive and Zoo Place.
Monitor traffic counts on adjacent roadways to determine impact on traffic flows and overall safety for a 6-month period.
Remove three-quarters of Florida Drive (East side) and replant with native trees which will flourish in the natural creek setting of the canyon bed. Convert remaining one-quarter to a two-way bike path and install a gravel running path on the West side of the pavement.
Enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of a greatly improved piece of San Diego’s premier park, all done at little cost and with great benefit that will only increase in the coming years.
We can do this, and so much more to make our city better. All we have to do is choose to do so.
The debate about short-term rentals, including sites like Airbnb, Flipkey, VRBO, and Craigslist continues in San Diego. The San Diego City Council Smart Growth & Land Use Committee held a public hearing on April 22nd that was attended by hundreds and will be continued in a hearing to be held on May 29th. To date, four council members have issued memos on the issue (click links for full memos):
While there are a broad number of issues that have been raised, there are also some very major points that nearly everyone agrees on. These basic points should be the baseline for any proposed rules or regulations. They include:
Everyone should pay the hotel taxes due
Anyone renting out a property or a part of a property is responsible for timely and full payment of the San Diego hotel taxes – for most, that is a transient occupancy tax of 10.5% and a tourism marketing district assessment of .55%. (For more details on the taxes click here.) These taxes are not being debated although the City Treasurer could do more to improve the payment system including acceptance of credit card payments, a payment profile system to save account information and history, and acceptance of zero due filings. Additional staff for the Treasurer’s office to collect back taxes would likely pay for itself many times over in addressing current non-compliant properties.
Owner-occupied properties should be allowed to host guests
The horror stories of late-night parties, loud noise, and heaps of trash no doubt reflect reality in some instances. These types of issues are far more likely to occur in a non-owner occupied property. I have heard very few people that want to prevent a widower from renting a room in their house, or a young couple trying to pay bills renting a spare bedroom. Home owners should not be curtailed in their ability to rent space on their own property. There do not seem to be many San Diegans that would agree with the City Attorney prosecuting a retiree in Burlingame for renting rooms in her own home. (Other than perhaps her private investigator neighbors.)
Enforcement of existing nuisance laws and fines for bad actors
Late-night noise, property damage, trespassing, and other issues have existing laws on the books. These should be enforced and property owners held responsible for the behavior taking place on their property. Additionally, most parties support fines for bad actors on an escalating scale.
Hopefully the city council will take these common ground, and common sense, items as a starting point for any proposals put forward. Other issues remain and will likely be contentious but with very strong support across the board for the above items there is no need to muddy the conversation with issues that are not being debated.
Balboa Park is frequently referred to in loving tones by San Diegans, guide books, and articles. It’s our “Crown Jewel” and an asset for the entire region that draws visitors from all over the globe. There are a number of very enjoyable museums in the park and it’s a great place for a picnic or to take the kids to.
Apparently it’s also a great place for high-speed auto traffic to speed through. Here’s a map of the speed limits for the roadways going through Balboa Park.
These type of speeds are more appropriate for highways than access roads to the premier park and open space for a major city. As a result of the abundance of these types of roads in Balboa Park there is essentially nowhere in the entire park you can enjoy without the sound of automobiles. There are very few spots you can even be out of sight of cars whizzing by. The very nature of these roads shows you that they are not for visiting the park, but for moving as many cars as possible through the park area quickly.
In addition to high speed roads, we continue to pave ever more of the park to provide automobile parking. On the East Mesa area the city has established a growing parking lot for park service vehicles. It is huge. The San Diego Zoo is building an $18 million parking garage behind the Old Globe Theatre with 650 parking spots for employee use. The access for this garage will be via Village Place and Old Globe Way – small roadways that are currently very quiet and provide access for only a few dozen parking spots, maybe a hundred at most. Now there will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of cars traversing this area throughout the day. Oh – and a native canyon space has been razed and replaced by an enormous garage. San Diego Zoo – shouldn’t conservation start at home?
All of this amounts to an area that professes to be a park but would more appropriately be described as an auto park. We recognize that we live in a beautiful region with an incredible amount of natural beauty worth preserving. We can recognize that land is very valuable here. But when it comes to roads and parking we choose to annihilate our native habitats along with the plants and animals, including us, they support and spend exorbitant amounts of money (nearly all public money, not private) to do so. As you can see with the massive interstates built through our coastal wetlands and the decades old surface level parking lot that is the San Diego Downtown bayfront, there is literally no land too valuable or beautiful for us to not pave the ever-loving piss out of it and call it improvement.
So we’ll continue to pave Balboa Park, widen the roads, and raise the speeds. We won’t even have to waste our time walking in the park to “enjoy” it. Why waste the time? Speed in, take a selfie, and speed out. Progress. It’s disgusting, unhealthy, and a terrible message for San Diego to spend to the world. New Yorkers value Central Park and you can bet your bottom dollar they would never allow their “Crown Jewel” to suffer the fate that we continue to actively choose for our own.
So enjoy your next visit to Balboa Park. Maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of the museums or zoo while you’re speeding past.
I became familiar with the Ride with GPS app / website while planning for the most recent Bikes & Beers event here in San Diego. Our events do not seek street closures, we want the experience to showcase how good our city streets can be for bikes without special measures like barricades, traffic cops, etc. It’s meant to be a preview of the way we envision our streets in the future – filled with bicycles and people having a great, safe time in our city. This can make it difficult to keep people on the route, though, since there isn’t a wide swath of empty road to follow as there would be with a marathon.
What we needed was a turn-by-turn tool to direct riders and after looking over many different apps I could not find what I needed. I needed an easy-to-use app that could do voice navigation for a custom bicycle route. Then I found Ride with GPS and it was just what we were looking for. They even hooked us up with free access for all event participants. It was great. The app did voice turns, we could add custom instructions and photos, and it didn’t suck the battery like Dracula.
After being so pleased with the app during the event and the great support from the company, I volunteered to be an “Ambassador” for the brand. Basically I’ll be creating a set of great rides in San Diego that others using the app can utilize. So whether you’re a visitor or a local looking for a new ride, you can open the app and access the routes I’ve highlighted. However, most of my biking in San Diego is functional, not recreational. I’m usually towing a couple of kids and going to school, library, grocery store, etc. I’m pretty much a newbie when it comes to the scenic rides throughout the county.
So I’m asking for your help. If you have a great route you want to share, please let me know so I can add it. Of course I’ll give you a shout-out too. 🙂