Climate Action Plan Neglected in Midway Community Plan Update
City Council voted unanimously on Monday to adopt the proposed Community Plan Update for the Midway-Pacific Highway region just north of downtown.
The Community Plan Update sees the area re-zoned for more than 10,000 additional housing units and includes several new roads, 30 acres of new parkland, trails for walking and biking and seeks to connect San Diego Bay to Mission Bay, a new recreation center for future residents and a vibrant entertainment area that incorporates a mix of entertainment, office, retail, housing and park space to be potentially developed with the existing Sports Arena, with a new Sports Arena or even without a Sports Arena.
The plan update was 11 years in the making, and while it was widely supported by a broad swath of residents, business owners and community members, the plan fails to adequately provide the incentives that will make a meaningful shift in drivers getting out of their cars and using alternate means of transportation that have a significantly smaller carbon footprint.
Sophie Wolfram, Director of Policy at the Climate Action Campaign, the group which was instrumental in passing San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, was less than thrilled by the lack of commitment in this new Midway Community Plan to San Diego’s legally binding Climate Action Plan.
“The first time you do a community plan update after adopting the CAP, you’re only really updating 1/52 of the city,” explained Wolfram. “On its own, one CPU isn’t going to do it. It’s not like everyone on in the neighborhood is suddenly riding bikes, but over time you should see something of a mode share multiplier effect. We get that.”
“The first 3 CPUs after the CAP, North Park, Golden Hill and Uptown didn’t hit the mode share targets for the CAP, they came a lot closer than this one though. There’ve now been six and we’re not seeing modeshift of transit, walking, and biking increase over time.”
The bigger issue to Wolfram than Midway’s lack of compliance is that there is nothing that mandates adherence to the desired transition of every day drivers to a more walking, biking and transit oriented lifestyle.
“We’re far short of our Climate Action Plan goals for this area,” said Councilman Chris Ward. “I’m really nervous for how we’re going to be able to reach even close to our goals citywide.”
When asked what could be done to ensure that future community plan updates adhere to the Climate Action Plan, the best Wolfram could offer was hope.
“There’s no comprehensive plan for how all these pieces come together and you can’t just hope it is going to work. It’s ridiculous.”
“There’s been this transportation master plan out there that’s supposed to be the comprehensive road map to the mobility targets for the city, so you can see here’s the amount density, here’s the amount of transit needed in each community to get us to these targets, and with that you could work towards these goals but that plan has just never materialized.”
Despite some discontent, the plan is now in place and the city is free to begin pursuing redevelopment on the 43 acres of land it owns in and around Sports Arena. Earlier this year it became known that the city was content to let several leases it holds expire in 2020. Among those is the AEG lease on the Valley View Casino Center itself that is home to the San Diego Gulls and the soon to surface Seals lacrosse team.
I spoke with Ernie Hahn, the General Manager of the Sports Arena in the Midway District, who said he is talking with the Mayor’s office and is confident they will bring a 3-year lease extension (through May of 2023) to the City Council for consideration by the end of the year.— Jack Cronin (@JackCroninPXP) September 17, 2018
Much of how the Sports Arena is developed depends on the outcome of this November election in Mission Valley. In the event that both the SoccerCity and SDSU West initiative fail, there is likely to be a Request For Proposals for that Mission Valley site that could potentially include a new arena as was hinted by Hahn in his interview with Scott Kaplan some months ago.
It is likely that an RFP will be issued for the Midway properties owned by the city as well. Still to be determined is the outcome of the city’s burdensome 30 foot height limit on new buildings that was first adopted in 1972 and applies to all land west of Interstate 5 excluding downtown. Don’t be surprised to see an exemption for the Midway area floated going into the 2020 November election.