Guest Commentary: How and why the Mike Gotch Bridge was built

Eve Anderson, center, with Leslie Dufour and Ron Walker oversee the Garnet Block Captain Program.
Eve Anderson, center, Leslie Dufour and Ron Walker are community volunteers who oversee the Garnet Block Captain Program. Anderson is also past chair of PB Planning Group’s Streets & Sidewalks Subcommittee
(Milan Kovacevic)

For years, our Pacific Beach Community Plan called for connecting Pacific Beach Drive and North Mission Bay Drive over Rose Creek. No more dashing into traffic on Grand Avenue for bicyclists or heavy fumes for pedestrians. Instead, PB could seamlessly connect with Mission Bay Park.

When Mike Gotch was elected as councilman for our district in 1979, the economy was thriving. He found funds, both state and federal, for Sail Bay’s path and for three phases of Oceanfront Walk. Mike managed to snag design money for the PB Drive bridge, but the economy went downhill, along with any hope for its construction.

And so the plan sat on the shelf. Through PB Plan updates in 1983 and 1994, that bridge was still on the wish list.

In 2007, when the Great Recession caused the economy to tank precipitously, the Stimulus Bill was passed. The Feds came to San Diego and asked, “What do you have that’s shovel-ready”?

And the City replied, “We have a bridge for you!”

That’s how the Mike Gotch Bridge was built. Sadly, Mike had died young of melanoma and his name now graces the structure.

Moral of the story: Get the design money first!

Seriously, please do keep Pacific Beach in mind if infrastructure funds eventually are available for transportation needs in San Diego. PB does need help to connect our residents to the new trolley station. PB Planning Group, a thoughtful and hard-working board, identified four areas to improve safety and access:

• Help fund a circular beach shuttle, could be public/private financing. (Mike did secure grants for the popular “SunRunner” trolley for several years in the mid-1980s.)

• Add sidewalks along Bluffside’s south side and Mission Bay Drive’s west side — none exist for those nearby in Admiral Hartmann Military Housing or the Pacifica area for bicyclists and pedestrians trying to reach the trolley. (It’s heavily travelled during rush hours, with no room in the street for anything but vehicles.)

• Widen the narrow, dangerous sidewalk on Balboa Avenue under the west bridge.

• Build a pedestrian bridge over Mission Bay Drive near Magnolia Avenue — there’s NO safe way to cross one of the city’s most dangerous intersections at Garnet Avenue and Mission Bay Drive.

People in PB are patient. We’re excited about the new trolley. But we hope we don’t have to wait over 30 years to improve our last mile of travel.

Thank you for your consideration.

Eve Anderson is past chair of PB Planning Group’s Streets & Sidewalks Subcommittee