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City working toward transit improvements in Pacific Beach

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Felspar Street and Mission Boulevard, near the Boardwalk
(Savanah Duffy)

The City of San Diego Planning Department has been steadily crafting a plan to make pedestrian, bicyclist and transit-friendly improvements to Mission Boulevard and specific cross-streets, since initiating the project in November 2016.

On Aug. 28, the final concepts for the Mission Boulevard Public Spaces & Active Transportation Plan were brought before the public — the third community engagement meeting regarding the topic.

The plan is a SANDAG grant-funded effort led by the City to identify public spaces and conceptualize bicycle and pedestrian improvements along Mission Boulevard, between Diamond Street and Pacific Beach Drive, a stretch that reaches a little more than half a mile.

During the open house at the PB Library, the public was shown the final concepts for the area, which were developed through input collected during the community outreach process, observations from multiple site visits, and the results of the mobility technical study.

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According to City officials, the plan will provide enhanced access to the Boardwalk, as well as provide the City with the ability to use the concepts to obtain future funding. Those funds would go toward a full engineering design, technical studies and an environmental analysis to move the concepts closer to implementation.

The plan envisions:

• A one-way cycle track on each side of the street along Mission Boulevard (between Pacific Beach Drive and Diamond Street) with on-street parallel parking on the east side, creating a buffer between bicyclists and moving vehicles.

• A single travel lane in each direction, with a two-way turn left-lane that will run down the middle of Mission Boulevard.

• Improved sidewalks, curb ramps and bulb-outs at the end of many blocks to reduce pedestrian crossing distances.

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• A roundabout at Pacific Beach Drive and Mission Boulevard that would serve as a gateway feature and improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists, while also maintaining traffic flow. (Note: The City’s Climate Action Plan calls for the implementation of roundabouts to reduce vehicle fuel consumption.)

• The installation of woonerfs, a Netherlands-originated traffic calming measure, within portions of Garnet Avenue, Thomas Avenue, Ocean Boulevard and Grand Avenue adjacent to the boardwalk. A woonerf is a street, or portion of a street, oriented toward pedestrians and bicyclists, but still allowing vehicle traffic to traverse at slow speeds. Woonerfs can also act as community gathering spaces.

• The underused portion of Oliver Avenue, adjacent the boardwalk, is an opportunity for a pedestrian plaza.

The City’s placemaking ordinance can be read at bit.ly/placemakingordinance

Community concerns

The open house was not intended to garner more input, said City officials, but to present the final concepts. Still, the public had opinions to share including concerns about e-scooters, cut-through traffic and parking management. The City said it was unable to address these concerns “at this moment because they are beyond the scope of this planning effort.” Such issues may be addressed through other City operation programs, the City responded via e-mail to PB Monthly.

Officials further stated: “Community members spoke about their support for the proposed community gathering spaces and protected bicycle facilities along Mission Boulevard (during the open house); however, there were concerns about how some of the identified improvements would affect the area’s vehicular traffic and parking supply, particularly with regard to only providing one travel lane in each direction along Mission Boulevard, and the concept of a roundabout at Pacific Beach Drive and Mission Boulevard.”

Karl Rand, chair of PB Planning Group, stated via e-mail to PB Monthly that the PBPG “believes the community could benefit from a well-crafted Mission Boulevard plan through area beautification and better pedestrian and car traffic flows.” He also added PBPG has some project concerns for which they are developing formal positions and specific recommendations.

In another e-mail, PBPG member Ed Gallagher offered his opinion, separate from the PBPG. He said he is pleased to see coming enhancements for biking and pedestrian mobility, as well as the proposal to use the City’s plot of land at Oliver Avenue to bring community amenities. He added although he’s in favor of roundabouts in general, his concern with the proposed roundabout at Mission Boulevard and Pacific Beach Drive is how the high volume of walking-biking-driving traffic will be balanced.

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“Without adequate measures like well-designed flashing crosswalks (or pedestrian/bike overpass), this could really tie up traffic and lead to an increase in road rage incidents,” he opined.

Loss of parking spaces

According to officials, the total parking loss in the study area could be “in the ballpark” of 100 on-street spaces. They clarified that the potential loss of 84 spaces on the side streets is assuming the full implementation of the plan’s concepts; i.e. it’s possible more side street parking will be retained if the concept is not fully implemented. The plan has also identified 16 on-street parking spaces that could be removed.

While the plan may result in less on-street parking (depending on concepts executed), the City argued the loss would make way for improving the area for those who take transit, walk or ride a bike to the boardwalk and beach. On-street parking may be replaced with placemaking benches, tables and potted plants.

Additionally, the woonerf treatment would re-purpose parking spaces with tree-lined pedestrian plazas, which would create opportunities for more placemaking and public gathering spaces, including small temporary venues for food, and arts and crafts.

What’s next?

The final concepts may have been drawn up, but officials maintain that to implement those concepts would require City Council to approve an amendment to the Pacific Beach Community Plan.

Such an amendment could be implemented as a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) project or a grant-funded project, and the pedestrian and bicycle concepts on the side streets could be implemented as CIP projects or grant-funded projects.

The budget for the CIP projects and/or the acceptance of grant funds for public improvements require City Council approval, meaning the concepts cannot be fully implemented without further technical studies and more public comment hearings.

According to officials: “The plan provides the first step toward potentially obtaining grant funding for the additional design and analysis.” They added there’s a possibility certain concepts could be implemented in phases.

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Want to read the plan?

• Find it at: bit.ly/missionboulevardplan

• Direct questions to senior planner Michael Prinz at mprinz@sandiego.gov


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