San Diego ‘slow streets’ program gets mixed reviews in Pacific Beach, which has one of the first
Diamond Street in Pacific Beach is temporarily closed to through traffic between Mission Boulevard and Haines Street — a development that may have surprised community leaders and other residents as much as motorists trying to use it.
The closure of the roughly three-quarter-mile stretch is intended to provide pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders and others participating in alternative forms of transportation with a safer, larger area to practice physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s part of the city of San Diego’s new “slow streets” initiative, which is in its first phase.
For the record:
11:14 AM, May. 26, 2020
The program, which began April 30, blocks off sections of designated streets to through traffic. Access to driveways and deliveries is maintained for residents and businesses. Selected streets don’t have bus routes and generally have a speed limit of less than 35 mph.
Diamond Street was one of three streets citywide chosen for the launch.
Confusion over city’s choice
The closure of Diamond Street has triggered a variety of opinions.
While many PB residents seem to agree with the idea of providing safer routes for pedestrians and bicyclists, those dissatisfied with the choice expressed confusion over how Diamond Street was chosen to be a slow street.
Brian White, president of the Pacific Beach Town Council, said he learned of the possibility of a slow street in Pacific Beach only when a memo from District 2 City Council member Jennifer Campbell was released April 27. Three days later, barriers were up at Diamond Street.
“This just kind of happened quickly,” White said. “We’re looking to see what people are thinking, get the feedback.”
He added that he wasn’t sure of the criteria the city used to select Diamond Street and was unaware of any community input on the matter.
Alex Rojas, a resident of Missouri Street, which runs parallel to Diamond, said he likes the idea of a slow street but feels that the effort to create one on Diamond was “poorly executed.”
“It seems like a really cool idea to have, but just to pick a random residential street and kind of halfway close it off doesn’t seem like it was really well-planned or -implemented,” Rojas said.
Diamond Street resident Patricia Robles said she feels that “nobody knows” why the street was chosen.
“It’s crazy,” she said while walking her dog Minnie down Diamond. She added that making it a slow street hasn’t changed her routine, as she prefers to walk on the sidewalk due to Minnie’s older age.
The city of San Diego told the PB Monthly via email that Diamond fit as a slow street because “in each neighborhood, including Pacific Beach, the streets that were selected run parallel to larger transit corridors and allow drivers to easily navigate around them. Diamond Street runs parallel to Garnet Avenue, and there are many connecting side streets for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists to access. Diamond Street is also an identified bike route as part of the city’s bicycle master plan.”
City Council members from each district sent memos to Mayor Kevin Faulconer with suggestions for slow streets in their districts. Campbell’s memo suggested Diamond Street, Sunset Cliffs Boulevard south of Point Loma Avenue, or Bacon Street in Ocean Beach as possibilities for a slow street in District 2.
Jordan Beane, a representative of Campbell’s office, said those suggestions came from recommendations from city staff and District 2 office staff.
During the Pacific Beach Town Council’s monthly meeting May 20, Campbell stated the suggestions came from discussions with community members, the Town Council and the PB Planning Group.
White told PB Monthly via email that “our local PB Town Council wasn’t consulted for input prior to the Diamond Street closure. If there had been an opportunity prior to the city’s decision, we certainly would’ve taken a close look at the pros and cons of closing Diamond Street as compared to other potential streets that could’ve been chosen.”
“I’m optimistic for the potential of how this program can benefit bicyclists and pedestrians in a neighborhood setting where cars don’t necessarily need to dominate every street,” White added. “But I think the selection process for street closures needs careful planning and evaluation, because the impact to neighboring streets needs to be considered.”
Local groups are weighing in on San Diego’s “slow streets” initiative, making recommendations from La Jolla Shores to Bird Rock.
Pros and cons of Diamond Street as a slow street
Kristen Victor of PB nonprofit Sustainability Matters lives near Crown Point and is an avid cyclist. She embraced the idea of a slow street on Diamond.
“My family immediately … went and rode it, and we’ve been riding it ever since,” Victor said.
Missouri Street resident Andrew Terenzio noted the freedom he now feels walking along the slow street.
“Before slow streets started, I would take a big swoop into the street just to give as much room as possible to be overly cautious and respectful,” Terenzio said. “Just having that ability to know I can step into the street being able to worry less about traffic flying through the street is super convenient.”
Diamond Street resident Christie Davis said the slow street provides more opportunity for social distancing but noted that the temporary barriers are not set up at every cross street, which she said could confuse some drivers who may not understand that the road is supposed to be blocked off to cars.
Everett Hauser of the city’s Transportation & Storm Water Department said during the Town Council meeting that the rollout was focused on key intersections and entry points. “But we certainly have heard the feedback that more signs at nearly every intersection would be beneficial for the overall experience on the street,” he said.
Diamond Street resident Kendall Stoudt said “it’s a good idea” but added, “I would like if they would rotate maybe every week so it’s not our street all the time.”
Michael Moore, a Missouri Street resident, said he applauds the city’s effort to do something for residents during the pandemic but feels the slow streets program has failed by increasing the danger on other streets. He said vehicles trying to head to the beach are diverted off Diamond Street and now must turn down Missouri Street.
“Drivers are being diverted and don’t like being delayed so they’re speeding up Missouri like it’s a drag strip,” Moore said. “This after spending a full year getting stop signs put in to make our street safer.” He added that there are about 20 children on his block alone.
According to city staff, the slow streets program will continue to be evaluated. After Phase 1 segments are finalized, staff will turn its focus to Phase 2 and additional segments.
How to get involved
To offer feedback about the slow streets program, fill out a survey at bit.ly/slowstreetssurvey.
For more information, visit sandiego.gov/tsw/programs/slow-streets-program.
To watch the Pacific Beach Town Council meeting and discussion of the slow streets program, visit facebook.com/pbtowncouncil.