Thoughts on AB 2097: Places for People, Not for Cars

AB 2097: Places for People, Not for Cars

It has been known for quite some time now that parking increases costs and perpetuates car-centric development. Parking, an amenity so overly subsidized, is seen as a natural right to many Americans. And because most people expect to easily find parking in most destinations, they opt to drive. This preference is then perpetuated by the large amounts of vacant land required to accommodate a parking lot – if a restaurant’s parking lot is 3x the size of the dining area, then all of a sudden it’s not very feasible to walk or bike to it. Take this design and scale it across a city, and you find yourself in a sea of parking lots (which is the very reality we live in today). All of a sudden, the only convenient way to get anywhere is with a car. 

AB 2097 blocks city and county governments from imposing minimum parking requirements on housing developments within half-mile of public transit. Maximizing land use density allows for more homes, businesses, and amenities to be co-located at a human-centric scale. This makes it easier for people to walk and bike and easier for cities to provide reliable public transportation. I want to be clear that this is not a silver bullet – for true mode shift to occur, cities across the state need to truly allow for other modes of transportation. That means providing safe, all ages and abilities, protected bike lanes, that means increasing transit frequency and service hours, that means allowing for greater mixed use development, that means slowing down cars and ensuring that all road users feel safe in getting to where they need to go. Those steps, in tandem with this law, would really incentivize Californians to get around using mass transit and active transportation. 

San Diego was one of the first cities in California to eliminate parking requirements for housing near transit, back in 2019. Research has shown that the city has subsequently seen an increase in affordable housing production (and higher housing production overall). In fact, one year after the reform was implemented, San Diego saw a fivefold increase in the total number of homes permitted through the density bonus program.

Of course there will always be people unhappy with change. A lot of pundits argue that this law will disincentivize developers from including any parking in their developments. Studies in Buffalo and Seattle, cities that struck down street parking in the 2010s, showed that a number of developments kept the same number of parking spots that they would’ve had before the reform. The key takeaway here is that AB 2097 gives developers and tenants options. Because developers aren’t required to build parking, their development expenses can be kept lower, incentivizing affordable housing. And tenants that do not own a car could move in and not have to pay more for an unused parking space. 

These reforms are especially necessary given our current climate crisis. We know now that the post-war suburban (and exurban) experiment was a failure – ignoring all other problems, there is just not enough space to provide every single person a single family home with a front lawn, two car garage, driveway, and backyard swimming pool. Our sprawling cities require more resources to build, more money to maintain, and more miles to be driven. Not only is this ecologically unsustainable, but also economically irresponsible. As cities grapple with the looming climate crisis and work to reduce carbon emissions, they need to deploy every possible strategy – from reducing vehicle miles traveled to preserving ecological biodiversity. AB 2097 is one of these strategies.

Re: Sustainability & Mobility Department’s Balboa Drive Design Opportunities and Next Steps

Re: Sustainability & Mobility Department’s Balboa Drive Design Opportunities and Next Steps


At the Balboa Park Committee meeting on October 6th, the City’s Sustainability and Mobility Department presented a proposal for redesigning Balboa Drive in Balboa Park. 

Balboa Drive, a one-way (southbound) road running through the western mesa in Balboa Park.

This redesign would align with the upcoming slurry seal project (#2323) which is slated to take place between April – October 2023. The presenters proposed increasing parking for the current 446 spaces to 575 (a nearly 30% increase) to “…offset parking loss on Park Boulevard…” 

To provide some context here, the City recently approved a redesign of Park Boulevard, which would remove a general purpose lane and some parking in both directions to make room for bus-only and protected bike lanes. This Park Boulevard reconfiguration, which allows for a safer and more comfortable experience for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users, would result in a loss of ~175 parking spaces in a park that has nearly 7,500 free parking spaces – about 2%.

Alternative C – D: The top slide shows the street configuration that is proposed for Park Boulevard. The bottom slide highlights the change in parking.

But what does the City decide to do to “offset” this monumental step forward…? 

In order to offset this marginal loss of parking, the City has proposed adding more parking elsewhere in the parking, a goal that ignores the City’s own Climate Action Plan.

Worse yet, they propose to do this with angled parking, a redesign that not only  further incentivizes automobile travel, but is actually associated with higher rates of collisions than parallel parking.

The proposed redesign for Balboa Drive: one southbound lane would be removed to make room for angled parking.


Our world is changing — every day we see the consequences of climate change impacting more and more people. In the state of California, thanks to eighty years of urban sprawl, subsidized parking, and an ingrained car culture, over fifty percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from on-road transportation. In an effort to reduce this, San Diego’s ambitious mode shift goals are looking to increase the percentage of bicycling trips to 7% (from 1.4%) and transit trips to 10% (from 4.5%) by 2030. 

In parallel, we are facing the crisis of traffic violence: four of the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians are in California. San Diego has set ambitious Vision Zero goals: aspiring to have zero traffic related fatalities and severe injuries by 2025. Though, the reality, thus far, has looked more like this…

A bar graph showing the number of traffic deaths in San Diego 2015 – 2020.

The changes made on Park Boulevard are a brilliant step towards achieving these ambitious goals. It makes biking, transit, and walking more comfortable and will encourage more San Diegans to opt for one of those options when traveling to (or through) our crown jewel.

But we’re adding more parking…? 

Adding more parking disincentivizes other ways of transportation to the park, and inherently prioritizes car-based transportation, actively working against the City’s stated goals. The City repeatedly prides itself on the strides made with regards to the Climate Action Plan and Vision Zero, but refuses to accept that adding more parking during a climate emergency is absurd.

We’ve been hearing a lot of talk about climate action and vision zero. Unfortunately, when it comes down to making real, material change in San Diego, we need a dozen meetings to go forward and just one to go back. 

Where do we go from here?

Here are the facts:

Balboa Drive is frequently used by bicyclists, families, and dog walkers to traverse the western mesa. We can see this when looking at heatmap data on both Strava and RideWithGPS

Furthermore, according to the City’s Sustainability and Mobility team, the 446 parking spaces has a ~30% occupancy rate – which means, at any given time, only thirty percent of the parking spaces are utilized. City’s oftentimes plan to add new parking when utilization is above 85% – in this case, it seems like there’s plenty of parking for anyone that might need it

Finally, the 2012 Balboa Park Master Plan explicitly proposes that Balboa Drive (or some path alongside it) serve as a bicycle trail (below). This trail would connect neighborhoods to the Cabrillo Bridge, bowling greens, dog parks, and playgrounds.

A screenshot of the proposed Bicycle Trail System in Balboa Park, with the trail running along Balboa Drive on the left (in red).

Given all this, here are BikeSD’s recommendations for Balboa Drive’s reconfiguration:

1. Slow down traffic

Reduce Balboa Drive’s width

Reduce the number of vehicle lanes from two to one 

2. Enhance active transportation access

Add a bi-directional class IV cycletrack on the east side. This configuration is in line with the City’s “Class IV” first approach 

3. Maintain curbside parking on west side 

This could be all be completed as part of the next street resurfacing effort and would support:

  1. 2022 Climate Action Plan goals
  2. Vision Zero goals
  3. The Balboa Park Master Plan

We ask the City of San Diego to no longer offset the good it tries to do in one area by doing worse elsewhere. If we absolutely have to optimize parking availability, we recommend that the City set market-rate pricing for parking spots in Balboa Park and use this revenue to make further improvements to our crown jewel (More information here).

Cross Section of University Ave showing bike paths, landscaping, and transit

BikeSD Voices: An Open Letter I Sent to the Planners behind the Hillcrest Plan Amendment

BikeSD Voices: An Open Letter I Sent to the Planners behind the Hillcrest Plan Amendment

Author: Nevo Magnezi

I recently attended the Uptown Planners Plan Hillcrest subcommittee meeting, Mobility Network Concepts, on June 30th. Or in plainspeak, planners and consultants from the city presented to community members and board members (appointed from Uptown Planners) transportation concepts that will be incorporated as part of the upcoming Community Plan Update for Hillcrest. You can learn more about this process on their website, and can see the slide deck they presented on June 30th, which I based my response on, here: Hillcrest CPG – Mobility June 2022 PDF

As someone who has been advocating for better mobility for several years, I wanted to provide new advocates an example of some of the key points I make. Admittedly, this isn’t one of my best worded emails (more like my manic midnight brain talking), but I thought it could be useful regardless.

Feel free to take my email as an inspiration to write your own with regards to mobility in Hillcrest.


Dear Ms. Mulderig, Ms. Brizuela, and Ms. Chen,

My name is Nevo Magnezi. I live in Hillcrest (have lived in both the east and southwestern portions of the plan focus area) and have been attending the Plan Hillcrest subcommittee meetings more or less since they began. I also volunteer for Bike San Diego.

I am reaching out because I’d like to provide some feedback on the most recent presentation. I am grateful for the visioning and options that the city and Chen Ryan Associates are providing and I think that whatever the outcome, it will be an improvement over the status quo.

My main concern is that planners were too quick to abandon the idea of envisioning University Ave as an active transportation and transit corridor. There are many examples around the world, the country, and, once the Gaslamp Promenade is implemented downtown, even the city, of walkable commercial corridors with very limited private automobile access, other than emergency vehicles and deliveries during specified hours.

One of my favorite examples is of the Jerusalem Light Rail, which you can see in this video: Multiple shots show densely packed shopping streets with connectivity of both sides of the street only interrupted by the light rail train with headways of several minutes. These sorts of streets provide maximum throughput via transit, bringing people to their key destinations, while also providing a lively atmosphere to people walking and biking. People walking and biking do not feel isolated from the other side of the street or abused by smelly exhaust, extremely loud cars, or forced to walk needlessly to the next signalized intersection to cross  (the situation on University Ave today), because, for most of the time, there is nothing stopping them from walking to their destination on the other side of the street immediately where they are.

By recommending a vehicle network that retains general vehicle access to University Ave, I fear you will be robbing residents and visitors of the urban linear park experience that you are advocating for in other parts of the plan. The issues you identified in the presentation will certainly need to be addressed at the time of implementation, but are, for the most part, not major issues.

Your presentation claims that Option 1 would eliminate access to Fire Station No 5. Most emergency calls (65 percent) are for medical events– eliminating fast-moving traffic that cause serious injuries and fatalities and promoting a healthy lifestyle through urban design is one of the best ways that urban planners can reduce the number of emergency calls made in the first place. But even beyond that, I hypothesize that even under Option 2, emergency responders would be more likely to use the transit lanes over the general vehicle lanes anyways due to the fact that the transit lanes will, by design, should see no congestion. It seems to me very backwards that we would need to maintain high speed vehicle access so the ambulance can get to us quickly after we are run over by a vehicle that’s there because we needed vehicle only access for the ambulance.  I claim to be no expert on the considerations of emergency vehicle response times in people-centric streets, but I would like to share this resource I found on the NACTO website “Best Practices: Emergency Access in Healthy Streets.”

Three of your major issues are regarding traffic circulation and congestion. It sounds like you are taking an older Level Of Service approach towards the plan area rather than a reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled approach. In the same plan, you include light and commuter rail and low stress protected bikeways. Under these schemes, people will be moved by walking, biking and transit facilities by a factor that will dwarf the number of people moving by private automobile. If transit headways or signal timing for bikeways are not considerations of the plan amendment, then why should vehicle congestion on nearby freeways be? This approach fundamentally favors the status quo and will not allow San Diego to achieve its climate action or Vision Zero goals. Caltrans is one of the agencies responsible for 55 percent of San Diego GHG emissions coming from cars and maintain right-of-way that is responsible for countless collisions that affect vulnerable road users. The fact that even basic painted bike lanes disappear when going over their right-of-way, such as University Ave over SR-163, shows how much contempt that they hold for my life and the life of anyone not in a car. Congestion on SR-163 on-ramps cannot and should not be a concern for the Hillcrest Plan.

Finally, there is the issue of deliveries. If the Gaslamp Promenade, which is being planned and funded as we speak, can already claim per their website that “the Gaslamp Promenade will be open for deliveries from 3:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., seven days a week,” then why are deliveries a barrier to implementation for our long-term planning just two miles away? With deliveries, and with all of these points, the Gaslamp Promenade sets an important San Diego precedent (since we seem so eager to disregard examples from any city other than our own). If a Gaslamp Promenade, then why not a Hillcrest Promenade?

My next concern is regarding the recommended Bicycle Network. As I stated during my comment, sharrows don’t do anything. This isn’t just my perspective. According to a 13 year study of a dozen cities, it is safer to not have them at all. I am grateful that planners were able to minimize them from the recommended plan in favor of other facilities, but I would also strongly encourage the amended plan not to have them at all. Instead, it would be better to designate them all as “Enhanced Class III- Bike Boulevards.” This would reinforce to those implementing the plans to not simply “slap a sharrow on it,” but rather implement true traffic calming. I think it’s also important to qualify both these and all bicycle boulevards that the street must be designed (per NACTO), to be with a target vehicle speed of less than 20mph and volume of less than 2000 ADT, or target speed of 25mph and less than 1500 ADT.

For places where you don’t intend for those speeds and volumes, such as Sixth Ave and parts of First Ave, it is negligent to suggest that no bike facilities (which is what sharrows are) are sufficient. This is an area slated for a lot of development, and connects directly to San Diego’s Crown Jewel, Balboa Park, in the case of Sixth Ave, or a massive medical complex with tens of thousands of employees, in the case of First Ave. I strongly encourage you to include Class IV facilities as part of the plan, or simply acknowledge that you intend hardly anyone to feel safe and comfortable biking there at all.

Regarding the planned Class II – bike lane facilities, I think it is also important to qualify these with the point that they are only appropriate for streets with target speeds of 25mph or less and volumes less than 6000 ADT. In the example of Robinson Ave, this would imply that the target speed would be reduced from 30mph to 25mph, if the plan were to be implemented today. Robinson Ave between Tenth Ave and Park Blvd is also a wide street with low-volumes, and can be difficult to cross as a pedestrian. I think it would be a great candidate for the extension of the Landis-style roundabout treatment that SANDAG completed east of Park Blvd, and that will connect to Robinson Ave in Hillcrest via an elevated path.

Thank you again for your work. I realize that my email is a bit more long-winded than I intended, but I would appreciate a discussion regarding any or all of the above points.


Nevo Magnezi

Hillcrest Resident

Finding the Gold in Advisory Lanes

I dream of quiet, safe, neighborhood streets with networks of bikeways that promote efficient, healthy, and joyful commutes near and far, for all ages and abilities. After attending Circulate’s Vision Zero Coalition meeting and the Mira Mesa Town Council this evening, I am providing an update to the previous article about advisory bike lanes as new bicycle infrastructure for San Diego. 

There is gold to be found on Gold Coast Drive and I'm hoping it will be dispersed throughout the city, in neighborhoods that are frustrated with high speed, cut through traffic. Gold Coast Drive in Mira Mesa, Evergreen in Point Loma, and many other streets are great candidates for this new type of road design to create safer streets by calming traffic speeds through our neighborhoods.  The benefits of these types of lane markings are a reduction of vehicles on the street, lower vehicle speeds, quieter neighborhoods, less pollution, and safe access to key destinations. As a property owner, that sounds pretty nice. 

Unfortunately, much of the Mira Mesa community hasn’t realized the value of the innovative design, known as advisory bike lanes. On Monday, many expressed concern over perceived dangers such as increased traffic, head on collisions, and drunk drivers. Lacking accurate information about how advisory bike lanes work, and how successful they’ve been on streets with similar characteristics, they argued that advisory bike lanes are inappropriate for Gold Coast Drive. However, research has found a significant reduction of crashes on roads where advisory bike lanes were implemented; an aggregate 44% reduction in crashes. 

There is an alternative solution of providing protected bikeways that would be safer, but this option requires removing parking spaces which is not an easy sell. Gold Coast Drive is a neighborhood street with a designated 25 miles per hour speed limit, therefore, edge lanes are an appropriate design.

Many mentioned last night that Gold Coast Drive is a cut through used by drivers to avoid congestion on Mira Mesa Boulevard.  Hello neighbors, wouldn’t your quality of life and property values improve if you lived on a more peaceful road?  

A silver lining is that Gold Coast features three public schools along its length and this type of bike facility will create safe routes to schools, SRTS. Imagine our children enjoying the ride to school, chatting and laughing with friends on a bike, scooter, skateboard, or whatever active mobility option they choose. After six years of leading 10-12 year olds to school, it was evident, and supported with research, that active transportation and physical activity has positive effects on the brain and on school performance.  Our younger folks are the leaders to break free from the car dependency that is choking our streets, polluting our air, and changing our climate and we must provide the opportunities to empower them. Many have experienced the independence and the fun of electric bicycles and we must embrace this healthy way to move in San Diego. Please help dedicate a safe space for them to ride and establish healthy lifestyles.

Shout out to the older folks like me. Try riding an e-bike to enjoy your community, improve your health, and reach your destination feeling refreshed and energized. E-bikes flatten hills, make it easier to carry heavy loads, and go longer distances while filling your body with exhilaration and life.  You not only can watch your grandchildren ride to school with their friends, maybe you will be lucky enough to join them.

If you have questions or are still unconvinced, please reach out and we can ride an e-bike together to discuss and experience the real dangers of sharrows and understand why more people don’t ride bikes in beautiful, climate kissed, San Diego.  As a car driver, I understand the frustrations of a slower bicycle rider impeding the way. Advisory bike lanes make mobility more efficient for all, as it becomes easier for drivers to navigate around cyclists, giving options to legally move along the road in synchronicity with cyclists and other drivers.  

Advisory lanes make our neighborhoods safer, quieter, and more enjoyable. I hope Mira Mesa and Point Loma folks will learn about them, be open to change, and support the city’s efforts to make our streets safer for all. 

Your Bike Friend.


Edge Lanes May Already Have the Desired Effect

Last Thursday [3/31/22], I encountered new lane markings on freshly resurfaced Evergreen St, part of my daily commute in Pt Loma. Surprised, I looked up details of the design now referred to as edge lanes, and started following news reports and associated discussion. Rather than a center stripe down the middle of the road to designate two way car traffic, they designate a center car lane with dashed bike lanes on either side. The idea is that cars travel down the middle of the road, and when approaching an oncoming vehicle, merge into the bike lane when safe to do so, or slow to fall behind a cyclist - a very similar maneuver to how cars regularly interact with me on Evergreen st.

One of the common fears voiced at community meetings or news interviews are of a head-on collision between cars. The roads generally selected for this treatment are residential, and carry a 25 mph speed limit. These are speeds chosen such that a driver has sufficient reaction time and braking distance if a child runs into the street, or a car blindly backs out of a driveway. If you were to encounter a car heading straight at you, what would be your reaction? Most likely to get out of the way, and/or slow towards zero mph. A collision between cars traveling at zero and 25 mph is not something anyone wants to experience, but thanks to decades of crash testing, a vehicle occupant would likely fare far better than the roughly 10% of pedestrians or cyclists that die when struck by a motor vehicle at 25 mph.

Does this fear reveal something we know about our residential roads but don’t explicitly mention? That people drive too fast and make it unsafe? We have a national epidemic, with pedestrian and bicyclist deaths rising approximately 40-50% over the last decade. Rather than ignore the underlying problem and hope that it will go away, or attempt to fix it through education or enforcement of speed limits, city engineers decided to try a new solution. They changed our perception of traffic flow using paint. Many people who are upset, in their calls to restore the previous road design, may miss the larger picture. Or if they don’t, perhaps they have different ideas on what could be done to address it. And this is where we should center our discussion - on how to best reduce motor vehicle speeds on our residential roads, and incidentally, roads like Gold Coast and Evergreen that service schools. 

It is clear that business as usual has not solved the problem, so we need to try something different. A review of edge lane roads in other communities in the US and in Australia, have concluded that this treatment reduced crashes by 44%. And this doesn’t include additional examples we can draw from Denmark, or The Netherlands, which developed their cycling culture through decades of policy decisions

As a cognitive scientist, I study perception, attention, and how we plan our actions. We smoothly navigate our environment by subconsciously predicting the future, hundreds of milliseconds at a time. We monitor how incoming sensory information matches our predictions, and adjust our movements as necessary, like an outfielder chasing a fly ball. It is startling and upsetting when we encounter a familiar scene that provides conflicting information: paint markings suggesting a one lane road where previously two lanes coexisted. This forces us to recalibrate our predictions and our driving behavior. Knowing we have to share space with other vehicles demands more attention. And humans are notorious for choosing to endure pain rather than perform a difficult mental task. But maybe a residential road demanding more attention is a good thing. 

So while the city pauses its rollout of the new street design, and we have time to learn about navigating edge lanes, let’s think about how we can make our streets safer for everyone, rather than rush to restore the previous street design. As I commented in the Mira Mesa Town Council meeting, if the changes lead to drivers slowing down, some of the desired effects may have already been achieved.