Passionate Pleas for Safer San Diego Streets Fall on Deaf Ears at Uptown Planners Meeting

Screenshot from NBC
Screenshot from NBC

Last night, between 200-250 people packed the St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral for a special Uptown Planners meeting. It’s quite possible that that was the most number of people that church has held in recent years.

Sister Gaia Love, summed it up perfectly:

While many of you and us were out last night testifying and desperately pleading for safer access through along University Avenue, to a board that ignored all public testimony for safer streets except for the comments on using public spaces for private vehicle storage – parking – a 74 year old woman crossing Camino Ruiz in a marked crosswalk suffered life threatening injuries after being hit by an SUV. No word yet on whether the driver has been charged.

Earlier this month, our endorsed candidates Michael Brennan and Kyle Heiskala were successfully elected to the Uptown Planners at the Community Planning Group election. But last night’s meeting was a special meeting and Brennan and Heiskala haven’t yet been seated – so they were unable to vote on the issue. Ultimately Uptown Planners unanimously voted as follows 10-0:

Motion 1: The current SANDAG proposal is unsatisfactory and unacceptable as presented. Motion 2: SANDAG should reopen the planning process to enhance biking infrastructure for safer streets and request outreach and engagement with the residents, business and other stakeholders. Motion 3: The Uptown Planners are opposed to any closures along University Avenue, SANDAG should look at alternatives and must have mitigation for any loss of parking. SANDAG should study the 4th Avenue traffic circle. Motion 4 SANDAG should provide the Pros and Cons of realigning the bike route along Reynard Way.

Christopher Ward, who sits on the Uptown Planners, was one of those unanimous votes. Ward is currently running to replace current Councilmember Todd Gloria (who will term out next year).

Ahead of the meeting, Dorian Hargrove had written about the issue that has been divided into a false dichotomy between drivers and everyone else – instead of our collective duty to keep our own community safe and secure. This was a comment left on the Reader piece online:

“As much as my husband and I love Hillcrest, we avoid shopping and eating at businesses there due to the unsafe feeling we get when trying to bike down University. San Diego has gorgeous weather that should encourage a pedestrian/alternative transportation model yet we continue to wallow in an unsustainable and unhealthy car culture. Our lack of progress here paints us as provincial and unsophisticated rubes unwilling to embrace healthy change. By the way, I was born and raised here so please don’t tell me to “just go home”.

Channel 7/NBC covered the meeting and the candlelight vigil that we organized with CirculateSD to honor the lives of everyone lost on our city streets – deaths that were preventable..

Channel 10/ABC also covered the meeting and quoted Chris Taylor who stated:

“Bike lanes make neighborhoods better. They slow traffic down. They provide a safe environment for pedestrians,” Taylor said. “It’s the future.”

But by the end of the evening, after the Uptown Planners voted, it was clear that the meeting was orchestrated to reject the hundreds of supporters for safer streets and push for a bizarre delay tactic that would somehow result in a singular safe route to bike on that would preserve all vehicular parking for perpetuity.

Amelia Anderson who stood up with her four year old daughter, Eva, and testified in tears about wanting to both live a healthy and environmentally friendly life and be safe on our streets – was completely ignored.

It seems that Uptown Planners legacy may result in ensuring their own irrelevance. It will be interesting to see what weight any of their opinions carry going forward.