By Council President Todd Gloria
I am a lifelong San Diegan and have witnessed changes of all kinds to several local communities. My mom still refers to CityHeights as East San Diego, and I can easily remember when Downtown was a place avoided by most locals and all tourists. The neighborhood of North Park has been home to tremendous revitalization in the past 15 years, and its welcome renewal seems never-ending.
As is the case throughout District Three, North Park’s homeowners, renters, and business people are truly invested in the neighborhood.
They have made change happen, but not at the expense of history. From redevelopment in the commercial corridors to the historic residential districts surrounding them, community character is obvious and unique.
Some of the most dramatic changes to the neighborhood were brought about directly or indirectly by redevelopment. Thanks to public redevelopment investment into projects like the Birch North Park Theatre’s renovation, much private investment was spurred, and North Park has been transformed into a foodies’ paradise, and is home to one of America’s best beer boulevards along 30th Street.
The changes are not without their impacts, and I appreciate the ongoing willingness on the parts of residents and businesses to develop realistic ways to address the sometimes conflicting needs of neighbors, from parking to noise to cleanliness.
Certainly, there will always be more to do. As North Park continues to grow in popularity among young people and families, the need for more park space becomes more critical. In older, urban communities, there is simply not a plethora of open space available to fence in and create parks.
We’ve had some decent success with creative solutions, though, and more are on the horizon. The joint use field improvements at Jefferson Elementary School were completed last year, and I look forward to similar work being done at McKinley Elementary School. Efforts are ongoing to make North Park Community Park more user-friendly and to transform the land behind the Birch North Park Theatre into park space, and we’re partnering with neighbors to create San Diego’s first parklet.
I welcome the proactive and productive nature of my North Park neighbors who never hesitate suggesting locally untested ideas like parklets and bike corrals. It’s this sort of activism that keeps the community energized and moving forward, and it is also what is attracting regional investment into a major bike infrastructure project. The North Park – Mid-City Regional Bike Corridors Project will improve east-west travel all the way to the City of La Mesa through the creation of safe and convenient bicycle corridors that connect key community destinations, including schools, parks, transit, and commercial centers. To truly fit into the neighborhoods, the corridors will feature design elements that enhance the bicycling and pedestrian experience.
The planning, design, and construction of the North Park – Mid-City Regional Bike Corridors Project is being funded through TransNet, the voter-approved regional half-cent sales tax for transportation.
The project is in the initial planning and conceptual design phase, and I love that so many dedicated community members are playing active roles in the process. Currently, the Community Advisory Group is assisting with development of the Existing Conditions Analysis, which will lead to Alignment Alternatives, and a discussion of the Preferred Design by this summer. Much further down the line, a streetcar will hopefully return as a staple transportation option in the business corridor, too.
Though not always as thrilling as new bike facilities or streetcars, investments in all kinds of public infrastructure, including improvements for transit, and sexy streets, parks, and to improve the function and safety of our aging water and wastewater systems, will remain a priority for me to maintain North Park’s viability.
Fifteen years ago, North Park’s desirability as place to live, work, and visit varied dramatically block by block. Since then, thanks largely to its focused and positive community members, it has truly become a vibrant and economically booming neighborhood. If you have an idea to further strengthen North Park, I am all ears. I am committed to continuing to partner with the neighborhood for ongoing progress.
Photographs by Mic Porte