By American Institute of Architects San Diego / San Diego UrbDeZine
The San Diego Region will struggle in every neighborhood to accommodate the population growth forecasted by SANDAG – as many as a million new residents by 2050. San Diego already has a widely-recognized housing shortage that results in major annual price increases and undermines the city’s climate action plan as commuters go farther afield in search of affordability. The problem will only get worse unless we take bold steps to sensibly accommodate this inevitable growth.
An important tool in addressing this growth and implementing the climate action plan is a denser type of development that mixes residential and other uses along transit corridors and at transit stops. The city has already produced a great tool for implementing this type of transit oriented design, or TOD – the Morena Corridor Specific Plan.
Unfortunately, the city abandoned this plan after a process that resulted in all too familiar resistance to increasing density. Those who opposed the plan misunderstood many of its potential benefits – increased services and amenities for their neighborhood, location of housing where a variety of transportation options will mitigate or even reduce traffic, and the opportunity to redevelop a barren industrial corridor into a vibrant walkable community. With the rejection of the plan, the larger community will not benefit from more affordable workforce housing for future generations from that neighborhood. AIA San Diego strongly urges the city to reactivate this planning process and adopt the Morena Corridor Specific Plan.
A recent proposal for the Tecolote Light Rail Station along the Mid-Coast Trolley line contains some good elements that relate to this plan. This proposal includes a mix of higher density housing, shops and restaurants along with significant mobility improvements and public open spaces, akin to what is proposed in the Morena Corridor Specific Plan. This project would make a positive and lasting contribution to the Bay Park, Clairemont and Linda Vista districts by providing a variety of services and amenities for those neighborhoods. Such development addresses our critical need for good-quality housing that middle-income San Diegans can afford in places with a variety of convenient transportation options.
All communities must share responsibility for meeting housing and transportation infrastructure needs for the greater good of the region. Adding housing, creating transportation nodes, fostering retail & commercial services and committing to expanded public amenities enhances neighborhoods, making them better places to live, work, study, play and raise families. Increased density at Tecolote and other stations along the Corridor and throughout the region will create livable communities for the workforce that makes the city function – teachers, police, nurses, mechanics, chefs and servers, designers and many others. This approach fosters prosperity, prepares us for the exciting future promised by emerging transportation and energy technologies, and builds resilience against the environmental challenges that we will experience soon.
The Morena Corridor today is an unplanned, automobile-centric and unattractive mix of industrial and retail businesses dominated by large surface parking that falls far short of optimizing its outstanding location. Pedestrian access is dangerous to non-existent. Thus, it is the perfect location for thoughtful, orderly healthy growth that will result in a rejuvenated and diverse community. This area has great potential to be developed with a mix of existing and new businesses, stores and restaurants, and housing in a walkable, bicycle friendly, transit accessible environment, connected to the rest of the region. We support our public officials, the Morena Corridor Specific Plan, and local developers that advocate for thoughtful, effective growth, and economic development of our neighborhoods.
Philip J. Bona, AIA
American Institute of Architects San Diego Chapter
233 A Street Ste 200
San Diego CA 92101