by Austin Speed
President, Citizens for the Regents Road Bridge (cftrrb.org)
Where do we begin?
It was the best of times (for Mission Valley and Serra Mesa). It was the worst of times (for University City).
The San Diego City Council, in December 2016, voted to approve a resolution to eliminate the completion of Regents Road from the University Community (University City) Plan…just in time to announce the cumulative impact to UC traffic from almost 50 major construction projects in North UC. The completion of Regents Road in the UC area requires a bridge across Rose Canyon and they wanted to eliminate that project from the city budget.
In direct contrast to this decision, the City Council voted in October of this year to approve a bridge that would connect Mission Valley and Serra Mesa.
In both cases there are proponents and opponents to these projects. In the case of the Mission Valley/Serra Mesa connection Councilman Scott Sherman was quoted in an article in the Times of San Diego saying “At the end of the day, we need this road connectivity.”
Councilman Sherman also said, “Mission Valley has traffic problems and it’s going to continue to have traffic problems. There’s a lot of development coming to Mission Valley because of the trolley, and the transit and the connectivity. We need more connectivity to make this thing work.”
Guess who else has traffic problems and is going to continue having traffic problems because of the trolley and the transit and the connectivity and unprecedented development? UNIVERSITY CITY. Yes, and those problems are upon us right now and being made worse (permanently) by a massive amount of construction activity involving over 50 major projects in the North UC area within the next five years. Many of those projects are already underway and the community is suffering right now from traffic interruptions and slowdowns due to intense construction activity at multiple sites. Many of those sites involve reconfiguration of the traffic lanes on Genesee Avenue, the only north-south surface arterial route from Clairemont through University City to UTC, Campus Point, UCSD, and the Scripps Hospital complex. Traffic is seriously being impeded on Genesee at this point in time.
This did not have to happen this way, and it is a problem that does not need to persist into the indefinite future. It’s reasonable to think that there should have been some kind of credible plan. There are two key city planning organizations who had a hand in this self-inflicted disaster – the University City Planning Group and the San Diego City Planning Department. There is also the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), a regional organization largely responsible for the trolley planning. Apparently they all decided that the residents of UC and the people who commute in and out of the area to work, shop, and use medical facilities would just have to take a deep breath and tolerate all of this for five years.
It is reasonable to think that an organization that calls itself a “Planning Group” or a “Planning Department” would have a plan, wouldn’t it? A plan, in classic terms, deals with cost, schedule, and performance. By rationalizing cost avoidance due to inaction in the completion of Regents Road, all of these planning groups have virtually ignored the impact of the massive schedule convergence and poor traffic and safety performance of the current community road system. A logical overall plan would have sequenced the construction of the Regents Road Bridge in advance of this mess in order to increase the surface street roadway throughput in the community and the region. A roadway grid that includes the completion of Regents Road has been promised to the people of this area since as far back as 1959. Somehow, the City Council and the UCPG and the City Planning Department have rationalized the prevention of the completion of Regents Road against the recommendations of the San Diego City Planning Commission and against the dominant wishes of the citizens of the region.
Recently in the San Diego Union Tribune a key member of the UCPG was quoted as follows:
“It’s a nightmare,” said Janay Kruger, chair of the University Community Planning Group. “There’s congestion everywhere, large equipment in the public right-of-way, shutting down lanes. We’re having interruptions in power in our homes. The community is very frightened, and they think there won’t be any relief.”
Anybody with any community or project planning experience might reasonably think that a prime responsibility the organizations responsible for this situation would be to model or schedule some kind of coordinated view of these pending projects. Strong recommendations should have been made by the UCPG to the City Planning Department and to SANDAG on the advisability of staggering some of these projects. The convergence of the schedules for all of these projects should have been obvious to anyone paying attention.
A completed Regents Road would have provided a viable north-south surface artery that would help people enter the community in the morning and leave in the evening as part of the normal, daily north-south migration we see in UC. The completion of Regents Road can still provide this kind of relief for the increasingly congested traffic patterns that most of us expect in the future. It could also be accomplished before the construction of the trolley line juts out onto Genesee and totally disrupts the flow of traffic.
Mayor Faulconer originally campaigned on closing long-standing infrastructure gaps in San Diego. He voted for the construction of the Regents Road Bridge when he was a Councilmember in 2006. It is interesting that the city continuously touts the slate of new construction projects in North UC as part of the “new downtown.”
Having a new downtown is supposedly good for the city of San Diego and for our area. Apparently it is not good enough to justify the completion of the community’s plan. University City needs key alternate routes in and out of the area like the “old downtown” has.