Friday, January 23, 2015

The Impact of Bike and Pedestrian Pathways to Our Real Estate Values

Last night Mike Zdon, President of Mission Hills Town Council, presented an overview of the bike lane project to the Board and Membership of the Mission Hills Heritage Foundation. 

One area of concern was about impacts to real estate prices, so I thought I'd provide some research studies and articles to understand the value of improved bike and pedestrian pathways to our community. To summarize, the articles and studies below show:
  1. A home's value increases anywhere from $4,000 to $34,000 when bike and pedestrian infrastructure is introduced to a community
  2. Urban home buyers are willing to pay $20,000 more for a home in a walkable area 
  3. Urban home buyers ranked bike paths as their third most desirable feature
  4. Realtors see bike and ped pathways as a selling feature for homes, so homes on bike routes sell faster, and for higher prices
  5. When people realize they don't have to solely rely on a car to get around, they are more likely to pay a higher price for the home
  6. And, bike and pedestrian paths create a much stronger sense of community, which is a major benefit to home-owners as it makes them safer places to live, again contributing to increased real estate values.

List of studies and articles I refer to: (there are many more online)

  • (see pages 10 and 11 for economic impacts.)

In addition, here are further benefits we did not cover last night at the meeting, but which undoubtedly will have a positive impact on our community and therefor each of us as individuals:

  1. If employees who work in our area can safely bike to work, it will open up more parking for those of us still driving. (Think of what more parking could mean to those living by the hospitals, and closer to Washington, University and our local downtown area of Goldfinch.)
  2. University Ave in Mission Hills has many condos already, and it is where many of our starter families live, many of whom have young children.  Closing University to cut-through traffic will make it safer for their children, and provide an improved lifestyle for them.
  3. Same can be said of providing a pocket park for them at the end of the street where the ramps are. (Have you seen those views of the canyon, by the way?  Spectacular!)
  4. When residents spend less on auto gas/maintenance/insurance, etc. they have more discretionary income to spend, which could translate to local businesses.
  5. I believe MHH and MHTC designated our community's portion of University Ave as a density area for the plan update.  If that is the case, we can expect more cars in our community in the future as more condos are built along University.  Adding bike and ped pathways would mitigate the need for short auto trips by those who purchase homes there, keeping overall traffic from increasing.
  6. I personally suspect that if we close both ramps, it will obviously no longer be the cut-through area people use to get from the airport to North Park (for example,) but more importantly, commuters will be forced down onto the freeways to get where they want to go, further freeing up our community from traffic.
  7. Traffic in Mission Hills is really only at rush hour. Most of us know to stay off the roads at that time, so as individuals we are not really affected if we are not driving at that time. 
At the end of the meeting, the Board of MHH decided to wait for further information on SANDAG's traffic studies, and also to ensure the project is included in our plan update, so it get's the proper review needed.  Sounds fair to me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our Community Wants Full Closure of Washington/University Street Ramps to Cars

Busy, busy here - hence not a lot of time to B L O G, but I did want to quickly post our letter we sent to SANDAG earlier this month. In it we followed up on our desire for full closure of the University ramps at Ibis/Washington.
Our community has wanted these ramps closed for decades, and the Mission Hills Town Council has been actively talking about it for at least 10 years.  We feel we finally have a way to do it, given the needs of the bike project.

What is not stated in the letter below is that more than 80% of the traffic on these ramps is cut-through traffic!  EIGHTY PERCENT!

Here is our letter:

November 20, 2014

Mr. Muggs Stoll
Department Director (Land Use and Transportation Planning)
401 B Street, Suite 800
San Diego, CA 92101

RE: Updated Information on Uptown Regional Bikeway and Mission Hills Town Council Recommendation for Full Closure of University Avenue at Ibis

Dear Muggs:

Thank you for copying the Mission Hills Town Council (MHTC) on your Washington Street Analysis completed at the request of the Hillcrest Community Collaborative (November 4, 2014).

This work completes a request the MHTC made to SANDAG on March 17th, 2014 (letter attached-item#2), that additional analysis be completed on shifting traffic from University to Washington. We concur with the analysis and are on record as supporting the University alignment.

The second part of the request was to review whether partial or full closure of University would be preferable for the bike project. After reviewing traffic data provided by SANDAG over several meetings with various groups the MHTC voted on November 13, 2014 to recommend to SANDAG full closure of University Avenue at Ibis.

We support the full closure based on the following:

1.  Washington Avenue can accommodate, with minimal impact, the added traffic from the University ramp closure at Ibis.
2.  The remaining local level of traffic from Albatross to Ibis (less than 3000 ADT) is more compatible with the SANDAG target bike population (people interested in biking, but concerned about safety).
3.  Historically, it brings the section of University from Albatross to Ibis back to a neighborhood street (formerly called Douglas) as it existed pre-1946.

We appreciate SANDAG’s continued transparency on this project, the many public outreach meetings and willingness to review the J.T. Frost Placemaking concepts. The Town Council looks forward to an early implementation of this important alternative transportation project.


Mike Zdon

Mike Zdon
President MHTC
707 738-9984

Attachement: Mission Hills Town Council SANDAG/City of San Diego Letter March 17, 2014

cc:       Hon. Jack Dale (Chair SANDAG)
            Hon. Todd Gloria (Council President)
            Beth Robrahn (SANDAG)
            Adriana Martinez (City of San Diego)
            Susan McNeil Schreyer (MH BID)
            Barry Hager (MHH)
            Marlon Pangilinan (City of San Diego Planning Department)
            Elizabeth Hannon (Uptown Parking District)

            Leo Wilson (Uptown Planners) 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bike lane blacked out!

Ok, I'm calling, "foul"!  

Tomorrow being Earth Day, a couple of us decided to hold a cleanup on Washington Street.  We set up around 8a.m and got going on picking up all the litter.  

As more people showed up, one noticed how the bike lane sign in the street at the corner of Washington and India had been blacked out. 

Who approved blacking out the bike lane sign on the road?  Clearly the sign posted on the right says this is a bike lane, yet someone has had it painted over and one can only assume someone at the city approved it. 

Who is responsible for this?
You can see the paint used to be there.  Now it's painted over!

Why would someone do that? And again, who decided to do it? And more importantly who approved it? Is parking really more important than the lives of our community?

We already know people travel way too fast on Washington, but to purposely make it more unsafe for those who commute by bike on it is unconsciable!  

Our cleanup was successful. Here's just a portion of the trash that went into the dumpster.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mission Hills Town Council Supports Bike Lanes

An excerpt from the Mission Hills Town Council's recent newsletter:

"Our Support for Bike Lanes
Mission Hills Town Council recently sent a letter of support to SANDAG and our Councilman Todd Gloria, in support of SANDAG’s bike corridor expansion project.  A portion of the lanes will be on Washington Street canyon, and University. This project will expand the transport options for our community, and will be a huge benefit to us as density increases in the future.  We have asked SANDAG to prioritize safety and for as much lost parking as possible to be mitigated.  The project is still in the design stages, and we will send future updates."

The newsletter also includes information about the City of San Diego's new bike sharing program.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Test track for Washington Street?

There's already a bike lane on Washington Street.  Unfortunately it's been taken over by parked cars from either employees of the many restaurants and bars in Five Points, or guests coming to the area for some of the greatest wining and dining experiences San Diego has to offer.

Now, there's a new bike track called The Flow from Copenhagenize that allows cities to test out bike lanes without committing to changing their infrastructure.

I found and article extolling it's virtues on Fast Company: Lego-Like Bike Lanes That Snap Into Place Could Create Instant Biking Cities.

Maybe we need a test track on Washington Street and the surrounding areas?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

10 Opportunities for parking in the very crowded Five Points area of San Diego

Head-in parking can help create more space in the area of Five Points, San  Diego.

Despite it sitting right next to the I-5 freeway, and despite it being a tiny strip of (mostly) historic buildings, the area known as Five Points in San Diego is a HUGE destination for locals and beyond.  It's marginalized setting belies its attraction points; it is an area that many people travel to from all over San Diego county, and in fact, the world. This is because it has some of San Diego’s oldest and most famous wining and dining spots.

To wit, many people say that as soon as they land at San Diego's Lindbergh field, they bee-line straight over to Five Points for either the rolled tacos at El Indio, or a craft beer at the Regal Beagle.  Others say they want fresh Pacific seafood from Blue Water Grill, and still others say they are craving the chicken from Saffron Thai. Yes, it's pretty much San Diego's International Restaurant Row!

So, at certain times of the day, especially on weekends, parking is absolutely horrendous. Frankly, the area becomes one giant parking lot.  Both the volume of parked cars, and then the circling traffic looking for parking makes it like the COSTCo/Ikea lotin Mission Valley.  And of course this parking-lot-atmosphere gives one a sense of more marginalization, and quite degrades the entire neighborhood, which is the gateway to Mission Hills.

One time my parents who live in Scripps Ranch drove over to meet me on a late Sunday morning.  They had been in Coronado at dog beach and fancied some oysters at Blue Water Seafood and Market Grill.  (Their seafood is very FRESH!)  They swung by and picked me up in Middletown.  We drove along India, looking for parking.  It was probably 1pm.  There was NOTHING.

We circled.
We circled again.
And then circled again.
After about 20 minutes, we decided I'd drop them off, and return home to park the car and then walk back to meet them.  I did, and the parking problem was solved.  Essentially no parking = walk, if you live in Middletown.

But what if you don’t live close by?  What if you were driving in from Poway, or from the mesa of Mission Hills or Hillcrest?  What if you had just landed back in San Diego after being out of the country?

I posed that question to some friends.

The Poway friends said, 'well because it's so far, we would probably just keep circling until we found something.'  This was pretty much what I expected.  As pointed out above a lot of the traffic conditions in the area are made up of drivers circling, waiting for parking spaces to open up.  This creates a lot of unnecessary traffic, air pollution, noise pollution, danger for pedestrians and drivers, flared tempers etc.

The locals from up on the Mesa of Mission Hills said, 'we don't go. It's too hard to find parking.'  They added that if they are really craving San Diego's best gelato, they 'strategically go'.  In other words, they go off hours, or place an order for pick-up so they can run in and get it.  This is what I do too.  I only ever agree to meet friends in the area during non-peak hours, and if it is peak hours, I suggest somewhere else.  

My friend who works for the Marines, and lives in Indonesia said he'd park way up in the neighborhood and walk into Five Points. (He’s a lifelong fan of El Indio’s Mexican food and it’s his first stop every time he comes home!) That’s pretty typical too.  The residents in the surrounding area have long complained that the overflow from Five Points impacts them negatively, affecting their own parking abilities.  I mean, how do they invite guests over when there’s not parking?

Long story short: parking is bad in Five Point.  Having safe bike lanes leading in and out of the area will mean local people will travel by bike, freeing up parking spaces.  And, business will increase because more people can get there.

If I were a business in Five Points, I would want the City to maximize parking by doing 90-degree head-in in the following areas:
  1. Chalmers (both sides, 2 blocks)
  2. California (as much as possible, both sides)
  3. Winder (both sides, 1 block)
  4. Columbia street at the top of Chalmers intersection
  5. I would also like to see head-in parking all the way along India to Glenwood on the east side.  This would calm traffic as it would narrow the lanes.   (And I would put a STOP sign here too, but that is for another post.)
  6. Beyond head-in parking opportunities, there is room for a 'striped parking island' on the corner of Winder and Columbia,that if done right could allow for 2-4 more cars.
  7. On the corner of Glenwood and India, there is a used car lot. Someone on the BID should find out if that is private or city land.  If it's City land, the BID should buy him out of his lease, and work with the city to get a parking lot built there.  (In my opinion.)
  8. Next to the Shell on India, before Upas, there is another empty lot that could be built out for parking.  Again, the local BID could work with the City to put something there.  If anything, the parking created could be simply for employees of the area who represent a huge amount of the required parking spaces
  9. I thought this one was smart, and it is not my idea; it actually came to me by way of an Urban Planner.  The area at the base of Washington on the north side, across the street from the Palomar Market parking lot to the east, there is a pump station for storm water.  There is a lot of very nasty invasive arundo growing here.  I think this area is a prime area for a parking lot also.  It would probably require an elevated metal structure over the pump station, or maybe we could just put in bioswales to capture storm water on India to eliminate the pump station, but it could easily fit 5-8 cars in this area.  I am not sure how cars would access it – perhaps through the Palomar lot, or perhaps a small road could be built off Washington, but again, it’s a great spot for employee parking in the area.
  10. Last, but not least, there are private businesses in the area who are not open for business on the weekends however could open up their lots to the public for parking. On the corner of SD Avenue and McKee, there is a lot with 30 spots, that could easily help with overflow from the Five Points area.

Overall, it would increase business right away.  In the long-run, due to growth, and density planning, parking spaces would end up filling up again, but maybe by then better public transport options would be in place?  The valet parking currently in place is working extremely well.  (One biz owner mentioned it had increased their business 20-25%!)

Obviously, the bike lanes will help too.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Support for bike lanes growing in Uptown.

We had a great turn-out in support of the Bike Project last night at the Uptown Planners meeting.  It was standing room only, with two extra rows of chairs to accommodate everyone.  

A few highlights:
  •           It was standing room only, and the crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of the bike project.
  •          The President of the Hillcrest BID said that if this project was going to happen, they wanted it to be a world-class project, with all the features and benefits other cities have; that we should be a model!
  •           A woman who’s a resident of Hillcrest, pointed out that DC and Denver where she’d previously lived had great bike lanes, making it safe and easy to get around.  She said San Diego needs to step up and act like the size city it is, meaning, we can’t act like we’re a little cow town anymore.  Bike lanes are what transform cities allowing for more growth, more density, and better livability.
  •          The Cashbah’s publicist was completely in favor of it, because she knows, there’ s no parking around them, so anything that offers new ways to bring customers to their events is good for business.
  •           A local resident and cyclist who commutes through Uptown brought up a few academic and business studies that show bikelanes bring more business to communities.  He also reminded everyone we have entered a new era, and that the old model of traditional car-centric community focus is over.  There’s simply no more room to plan around cars. 
  •           Another  local resident on the Mesa in Mission Hills, was in support of the project, but wanted to make sure Washington Street was safe; he said he and his wife would more likely walk down to Five Points more for dinner or drinks if it was safer.
  •          I spoke about making it a green project to help stop polluted water entering our creeks and bays; I also talked about the speedstudy which had audible gasps from audience members.  Clearly this project will bring much-needed calming to Washington.

All in all, over 20 people spoke, with only a few dissenters who mostly lamented the loss of potential parking. 

Those few dissenters made their points.

One guy said that cycling is for white people only.  I didn’t catch it entirely, so feel free to comment with what he actually said.  But the representative of Center City Advisory Group who has attended all of SANDAG’s bike project meetings cleared that up for the crowd and pointed out that studies show minorities often don’t have the extra funds to operate a car, and that biking allowed them to get to jobs. 

Another couple said that narrowing Washington Street canyon’s lanes might be challenging for ambulances.  Her point was that it might be harder for her to pull over.  I see what she’s saying, but frankly we pull over in traffic in crowded busy streets now, and yes, it’s hard to turn your steering wheel for sure.  BUT we do it. 

A manager of an apartment complex in Five Points read a letter from a resident saying that there is not enough parking now, and that any loss of parking will be even worse.  He’s right, but I think it’s also important to consider parking from the standpoint of availability vs. convenience.  Parking will still be available.  People may just need to walk further.  That is a hazard of density.

Another woman pointed out that some funds should be used for parking.  I wanted to explain it’s a bike project, not a parking project.  And, for the umpteenth time that parking will actually open up if people can get there via bicycle safely.

Five Points folks, (some of them Board members,) pointed out the loss of parking also; that if there was reduced parking, then their sales would be reduced, and sales taxes to the City would be less.  One person even considered some businesses might go out of business.  His fears are unfounded though –all studies point to increased business.  And Beth, the project manager from SANDAG has said she will get the parking in Five Points figured out. I trust her to keep her word.

One Board member pointed out that if we want an environment like New York City, which is known for density and biking, then we should all go live there.  This seemed slightly ridiculous.  From a literal standpoint it’s very disrespectful towards residents who value our community and want to see it grow and thrive to tell them to leave. Secondly, given that he sits on a land-use and planning board that is about to approve increased density all over Uptown…. I mean, can we arguably approve density without approving alternate modes of travel?  What exactly does he think parking will be like in a few years when density really hits?

What do you think?  Can we allow for increased density, but not allow for alternate modes of travel? Does density planning automatically mean alternate travel modes must be considered?  Or do we just keep approving density without considering alternate forms of transport?  I'm not an expert, so please enlighten me.