North Park Way and 30th Street – An Intersection In Need of Improvement

Although North Park’s “Busy Corner” lies a block north, the intersection of North Park Way and 30th Street is a popular crossing for pedestrians in the neighborhood.  In the heart of North Park, this intersection hosts Waypoint Public, Pigment, the North Park Parking Garage, and North Park Family Dentistry with many more businesses and residences nearby.  It is also an intersection that needs improvement to increase safety and convenience for residents and visitors to North Park.

Today my neighbor recounted being hit by a car driver at this intersection last week while she was pushing a stroller and walking with her seven-year-old.  The driver did not yield when making a left turn and did not use a blinker to indicate the left turn.  She plowed into the group of three in broad daylight.  If you walk this intersection you may have had close calls with drivers as I have on a number of occasions.  We need to do much more to make our neighborhoods safer – motor vehicle crashes are the top cause of death for American children and adolescents ages 1 to 19.

For this specific intersection here are a number of improvements we can make. (The following could be applied to many areas across the city as well and hopefully some, like LPI, become the default treatment rather than reactive to areas with injuries.)

  1. Sync pedestrian signals.  Currently the east-west and north-south crossing signals do not sync – if you push the button on the east side only that side will give a “Walk” signal on green. These indicators should be synced for both sides of the street.
  2. Automate pedestrian signals with minimum crossing times.  In addition to pushing the pedestrian walk request (aka “beg buttons”) the pedestrian walk symbol should automatically be triggered and illuminated for the minimum crossing time when a vehicle triggers a light change.
  3. Add a Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) in addition to automatic minimum crossing time signal.  An LPI gives pedestrians a 3-7 second head start when crossing an intersection.  NACTO notes that LPIs “have been shown to reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions as much as 60% at treated intersections”. You may have seen LPIs in action at 6th Avenue and Laurel Street or other locations.
  4. Add “Yield to Pedestrian on Turns” signs. A simple reminder to look around when driving and be aware.
  5. Add curb bulbouts to the intersection corners to reduce the road width (and consequently road speeds). The image below is the current intersection with red added for potential curb bumpouts to reduce the road width and in which plants and trees could be added or benches to sit.  The bulbouts would also reduce the roll-through turns that are common enough to be known as “California Stops”.  The yellow portions are for potential additional parking spaces to accompany the bulbouts. (I don’t favor more auto parking in the area as there are better uses for our limited public land but seems to be a way to help get safety improvements done since many like a free lunch.)

6. Add red light cameras to penalize bad actors (after remaking them legal in San Diego).  In 2013 San Diego got rid of red light cameras that were used to penalize those breaking laws at intersections.  Cameras are cheap and effective ways to enforce laws like speeding, running red lights, etc. and would be ideal for areas like this intersection where common law-breaking by drivers has more severe repercussions due to the high number of humans nearby.

7. Lower speed limit to 20 MPH.  Lower speeds help to avoid collisions and reduce the harm when collisions occur.  This article has a great interactive chart showing the relative fatality risk at various speeds.

If you’re interested in helping make this intersection better in the ways noted above (or your own) you can help by contacting our City Councilmember, Chris Ward at christopherward@sandiego.gov and the Council Office Rep for North Park, Tyler Renner  – trenner@sandiego.gov.

Taking a moment to send a message as simple as “Please make the intersection at 30th and North Park Way safer. Our family walks there often. Thank you.” are great and really help to make improvements on the ground reality.

[Related note: Thank you to all that voiced support for a new crosswalk at Jefferson Elementary – located 3 blocks directly west of the intersection highlighted in this post.  Mr. Renner informed me this is scheduled to be installed in 2019 as part of the new Mini-Park in North Park behind the Observatory.]

For context here are a few photos of the intersection I took today, 1/5/2019.

A New Crosswalk Request in North Park at Jefferson Elementary

Let’s make the neighborhood a bit safer and more enjoyable for all

North Park has had a number of crosswalks installed in recent months, including some with push-button flashing lights as you can now see at the corners of 30th Street and Myrtle as well as 30th Street and Polk, as well as other locations.  It has seemed to make a positive impact on the likelihood of drivers that yield to pedestrians at these intersections and hopefully an overall greater awareness for those walking in the area.

This post is to request a new painted crosswalk on the south portion (east-west crosswalk) of the intersection of North Park Way and Utah Street, in front of Jefferson Elementary.  This intersection is just outside the front doors of the school and this three-direction intersection has a stop sign for each direction of oncoming traffic.  There are currently painted crosswalks on the other two crossings at the intersection but just a “No Ped Crossing” sign for the third.

This aerial image shows the existing crosswalks to / from the Jefferson Elementary block in Yellow and the requested additional crosswalk in Red.

With all vehicles already needing to stop at this intersection it seems natural to include a painted crosswalk for pedestrians.  Especially given that the school provides services for children from preschool through fifth grade it seems even more needed to have visible markings and crossings to ensure drivers are aware of the hundreds of small children in the area.

Many parents and children walk to the school from the south and east directions, either from residences or from parking in the neighborhood.  Another marked crossing option would make the journey to school quicker, safer, and more convenient for all.  (And outside of school hours for anyone walking in the neighborhood.)

Below is the current status of this crossing.  Hopefully we can make this small improvement soon, for the use of students and the community at large.

If you’d like to help make this crosswalk a reality please reach out to the San Diego District 3 Councilmember, Chris Ward, at the following email addresses and simply voice your support.  A message as simple as “Crosswalks at Jefferson needed and I support. Thank you.” are great.

Councilmember Ward – christopherward@sandiego.gov

Council Office Representative Tyler Renner  – trenner@sandiego.gov

Vote Omar Passons – The Best Choice for Supervisor – Vote Omar Passons

Mail-in ballots for primary races in San Diego were mailed out today, May 7, so if you live here you can expect to see them arriving soon.  The election date is June 5.  Vote next week, or the following, or on June 5 – just remember to vote.

Who to vote for? In the County Supervisor race for District 4 it’s clear:

** VOTE OMAR PASSONS **

I’ve known Omar for a few years and met him IRL (in real life) after starting to use Twitter as a newly established stay-at-home dad and fairly recent arrival to San Diego.  He and others invited me to join them for pick-up basketball in Golden Hill.  I love playing basketball and it was nice to connect with a bunch of people I hadn’t met before.  Especially nice given that many of them were engaged in local issues and care about making this a better place to live.

If you’re engaged in San Diego issues you probably already know Omar (if not, find him on Twitter @omarpassons).  He’s long been involved in city issues with hands-on experience or in policy discussions from graffiti to neighborhood parks to the many stadium debates in San Diego and so much more.  The man is a dynamo of energy and gives frequently and deeply of his time and energy to support a broad range of causes that matter to him.

I’m not a Democrat or a Republican and broadly feel the strict two party system sets up a by-default “Us vs. Them” debate on nearly every issue, often unnecessarily.  I’m a policy and issue voter and if you’re looking for an intelligent and thoughtful person to consider issues and guide the region you’ll find such a person in Mr. Passons.

No other candidate in the race has put forward as detailed of positions and policy ideas as Omar and it’s no surprise – these aren’t “made-to-campaign” platforms put together for the 2018 elections.  They’re policies honed over decades of experience and personal action, wrought from real and deep-seated caring about our region and residents.

Take a look at Omar’s website for more details – www.omarpassons.com.  Or take my preferred route and check out his podcast series for an audio experience on a walk around town.  You’ll get a good sense for Omar as a person and why you should vote for him on June 5.

Omar is the preferred candidate of the Union-Tribune.

Omar is also the preferred candidate of the San Diego Free Press.

Vote for a San Diegan with heart and integrity.

** VOTE OMAR PASSONS **

29th Street – North Park’s Newest (Free) Luxury Parking Lot

Thanks to a request from the Mid-City Parking District a number of streets in North Park will likely soon be converted from parallel on-street free parking to head-in on-street free parking.  The following list of requested changes will result in an increase of 254 parking spaces, using more of our public land to store empty automobiles.  The proposed changes were discussed at the March meeting of the North Park Planning Public Facilities and Transportation Subcommittee – minutes including discussion can be found here.  The proposed changes are on the agenda for the North Park Planning Committee consent agenda for Tuesday, April 17.

The proposed changes are spread across a large section of North Park, but the stretch of 29th Street is particularly interesting to me.  29th Street is the site of the North Park Parking Garage – a 100% taxpayer funded parking garage with low rates that rarely breaks even (and in the most recent year likely lost money due to popularity of biking, walking, and Uber / Lyft – financials aren’t yet out to verify performance).  Here’s a map of the blocks of 29th Street and cross streets proposed to be converted to head-in parking (identified in red).

There are a number of reasons to oppose these conversions:

  • Climate change and health – Increasing automobile parking runs counter to the city’s Climate Action Plan goals to move mode share away from automobiles.  Bringing (and parking) more cars in North Park brings more air and noise pollution to the neighborhood, in addition to the potential fatalities and injuries that are common from automobile use. Giving away even more of our public realm to parking is a bad idea.  Increasing and encouraging more automobiles in North Park also runs counter to the promotion of the area as a walkable neighborhood. At a time when bike-share, scooter-share, and ride-share options are plentiful and increasing we shouldn’t be increasing the amount of parking for private vehicles.
  • Aesthetics and safety – This stretch of 29th Street is full of beautiful Craftsman homes.  The average age of the homes on the block is around 90 years old.  Parallel parking creates a standard car edge so visibility down the street for pedestrians, drivers, and residents is clear.  Head-in parking creates large variances (think of an extended cab pick-up, which are for some reason incredibly popular in San Diego despite the urban environment lacking steers and I-beams to carry around, parked next to a small sedan).  Pulling in and out becomes more dangerous for those traversing the street.  Additionally, the headlights from the vehicles at night are aimed directly into homes which are mostly at street level. I can’t imagine most residents would enjoy the additional lighting from the street.
  • Unneeded and counter-productive – Most of the houses on these streets already have off-street parking, many have full length driveways and garages.  The housing density (number of residents per unit) is almost certainly less than it was 50 years ago, as the average American household size has fallen almost by half.  If the housing is nearly a century old and the households are smaller than they have been in the past it seems unlikely that residents are clamoring for more parking on the street to bring in more traffic and noise.

Here’s a photo gallery of each block of 29th Street to get a sense of the housing and parking.  The street is very wide but as you can see, there is hardly a lack of parking although this may vary according to time of day.

Perhaps the worst bit of all is residents have basically no say in this process.  The parking changes were requested by a parking agency and I don’t believe any residents of any of these streets were part of the application – apparently the mission of parking agencies are to maximize the amount of parking for vehicles.  Residents will have a chance to respond negatively to the proposals, a written notice will be sent out.  Who does the notice go to – property owners or residents? (Not sure.) Are the mailings certified delivery to ensure receipt by intended recipients? (Guessing no.)  Even if the letters are addressed properly, and received what are the odds they are read or understood? (Not likely.)  The standard to oppose is that a majority, more than 50%, of the notices sent out must be returned in opposition.  If you’ve ever done a survey or mail response campaign you probably understand there is essentially zero chance of ever seeing a 50% response rate to any issue.

If there is demand from the residents on the impacted streets then an Opt-In approach would pass with flying colors.  I suspect that there is not support from the residents given the above many reasons this is a bad idea.  In either case, I believe the North Park Planning Committee has discretion on this matter to evaluate as they deem most appropriate. I hope they’ll opt to consider the impacts of yet more automobile-focused use of our land in this urban environment and reject this proposal to bring yet more traffic and parking and associated ills to the area.  For reference, here’s the evaluation policy for this sort of proposal.

In addition to this conversion being a bad idea there are better options for the excess roadway that does exist.  Some of those better options are:

  • Reduce the road width and increase the size of the housing parcels (increase the public right-of-way usable by property owner) – this would increase home values and the tax base, bringing in funds via property taxes, and allow for planting of trees or other use.
  • Install a bike lane to enable more residents to bike to work or school.
  • Do nothing. The status quo, although mostly a vista of asphalt, has real potential and we shouldn’t discard it for more unneeded free parking. Not to mention that once granted it is very difficult to repurpose parking area to other uses, as recent debates in Hillcrest and elsewhere have underscored.
  • My favorite – Dreaming big I’d love to see Balboa Park connected to the new North Park Mini-Park, located at 29th Street and North Park Way via a beautiful greenscape.  My proposal would greatly reduce the street size of both 29th Street and Granada Avenue to something like below – going from 54 feet of street space to 16 feet (paired one-way streets, one North-bound and one South-bound with one side of parking) and adding 19 feet of green space to either side of the two streets.  That’s a lot of additional greenery, quieter roads, and an increase in parking on each lot of one space per driveway. (Although I would guess many residents would do as they currently do and opt for more productive uses of their land than parking vehicles and utilize for gardens, play areas, chicken coops, hop scotch, and other options.)

If you have an opinion on this proposal you can attend the North Park Planning Committee Hearing on 4/17 or contact the group via email at info@northparkplanning.org.  Additionally, on my street – Granada Avenue – I’ll be working with the other residents to proactively state our opposition to this sort of conversion.  You can consider doing the same as it seems likely the many over-sized roadways in San Diego will likely follow 29th Street in becoming a parker’s paradise.