Balboa Park – A Great Place to Drive a Car Through

Balboa Park is frequently referred to in loving tones by San Diegans, guide books, and articles.  It’s our “Crown Jewel” and an asset for the entire region that draws visitors from all over the globe.  There are a number of very enjoyable museums in the park and it’s a great place for a picnic or to take the kids to.

Apparently it’s also a great place for high-speed auto traffic to speed through.  Here’s a map of the speed limits for the roadways going through Balboa Park.

The speed of cars trump people throughout San Diego
The speed of cars trumps people throughout San Diego

These type of speeds are more appropriate for highways than access roads to the premier park and open space for a major city.  As a result of the abundance of these types of roads in Balboa Park there is essentially nowhere in the entire park you can enjoy without the sound of automobiles.  There are very few spots you can even be out of sight of cars whizzing by.  The very nature of these roads shows you that they are not for visiting the park, but for moving as many cars as possible through the park area quickly.

In addition to high speed roads, we continue to pave ever more of the park to provide automobile parking.  On the East Mesa area the city has established a growing parking lot for park service vehicles.  It is huge.  The San Diego Zoo is building an $18 million parking garage behind the Old Globe Theatre with 650 parking spots for employee use.  The access for this garage will be via Village Place and Old Globe Way – small roadways that are currently very quiet and provide access for only a few dozen parking spots, maybe a hundred at most.  Now there will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of cars traversing this area throughout the day.  Oh – and a native canyon space has been razed and replaced by an enormous garage.  San Diego Zoo – shouldn’t conservation start at home?

East Mesa Parking Lot in Balboa Park
East Mesa Parking Lot in Balboa Park

All of this amounts to an area that professes to be a park but would more appropriately be described as an auto park.  We recognize that we live in a beautiful region with an incredible amount of natural beauty worth preserving.  We can recognize that land is very valuable here.  But when it comes to roads and parking we choose to annihilate our native habitats along with the plants and animals, including us, they support and spend exorbitant amounts of money (nearly all public money, not private) to do so.  As you can see with the massive interstates built through our coastal wetlands and the decades old surface level parking lot that is the San Diego Downtown bayfront, there is literally no land too valuable or beautiful for us to not pave the ever-loving piss out of it and call it improvement.

So we’ll continue to pave Balboa Park, widen the roads, and raise the speeds.  We won’t even have to waste our time walking in the park to “enjoy” it.  Why waste the time?  Speed in, take a selfie, and speed out.  Progress.  It’s disgusting, unhealthy, and a terrible message for San Diego to spend to the world.  New Yorkers value Central Park and you can bet your bottom dollar they would never allow their “Crown Jewel” to suffer the fate that we continue to actively choose for our own.

So enjoy your next visit to Balboa Park.  Maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of the museums or zoo while you’re speeding past.

Ride with GPS – I’m an Ambassador! Help me highlight great SD rides.

Ambassador shieldI became familiar with the Ride with GPS app / website while planning for the most recent Bikes & Beers event here in San Diego.  Our events do not seek street closures, we want the experience to showcase how good our city streets can be for bikes without special measures like barricades, traffic cops, etc.  It’s meant to be a preview of the way we envision our streets in the future – filled with bicycles and people having a great, safe time in our city.  This can make it difficult to keep people on the route, though, since there isn’t a wide swath of empty road to follow as there would be with a marathon.

What we needed was a turn-by-turn tool to direct riders and after looking over many different apps I could not find what I needed.  I needed an easy-to-use app that could do voice navigation for a custom bicycle route.  Then I found Ride with GPS and it was just what we were looking for.  They even hooked us up with free access for all event participants.  It was great.  The app did voice turns, we could add custom instructions and photos, and it didn’t suck the battery like Dracula.

After being so pleased with the app during the event and the great support from the company, I volunteered to be an “Ambassador” for the brand.  Basically I’ll be creating a set of great rides in San Diego that others using the app can utilize.  So whether you’re a visitor or a local looking for a new ride, you can open the app and access the routes I’ve highlighted.  However, most of my biking in San Diego is functional, not recreational.  I’m usually towing a couple of kids and going to school, library, grocery store, etc.  I’m pretty much a newbie when it comes to the scenic rides throughout the county.

So I’m asking for your help.  If you have a great route you want to share, please let me know so I can add it.  Of course I’ll give you a shout-out too. 🙂

Hit me up via email – john.patrick.anderson@gmail.com if you have suggestions and thank you!

bike with trailer photo - 4-22
A typical day of riding for me

Airbnb in San Diego – Good Riddance to a Great Thing?

Last Wednesday morning, April 22, the City of San Diego Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a public comment hearing on the topic of short-term rentals in San Diego in advance of creating a proposal clarifying the status of this sort of property use and potentially creating additional rules and regulations.

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After the hearing room was full, many more waited in the lobby.

The meeting was attended by hundreds of San Diegans and testimony was heard in 30 minute chunks with those opposing restrictions on this property use alternating with those supporting restrictions.  Many, myself included, were unable to speak during the 4 hour meeting.  A continuance of the meeting will be held on May 29th for those that were unable to speak.

San Diego’s primary issue is it is a very desirable place to live and visit.  It’s a good problem to have.  Today there are more vacation rental properties than ever, the hotel industry just came off a record-breaking year, rents are high and rising, as are property prices.  There is more demand for every type of property than supply can keep up with.  Further impacting the supply is a strong sentiment across most of the city against increased density and/or building heights.

The city is approaching this issue in the wrong way.  A small number of San Diegans have had issues with short-term rentals – mostly complaints of noise, trash, or impacts on street parking.  For those not familiar with common San Diegan complaints, the lack of pavement on which to park private vehicles at public expense is nearly always the top of the list.  Joni Mitchell is probably crying.  More likely, she’s darkly laughing.

The complaints raised have existing rules and penalties that can be applied.  If enforcement of those rules is the issue then the solution is to improve enforcement by increased staffing and resources.  The solution should not be to curtail the property rights of every property owner in the City of San Diego.  Banning or restricting the ability of property owners to use their property is not the answer to problems with enforcement of public nuisance laws.  It would quite literally mean reducing the property rights of hundreds of thousands of San Diegans due to the complaints of a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand.  That is not a relevant or appropriate response.

Restrictions on use of platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and others would also be a real disservice to homeowners throughout San Diego.  For the first time, technology is putting the opportunity to utilize what is typically the largest asset a family owns, their home, in the hands of every property owner.  Vacation rentals have existed for decades in San Diego but were mostly relegated to property management firms and wealthy individuals that could hire staff to manage the properties.  Today, this is possible to the average person whether they are renting their home once a year or every night of the month.  This is a great thing.  It also means many dollars coming into and staying in San Diego, benefiting our entire economy.  Unlike hotels, which are often owned by non-local companies, home-sharing brings dollars into our city and keeps them here – in the pockets of our friends and neighbors.  Win win.

Are there bad actors among the property owners and visitors in San Diego? Certainly.  There are also bad actors among homeowners and renters.  When there is an issue there are tools to remedy them.  Utilize the tools we have, don’t take away a great opportunity for all property owners in San Diego and a boon to our economy across the board.