The UAMP was originally developed from 2002-2004 and after years of delays its Environmental Impact Report was approved by the City Council in July 2015, with implementation planned to start in 2018 . The plan includes a number of aspects including adding new crosswalks and raised medians in sections of University Avenue, smoothing traffic flow, and adding and removing traffic signal lights, which are relatively simple changes that could be done at any time. The UAMP then takes things much too far however in proposing several unprecedented and unwarranted changes that would greatly reduce pedestrian and bike safety as compared to better alternatives, provide no dedicated bike lanes, greatly reduce parking potentially available on and near University Avenue, and result in long-term negative impacts to the overall comfort, aesthetics, and historic character of the North Park business district and surrounding residential areas.
In the following sections we provide evidence, analysis and examples showing that the UAMP in its present form would turn what is now a comfortable attractive neighborhood avenue into essentially an ugly transit corridor. We also disprove a number of common misconceptions about the plan, discuss how the plan got so far despite its major issues, and provide contact information for our elected representatives and local community groups in the hope that enough residents will rise up, get this message through to city leaders and staff, and fix or stop this plan before it's too late.
Note that the City of San Diego government is currently unwilling to negotiate on the major aspects of the UAMP as they consider it already approved – even though the majority of current residents were not properly notified of its existence or given any opportunity to oppose its design decisions, and despite there being major errors in a number of the assumptions and analyses in the plan .
Note also that many claim that because the UAMP was "already approved" that it cannot be changed, but this could not be further from the truth. The plan's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is thoroughly flawed, and it is based upon this erroneous and outdated EIR that the plan was approved. All that's needed to stop the UAMP is to file a suit against the city challenging the defects of the EIR. We are not attorneys but our discussions with various community leaders – including an expert who has authored other Environmental Impact Reports for similar projects – clarified that the UAMP can indeed be stopped with a lawsuit. While this could likely involve several $1,000 in attorney's fees, it could prevent $Millions of loss and damage that the UAMP would cause. Not only would the UAMP be a waste of $6 Million of taxpayer funds, it would turn the majority of University Ave in North Park into a construction boondoggle that would take approximately 1 year to complete, creating a traffic mess and greatly inconveniencing residents, businesses and the general public. Even after project completion, the losses would continue as the aesthetics of our historic avenue would be irreversibly destroyed, pedestrian and bike safety would be significantly reduced in many areas, residents and businesses would no longer have nearly the same level of street parking available, and many visitors would take their business to other areas. Estimates of total losses to taxpayers, businesses and residents could be well above $20 Million within several years, with $Millions of additional losses occurring for years and decades to come. We hope that North Park residents, business and property owners will take the time to think through the magnitude of what the UAMP would do to University Ave, and work to put an end to this disastrous plan.
To understand the full implications of the UAMP, the changes it proposes need to be carefully reviewed and a closer look taken at each block that would be affected. On July 25th 2015 we took nearly 100 pictures showing the extent of University Avenue from Florida Street to 32nd Street, viewable on the pages linked below, in an easy-to-navigate format that can play as a slide show, or flipped through using the on-screen controls or the left & right arrow keys on your keyboard. (Opens in new window, maximize window for best view.)
The UAMP claims it will increase safety for pedestrians by calming traffic and by adding and improving crosswalks, and some aspects of it would help achieve these results. The traffic calming features consist of the following:
University Avenue has some significant issues that can all be addressed with simple approaches. The UAMP in its present state would worsen most of these issues. Current issues on University Avenue can be summarized as follows:
Before proposing approaches to the above issues, the advantages of the present configuration must also be understood. University Avenue is a historic street, its use going back to the late 1800s. In 1907, streetcar lines began to be installed along University Avenue from Hillcrest and up 30th Street from Golden Hill, finally meeting at 30th Street & University Avenue in 1911.
North Park has three primary East-West thoroughfares: University Avenue, El Cajon Boulevard, and Adams Avenue. Both University Avenue and Adams Avenue are the same width, approximately 52 feet in most sections. Whereas El Cajon Boulevard is approximately 108 feet in width, handles approximately 75% more traffic volume than University Avenue , and now also includes the recently completed rapid bus line that stops at Texas Street and 30th Street . For major North-South thoroughfares North Park has only 30th Street. These thoroughfares all have street parking and primarily commercial and mixed-use zoning. They each have a great deal of historic character and many diverse buildings, shops, markets, restaurants, offices, mixed-use developments, and also a smaller number of houses, apartments and condos.
Street parking is easy to take for granted, but is a major part of why North Park is considered a convenient, comfortable neighborhood, and an integral part of its character and aesthetics, for a number of reasons:
One of the primary reasons people live in North Park is because of its walkability. According to walkscore.com, 92104 is the 2nd most walkable zip code in San Diego. It's possible to do quite a lot without a car in North Park, and its walkability puts us way ahead of other San Diego neighborhoods. Residents do need to travel outside of North Park from time-to-time however, or even just to the other side of the neighborhood, which is usually much more practical by car, particularly for families or larger groups, or when transporting bulkier items such as groceries, home and gardening supplies, tools, equipment, surfboards, bicycles, etc.
An even more significant reason why people live in North Park however is its relatively low density. Downtown San Diego has better walkability, but is too dense for the tastes of North Parkers, who don't want that level of traffic, noise, and lack of parking, or to live in a high-rise with no yard, no trees or grass, less privacy, and higher costs for less space.
North Park has been a popular, expanding, and continually improving community for close to a century primarily because of its optimal mix of walkability, convenience, central location, historic character, and relatively low density.
North Park also has a unique architectural style with many Craftsman homes and commercial properties ranging from Art Deco to Modern in style. These styles emphasize a connection to nature, building with the land and integrating smoothly with the environment, with low horizontal lines, and significant attention to trees and landscaping. This is reflected in University Avenue, which has very few buildings more than two floors in height, and where sidewalks tend to be wide with trees, planters, benches, and bike racks.
Current issues with University Avenue can be solved simply by going from four to three traffic lanes , for example as is now the configuration on 30th Street and Adams Avenue. Having one lane in each direction plus a shared center left-turn lane, optionally with raised medians and left-turn pockets is a common configuration throughout San Diego and other cities. This approach for the middle lanes is similar to what is proposed by the UAMP, but it is not also necessary to go to the extreme of removing all parallel parking. The ratio of the number of buses on University Avenue to cars is low, particularly during peak traffic times; considering that less than 10% of University Avenue commuters use the bus and that buses hold about 10 or more times as many people as cars, this implies that there are about 50-100 cars for each bus on University Avenue, particularly during peak traffic times when the number of cars is higher. Analysis of University Avenue Bus Traffic Volumes and SANDAG traffic count data  reveals that the average ratio is actually 74 cars for each bus. Thus to create a bus-only lane, when buses comprise less than 1.4% of vehicle traffic, would not make nearly enough of a difference in travel times to justify such a major change.
With fewer lanes and a raised center median, traffic can flow more smoothly and calmly, if in fact the volume of cars is not so high that gridlock results. Drivers will maintain a more consistent speed, make fewer lane changes, and drive more slowly and carefully due to the presence of the nearby raised median. Thus it seems plausible that reducing the number of car lanes may be a good change to make in some or all sections of University Avenue, with probable exception of East of 32nd Street which has the highest traffic counts and where traffic at peak times already backs up multiple blocks.
The traffic level on the less busy sections of University Avenue seems low enough that one lane in each direction (with separate lanes or pockets for left and right turns) would not cause an undue increase in traffic at most times. However, no evidence has been provided showing that Level of Service criteria were properly analyzed in the UAMP. And even if such an analysis was done, it needs to be redone due to the UAMP's unwarranted and unjustified proposal to remove all parallel parking. Ideally the same consultant (Kimley-Horn and Associates) who did the traffic analysis for the much more recent Community Plan Update  (which is separate from and seemingly in conflict with the UAMP) could be contracted to provide a second and more current analysis of the UAMP's proposals and of other alternative approaches. Note that the Community Plan Update's recommended changes to University Avenue seem much more sensible, would cost much less, and would not remove any significant amount of parking.
It remains to be determined why the UAMP and the Community Plan Update propose completely different approaches for University Avenue, and why the changes proposed in the much older UAMP are not mentioned in the Community Plan Update.
The more minor parts of the UAMP such as adding/improving crosswalks, and optimizing the timing of traffic signal lights are simple and inexpensive changes that would likely have no significant side-effects. However, the removal of all parallel parking, is where it becomes what would be disastrous for the future of University Avenue and for North Park as a whole, for much more significant reasons than just convenience. Those who support the parking removal aspect of the UAMP are likely not aware of the true magnitude of the impacts that would result, and are unaware or take for granted the above mentioned numerous benefits that a street parking buffer provides, including greatly improved pedestrian safety. Anyone with any doubts on this should take a look at the pictures linked above, take a walk along the length of University Avenue, and imagine how different the street and sidewalks would look with no parked cars, no separation between sidewalks and traffic, and nothing but red-painted curbs from Park Boulevard to the 805.
As discussed above the UAMP's proposal to reduce the number of traffic lanes to one in each direction (which are no longer frequently backed up due to cars stopped making turns) would likely be an improvement that would calm traffic and improve overall safety. This is not an uncommon approach and is what we have on many other San Diego streets such as Adams Avenue, 30th Street, and sections of University Avenue outside of North Park. However, the UAMP's proposal to remove all parallel parking and create bus-only lanes would be completely unprecedented – there is no similar area in San Diego where this has been done. This aspect of the UAMP would be a poorly devised experiment that would destroy the neighborhood feel and historic character of University Avenue.
The UAMP's claim that lost parking would be offset by parking on side streets is thoroughly misleading. Parking gains on side streets can be made at any time, independent of other proposed changes. Retaining all or most existing University Avenue parking will ensure North Park retains the ability to adequately support significantly increasing density and to better serve residents and local businesses now and in the future. Increasing parking density on side streets by going from parallel to diagonal parking has already been happening over the past 10 years and helps ensure that enough parking is available to support increasing population density and provide a basic level of convenience and accessibility for residents. Removing nearly 100 spaces would then in fact greatly reduce parking that can potentially be made available on and near University Avenue, and thus greatly impact not only businesses but also the nearly 5,000 residents who live within 2-3 blocks of University Avenue, who would then have that much less parking available for their needs, thereby reducing convenience and property values in a much larger part of North Park than just University Avenue itself.
It's easy to take street parking for granted, and proponents of the plan have focused on only the positives of the UAMP while not realizing the extent of the negatives. Many sections of Western University Avenue in North Park already lack street parking, and already look much dirtier and less attractive than those sections with street parking. Before anyone should endorse this aspect of the UAMP they should consider that the entirety of University Avenue would be made to look like what are now its most unappealing sections.
Would proponents of the UAMP would really like all of University Avenue to look like this rather than this? Which of these sets of pictures looks more like a comfortable, attractive pedestrian-friendly neighborhood vs. an ugly commercial corridor? Is it just coincidence that the sections with no street parking all look less appealing and less neighborhood-like than the sections with street parking?
If the UAMP is allowed to go forward unmodified, residents will only then realize too late – after $5.8M was wasted, one full year spent on road work that causes even more traffic and inconvenience, and the street ruined, that the result is in no way an aesthetic improvement, and that the impacts on parking, traffic, and pedestrian and bike safety are all negative. At that point it would be too late and impossible to fix. The UAMP needs to be fixed or stopped now, before it gets anywhere near the implementation stage. The city is making every effort to avoid notifying current residents of the plan and all feedback received indicates they are refusing to fix the worst parts of the plan.
Going to three traffic lanes (one lane each direction plus a shared center left-turn lane optionally with raised medians and left-turn pockets) would be a much more practical solution to the constraint of the narrow street width, while also calming traffic and increasing safety for all . This approach would leave street parking unchanged (with possible exception of minor adjustments to support optimization of bus stop placement or possibly removing a small number of parking spaces to accommodate improved right turn lanes).
The only other advantage of the UAMP is that it would reduce traffic for buses. This would be a welcome goal if a large percentage of people used the bus system, or if University Avenue was wide enough to accommodate bus-only lanes without major negative side-effects. However, according to the city's Climate Action Plan document  (Appendix B page B-31) the actual bus ridership number is only about 4%. Therefore, to dedicate 40% of the street width to bus-only lanes is not a sensible proposition. We'd all like to do what we can to improve the bus system in San Diego, but making things more dangerous for pedestrians and bikes and ruining the aesthetics, comfort and convenience of University Avenue so that bus travel times would be slightly reduced would be taking it much too far, for a number of reasons that are expanded upon below.
Buses by their nature are designed to be an efficient transport mode relative to cars (though not to walking or biking), because many people can use one shared vehicle and thus each have a relatively small environmental footprint. This space efficiency makes them well suited for existing traffic lanes on any type of street, thus to remove all parking along a street so that buses might have their own exclusive lanes is actually contradictory to their small environmental footprint, when bus traffic counts are indeed very low compared to cars, bicycles, and pedestrians – which is indeed the case on University Avenue, where buses comprise less than 1.4% of traffic volume .
Some supporters of the UAMP claim that speeding up buses will increase ridership, which will benefit the environment in the form of greenhouse gas reductions and less traffic. Responses from the city make clear however that the UAMP would not result in any significant change in emissions . Most would agree that incentives should be provided when practical to make public transportation more efficient, however, a reduction in bus travel times across University Avenue in North Park in itself would not likely increase overall ridership by more than a small fraction of a percent, as there are many other factors that people consider when deciding which transportation options best serve their unique situations and needs. In addition, automotive greenhouse gas emissions have actually been going down for over 10 years  and will continue to decline rapidly as hybrid electric cars, smart cars, electric cars, hydrogen fuel cell powered cars, and electric bikes gain further market share. While advances in these areas might seem far off to the unfamiliar or to those who have overlooked the subtle but astounding increase in the number of electric vehicles recently appearing on each and every block throughout North Park, in reality electric cars and electric bikes have both been growing exponentially, with adoption numbers approximately doubling every year, efficiency and performance continuing to increase and costs steadily decreasing. Within 15 years, 90 percent of cars will likely be zero-emission [7 - 9]. Zero-emission vehicles are already commonplace on the streets of North Park and this trend is only further accelerating.
An additional traffic signal light proposed by the UAMP at Oregon Street might help to calm traffic and increase safety, and removing the traffic signal as proposed at Ohio Street is probably a good idea due to it being less than 200 feet from another signal light at Grim Street. The UAMP's proposed addition of a traffic signal light at Arnold Street would be excessive however, as there would then be 3 blocks in a row (Oregon St., Arnold Ave., Texas St.) with traffic lights, resulting in cars being backed up such that they would not have even started moving through one light before the light a block away turned red. Arnold Avenue also has very little traffic thus a signal light there seems highly unnecessary.
The UAMP was created over a decade ago in which time there have been major changes in North Park, in transportation technology, and in related planning goals. Numerous North Park residents, property owners, business owners, and community leaders feel that its assumptions, data, and analyses (and those of its Environmental Impact Report) do not properly account for these changes, and that the major changes it proposes are unnecessary, unjustified, and would have a disastrous impact on residents, motorists, bicyclists, and local businesses. More specifically the UAMP would:
The plan's website as of August 2015 lists the following schedule:
The design is anticipated to be completed in December 2016. After California Department of Transportation construction authorization is obtained, the project is anticipated to start advertising in March 2017. Construction will start approximately six months later, and is anticipated to last 12 months.
We also received the following email from the city's Engineering Dept. on Aug. 19, 2015:
Thank you for your email regarding the University Avenue Mobility Project (UAMP). The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared specifically for UAMP was approved by City Council July 27, 2015. The EIR was prepared in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and disclosed significant impacts to the project boundary as a result of the proposed improvements. Opportunities for residents and businesses to comment on the EIR, and project scope outlined within, included the scoping meeting, public review of draft EIR, period for appeal of final EIR, and attendance at City Council when the project was an agenda item. Representatives of the North Park Planning Committee and North Park Main Street attended the City Council meeting, were in opposition to the appeal of the final EIR, and affirmed their commitment to the project. With the City Council approved EIR, City Staff is now working to hire a design consultant to implement the improvements (or project scope) listed specifically in the EIR. Once a consultant has been brought on board the City Staff will attend a North Park Planning Committee meeting to kick-off the design phase. Throughout design City Staff will work with both the North Park Planning Committee and North Park Main Street to keep residents and businesses informed of design decisions and status. Please be sure to coordinate with these community groups regarding how you can be involved during the design phase. Thank you, Jayna Straughn, PE Associate Civil Engineer City of San Diego | Public Works Department Right of Way Division | Transportation Streets
All North Park residents are urged to coordinate with community groups, contact University Avenue business and property owners and residents to spread awareness, start petitions (e.g. on www.change.org), and follow any available legal and political processes to fix or stop the UAMP.
The UAMP was developed during a different era in North Park. The core commercial district of North Park has changed tremendously in the past 10+ years. Density continues to significantly increase as major new mixed-use developments continue to appear, from the Boheme Condominiums on 30th St. 1/2 block from University Avenue adding 224 condos in 2006, to the Iowa Street Senior Housing project (also 1/2 block from University Avenue) adding 120 apartments in 2016.
To disrupt the community now with an old plan that most current residents were not properly informed of and that would tremendously alter North Park's character, would be a waste of $5M+ that would preclude better options such as dedicated bike lanes, more optimal use of available road space, and a level of convenience necessary to prevent University Avenue from becoming a typical big city corridor with insufficient parking and little of the style and comfort that has helped support North Park's transformation over the past decade. At the time the UAMP was originally drafted, North Park was still considered a run-down area that was to be avoided after dark, with many old buildings in disrepair, and nowhere near the number of high quality businesses and developments that now exist in the business district along University Avenue and 30th Street. No street parking and bus-only lanes might not have looked so out-of-place back then, but today North Park has seen nearly every old building renovated and revitalized and has transformed into one the nicest and most appealing urban areas in San Diego. Because these changes happened gradually it's understandable that they may be easy to overlook.
According to  (Page 2 Item 2), the UAMP "relies on a 2009 parking study to identify and quantify the parking needed to replace the parking removed from the business district. This six year-old parking study is surely out of date and doesn't reflect the current situation on the ground in North Park. For instance, the study mentions that current street parking, at its highest, is 61% utilized. Anyone who has been in North Park at any time of the day knows that this is a laughable figure. In addition to the inaccurate information in the parking study, the mitigation effort also sited parking far from the most affected areas. This parking is, for the most part, blocks away from the central district and has already been absorbed by the residential parking population. Many of our businesses need short-term, close-by parking to survive. Imagine each and every business on University Avenue now being dependent on customers parking blocks away and walking a significant distance with bulky items or just needing to make a quick pick-up or drop-off. Businesses will die on the vine. Even the parking garage (which has been much higher utilized than projected) doesn't solve this issue. It is great for longer-term parking, but is ineffective for short-term needs."
North Park residents are strongly encouraged to contact the Public Works Department, City Council members and staff, the Mayor's office, and community groups as soon as possible to share your concerns and make it clear that we will not stand for losing all parallel parking on University Avenue, having the whole length of the street turned into an ugly asphalt corridor, while safety and comfort are greatly diminished for both pedestrians on the sidewalks and cyclists for whom no dedicated bike lanes would be provided.
The UAMP brings to mind the decline of North Park in the 60's when malls became the new convenient destinations and older urban areas went into a long decline that did not finally reverse until relatively recently. While additional parking has been added to side streets, this would not entirely offset losses on University Avenue, particularly in some sections and for businesses who depend on pickups and deliveries, where it is not practical to cart merchandise such as furniture or equipment for blocks along the sidewalk. These are not just random spaces in a parking lot. They are each a part of the neighborhood and have stood undisturbed for over a century.
As further high-density mixed-use projects are completed there will be even less street parking available. Additional parking added on side streets will barely make up for additional density that has been added in the past decade. To then remove all University Avenue parallel parking would degrade the parking situation from one that's usually fairly good, to where it's rarely possible to find street parking within a reasonable distance, thereby further increasing traffic as cars circle around looking for parking spaces (already a common occurrence on Thursday – Saturday evenings and nights).
With as bad as this plan is in light of the evidence presented here, it could be presumed that the plan was simply the result of a bad design, done at the wrong time. As with many projects of this sort however, once "experts" have been hired and time and money have been spent, it's easy for the proponents to have a confirmation bias and to ignore any and all contrary evidence. Making things more inconvenient and dangerous for everyone for no other reason than to give a small number of buses their own dedicated lanes is simply a bad idea, proposed at the wrong time, in the wrong place.
That the UAMP has proceeded as far as it has is understandable given past context. People looked at the overall package, saw the advantages, saw the existing issues on University, saw an opportunity to be a model for supporting the bus system, trusted that the city had done proper due diligence, did not closely review the plan's assumptions or data, and concluded that it looked like a good overall plan. In the early 2000's, University Avenue was run down and not so neighborhood-like. It was indeed more a transportation corridor than a gentrified neighborhood. Thus it's understandable how the UAMP came about at that time. But if the community now takes a fresh look at things in what is now a new and very different context, examines what the impact of the UAMP would be now, reviews and compares the example pictures provided here or visits each block that would be affected, and looks at better alternatives, it becomes clear that the proposal to remove all parallel parking and set aside 40% of the road area for buses is simply not appropriate for University Avenue.
Due to its age, North Park lacks significant off-street parking, and many local businesses depend on an acceptable level of street parking to effectively conduct business and remain competitive with other areas. A substantial loss of available street parking would drive many businesses away from University Avenue, increase commercial vacancies, and decrease property values. This would be highly detrimental to University Avenue and its wide range of small independent businesses.
The significance of such inconveniences is even greater when social and psychological factors are considered. In going from being able to generally park within one block of most businesses and residences on or near University Avenue, to then having to park several times as far is a significant psychological barrier, not necessarily to everyone but certainly to those to whom convenience is a priority when deciding where to shop, dine, or meet up with friends and co-workers. An example of this is reflected in feedback on the North Park Parking Garage. Though the garage is a good resource, feedback indicates that most people avoid it and will sooner drive for blocks looking for street parking or take their business elsewhere, than deal with paying for parking, navigating the large structure, and walking multiple blocks to their final destination. It's easy to blame drivers for preferring convenience, but this would not change the fact that 90-95% of North Park residents, commuters, and visitors would be greatly inconvenienced by the UAMP and would then tend to look to other areas when deciding where to live, work, shop, dine, or to even just go for a walk.
Walking is also much less appealing on a barren road with no street parking and with buses driving by 2 feet away from the sidewalk, than on a neighborhood-oriented street like 30th Street, Adams Avenue, or the majority of University Avenue as it now is. Thus the UAMP would actually drive away pedestrians and bicyclists – despite its claim to do the opposite.
With the limited road width and relatively high density in the core neighborhood commercial section of University Avenue between 28th Street and Bancroft Street, in finding a trade-off between safety, comfort and convenience, and travel times, travel times are indeed the lower priority. The safety and comfort of residents, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists has to be the top priority. Providing sufficient parking to serve the large number of motorists and the large number of small independent businesses, maintaining North Park's historic style and character, and maintaining safe and comfortable sidewalks are each more important than carving out bus-only lanes in the hope of reducing bus travel times by a couple of minutes or smoothing bus traffic, which comprises less than 1.4% of vehicle traffic and which can leverage far-side bus stop placement and queue jumps to achieve similar results [2, 15].
Encouraging more people to take the bus is a worthy cause and the bus system works well for many use cases, but unfortunately it is often impractical for those who need to make a number of stops or travel large distances that may not be conveniently located near various bus lines. Bus ridership is unlikely to ever exceed 5% of users of University Avenue, and creating bus-only lanes on such a narrow street would do more harm than good. In addition, many North Park businesses serve customers from all over San Diego County, a majority of whom live in places where travelling to North Park by bus would literally take hours. With an area of 4,526 square miles, San Diego County as a whole is not well served by public transportation. Two thirds or more of customers of North Park businesses likely drive to the area, and the success of our diverse range of high-quality local businesses is key to North Park's continued vibrancy.
It is imperative that the above listed unwarranted, unprecedented, and inappropriate changes proposed in the UAMP be unequivocally removed, and that until this occurs that every effort be made to Stop the UAMP by any legal and political means necessary. Once these disadvantages have been removed from the UAMP, the remaining proposals could yield significant improvements to University Avenue.
We would also recommend that the North Park Community Plan Update recommendations move forward, and that any future changes proposed to University Avenue only be done with adequate and timely notification and involvement of the community and all residents, with proper substantiating data and analysis provided by the city and its consultants during this process. We also suggest that any major changes proposed to University Avenue be subject to the same analysis and review as were changes recommended for University Avenue in the Community Plan Update.
David R., former MTS bus driver: Thank you for taking the effort to write up those reasonable thoughts. Hopefully it's not too late to put a stop to this wasteful and harmful plan and implement something better. (That image from the North Park Community Plan* looks good to me.) As a former MTS bus driver, I completely agree that buses do not need dedicated lanes on University Ave. Even putting aside the fact that buses account for a trifling 1.4% of traffic on University, equally important is the fact that dedicated transit lanes would provide quite little benefit yet have a very great cost. The reason buses are slow has very little to do with other traffic. Buses are slow mostly because of the time it takes to stop at so many bus stops and wait for passengers to get on and off the bus (a large percentage of whom are elderly, disabled, homeless carting around their possessions, not ready with their fare, attempting to ride for free and unwilling to disembark when denied a free ride, etc.). Some of this is through no fault of the riders; some is. The point is simply that buses will not run much faster with a dedicated lane. Not in this ex-driver's estimation, at least. As an avid cyclist, I agree that a dedicated bike lane is much preferable to having to look over my shoulder constantly, wondering if a bus is coming up behind me (which I experienced when riding in these types of lanes when I lived in San Francisco). And as someone who enjoys walking North Park, I agree that it's nice to have a buffer of parked cars separating myself from the noise and danger of moving cars (something I had never considered before; good point). The costs to local businesses and residents make the loss of that parallel parking doubly painful. Something definitely needs to be done about University Ave., particularly the installation of a bike lane - which benefits not only cyclists but drivers as well, as it is much less stressful and inconvenient to pass a cyclist when both car and bike each have dedicated lanes. Something needs to be done, but the UAMP isn't the answer.
David R., former MTS bus driver: I feel like people are thinking of this in terms of "Do I support alternative transportation and lifestyle habits other than cars? Then I must support the UAMP. After all, it seems to be de-prioritizing cars." It's really not that simple. The UAMP is indeed de-prioritizing cars, but it's also harming other groups. The UAMP is a loss for cyclists (who could actually have a *dedicated* bike lane). It is a loss for pedestrians (who will no longer have a buffer of parked cars partially protecting them from the noise and danger of moving traffic). It is a loss for University Ave businesses and their customers. University Ave is absolutely in need of a revamp. I ride my bike on it multiple times each week, and every time I fear significantly for my safety. That doesn't mean that the UAMP is the right revamp plan. We can put our $5.8M to better use. The better alternative discussed on northpark.us and in the North Park Community Plan is a solution that, like the UAMP, de-prioritizes cars. It prioritizes biking even more than the UAMP by giving bikes a dedicated lane, rather than forcing bikes to share with buses, and this alternative plan accomplishes these goals with a less negative impact on businesses (lost parking spaces) and pedestrians (lost buffer of parked cars). In my opinion, the UAMP is not the best way to accomplish these goals. It compromises almost all other interest groups for the sake of providing special lanes for buses, which (as a former MTS bus driver) I can tell you will still not make bus transit much faster or more pleasant. The UAMP simply doesn't strike the right balance. Let's put our tax dollars to the best use possible.
Mike F.: I recently had a conversation with someone from Todd Gloria's office. I asked questions about what the status of the plan was, the validity of the plan considering it has take a long time to implement and what to expect. Here is what I picked up: The UAMP is currently being developed. Although there have been setbacks as far as time frame for implementation, it is moving toward being done. Part of the setback has been to allow for North Park to create a PBID (property owners improvement district) that could fund maintenance and beautification along this corridor. Although, it was also felt that those funds could still come from NPPC or MAD funds. The plan also had to take into account an EIR that is complete now. The plan is only at 30% design completion according to the representative that I spoke with. There is only an overlay of what the plan would look like, but it is far from done. According to our conversation though, the plan to have dedicated transit lanes is basically a non negotiable thing. They are now looking into where the best locations would be for traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and the best way to implement those types of things. Gloria's office agrees that there needs to be more information regarding the plan available to the public and they are requesting that from the city.
Paul J.: In Hillcrest the Parking District said any new head-in spaces (145 identified) could not be used to "mitigate" spaces lost on University Ave. The business district then successfully lobbied SANDAG to keep the parking spaces.
Richard K.: When travelling Westbound on University left turns can be made on 32nd and 30th, but nothing in between. I think another left turn between the two streets should be allowed.
Sean M.: Bus lanes are a waste of space 90% of the time that sits empty and unused until the bus comes. Automobile lanes are almost always being used. In my view a lot more drivers would be inconvenienced by the bus lane than bus riders who would benefit from a slightly faster bus trip. Thousands of cars would idle and inch along while getting passed by dozens of half-empty buses.
Sean M.: I have always suspected that bids to restrict road access to private motor vehicles are intended to reduce carbon footprint, but the obvious effect of the resulting gridlock would be increased pollution from idling vehicles. I recommend that those who think gridlock will reduce motor vehicle use consider Los Angeles and Orange County.
Steve B.: Traffic on university directly in front of my business has increased significantly in the last five years. So much so that I often avoid University Ave altogether. Eliminating an entire lane (reduction of 50%) in both directions would create a traffic nightmare.
Riley G.: No bike lanes? As if cyclists don't have it tough enough already. And I can only imagine how bad the traffic would be while construction is going on.
Max C.: We don't want awful hard-scape pink stamped medians all up and down University. Contact a designer to create a beautiful street with landscaping. Please do not do this insane one car lane. This would increase traffic, and reduce quality of life.
Vernon F.: This plan was ill conceived and is certainly outdated. This scheme would have a negative impact on the liveability we have worked so hard to re-establish in North Park. Bike use, now just treacherous, would be doomed with this arrangement, and walkability would suffer with no buffer. Medians would be a huge mistake and would waste 20% of the existing narrow roadway. Dedicated bus lanes are also dead-wrong: 50% of the roadway would be empty 95% of the time. Consider this: The curb-to-curb street width is only 52' along much of this segment, just wide enough for a section like this: 6'|10'|10'|10'|10'|6' (bike|car/parking|car|car|car/parking|bike). The bike lanes are the sidewalk buffer. Restrict left turns. Raised crosswalks at key locations calm traffic and eliminate the need for new signals. This is done elsewhere with spectacular results. The traffic planners and engineers behind this need to travel abroad or even just to Portland and see how the rest of the word elegantly deals with cars, bikes and pedestrians. The city of Copenhagen, on streets generally this width, put bike lanes where parking was (against the curb/sidewalk), slid parking over into what was the right lane, and left 2 lanes for traffic, 1 each way. This began in the 1980's and today 45% of the population commute on bikes.
Sonya S., Owner, The Water Lady, 2527 1/2 University Ave.: We sell water, which is bulky and heavy. It is not practical to transport multiple 5 Gallon jugs to distant parking spaces, or by bicycle or bus. We have a high volume of frequent customers who pull up 7 days a week to get their water. We love North Park but the UAMP is out-of-control and not business friendly. And to not get any feedback or communications from our representatives is disappointing and a slap in the face after all the tax revenue I pay. I did not get anything in the mail about the UAMP and I pay every year to be part of the Business Improvement District. For what? I've spoken to David at Animal House pet store and he and several other businesses said they went to the meetings where they were told this whole thing is a done deal and no sense in trying to change it. It would be interesting to interview the businesses that were impacted by the UAMP already at Alabama Street. They added a median there and removed the street parking over 1 year ago*. Several of these businesses then sold or closed down. The City might as well just notify the businesses along University Avenue that the new structured plan is for beer bars, foot traffic and bike friendly businesses only, all other businesses have 90 days to Move Out! This is how they are treating established businesses who helped grow the community all these years.
Trenton R., SD City Homes, 2828 University Ave.: The drastic reduction in street parking would limit the types of business that wish to locate and operate in our commercial corridor. The last thing we want is a district made up solely of entertainment venues, to the detriment of small retail and service establishments. This plan could amount to, in my opinion, the taking of value of private property and business owners through city action. ... This is NOT beautification of our neighborhood and community members will not stand for turning University Avenue into a desolate cement runway for buses. ... I, like most of the stakeholders in our business district, want to see a green, walkable, bike-friendly, business-friendly environment. We also want to see small, daytime businesses succeed. They are the lifeblood of a business district. Many of these businesses need short-term, close-by parking. We should be able to accommodate a good mix of businesses and reach all of those goals. I ask that you please delay the docketing of the UAMP until its three main problems (No notice provided to current stakeholders; Loss of all parallel parking; Lack of any landscaping on new medians) are addressed satisfactorily.
Dalour Y.: My building at Alabama Street has four businesses including a convenience store that has been in existence prior to World War II. These businesses rely on seven street parking spaces in front of the building for the majority of their business. The UAMP calls for the removal of all these spaces. Parking is and always has been a major issue in North Park and this corner is no different. The removal of these parking spaces would not contribute to safety or walkability and would likely result in the demise of these businesses. Our area has its own share of blight and my wish is not to add my building to the list. I strongly encourage the City to revisit this issue.
We need to stop this plan now, and this will only happen if enough North Park residents contact their representatives and demand that the UAMP be put on hold and not be allowed to proceed any further, until all issues identified here have been adequately addressed to the satisfaction of a majority of current North Park residents. Please contact the below groups, and help spread the word to North Park residents to encourage others to do the same. Be sure to also follow up on all emails, calls, and social media postings and demand that meaningful actions be taken, and ask what other steps you can take to help get these issues fixed.
Also feel free to contact us with comments, feedback, or suggestions on what you like, don't like, or would like to see changed in the UAMP, ideas for better alternatives, or how to best get the word out to the community. Please send emails to info at northpark dot us. Please be as specific as possible and provide references or evidence if possible to strengthen your suggestions and comments. Also let us know if you would like to have your name added to this page as supporting our recommendations and if you would like other comments or feedback posted here. Note however that the most important thing is to please contact your representatives and community groups and let them know that this plan must be stopped.
At the request of several residents we have provided below an example letter that summarizes the issues with the UAMP along with the email addresses of the above groups:
We hope this may be a useful template, but the most important thing is to tell the city government and our representatives and community groups exactly what you want to see changed in the plan. You may be able to communicate that in your own way much better than we have in the above example, thus we recommend using this example letter only as a general guideline. Government and our representatives are here to serve the public, not the other way around. Just because a bad plan was somehow approved based on limited community input from years ago does not mean that the city government can now ignore residents and ignore common sense.
The burden of proof in justifying the UAMP is on the city – not on residents. If a significant number of people tell the city that this is a bad plan and propose a better way to achieve the same benefits without the downsides (as we have done here), the burden is then on the city to clearly prove why such an approach is not better, regardless of whether certain aspects of their plan were previously "approved" or not. The amount of community input on this was very limited. The vast majority of residents never received anything in the mail informing them that the UAMP was being planned or that there was a time limit on community feedback. If the city will now simply ignore all such input or refuse to look at our requests in a meaningful way, it will be up to residents to each stand their ground and say "no you are not going to do that to our neighborhood" and demand that the city do what the majority of North Park residents want.
Below is the street profile proposed by the UAMP, followed by examples of what would be much more appropriate for University Avenue.
The UAMP documents provide only the low-resolution image above 
A much better plan for University Avenue. Image from the North Park Community Plan . This common configuration is used throughout San Diego on streets including 30th Street, Adams Avenue, and University Avenue East of the 805, some of which have higher traffic counts than University Avenue in North Park
Another example from the North Park Community Plan
The latter two examples are decades ahead of what the UAMP proposes in terms of functionality, safety, and aesthetics. Traffic counts on these streets are similar , 21,600/day for University Avenue between 30th and 32nd Streets – vs. 21,100/day for Adams Avenue between 35th Street and the 15, and 24,600/day on University Avenue in City Heights between the 805 and Swift Avenue, the latter of which have 3 traffic lanes, dedicated bike lanes, street parking, no bus-only lanes, and the same overall mix of traffic as in North Park. These examples would clearly accommodate the traffic counts of University Avenue in North Park while having none of the negatives of the UAMP.
Bus maps and schedules available on the MTS website show that University Avenue has only two bus routes – the 7 and 10. The number of stops in both directions for both routes totals to an average daily number of 307 buses, which is one bus per approximately 9.5 minutes in each direction, or per 5 minutes in either direction. On weekdays during peak times this number is closer to 17 buses per hour, which is one bus per 7 minutes in each direction. In University Avenue's highest traffic area between 32nd Street and the 805 the average daily traffic count is 22,700 . Dividing this by the number of buses gives a ratio of cars to buses of 74 to 1. In other words, buses account for only 1.35% of vehicle traffic along University Ave.
Would it be justified to create bus-only lanes, remove all parallel parking, provide no dedicated bike lanes, reduce pedestrian and bike safety, and turn University Avenue into a barren transit corridor, so that traffic might be slightly reduced for a transportation mode that accounts for less than 1.4% of traffic volume? The UAMP apparently overlooked this data, and its proposals for bus-only lanes, no parallel parking, and no dedicated bike lanes are clearly inappropriate for University Ave.
Relative to parallel parking which typically accommodates 1 car per 22 to 25 feet of curb length, diagonal parking (45°) can accommodate 1 car per ~13'4", and head-in parking can accommodate 1 car per 10'. With a limited road width however it is not possible to have head-in parking on both sides of a street. A block with 500 feet of available parking space on each side and a 52 foot road width can potentially accommodate the following numbers of parking spaces:
|Parking Configuration||Potential Number of|
Spaces per Block
|Gain Relative to|
|Parallel parking both sides||43||-|
|Diagonal parking both sides||75||74%|
|Head-in one side, parallel on the other||71||65%|
Comparing streets adjacent to University Avenue such as Kansas Street which has diagonal parking, and Illinois Street which now has head-in on one side and parallel parking on the other, reveals that the former is not only more space efficient but has greatly improved aesthetics, visibility and safety. If one side of a street does not have as much curb length available for parking due to a large number of driveways or loading zones, a parallel + head-in arrangement may be a better fit, but in the case of Illinois Street the side with head-in parking actually has more driveways and less space, thus diagonal parking on both sides would have been much more optimal.
The exact number of spaces that can be optimally fit onto a given street can vary widely depending on a number of factors but it's clear that in all cases diagonal parking on both sides will provide better visibility and safety, and in a vast majority of cases will provide better space efficiency.
The below graphic showing a page from the UAMP PowerPoint presentation with a Stop the UAMP meme overlaid is provided here so that a thumbnail image will appear when sharing this webpage on Facebook and other social media sites. Please share this page (www.northpark.us/uamp/) to Facebook, Twitter, etc. and in messages and emails. #stoptheuamp
This page was created by David Gleason, owner of two North Park businesses and CTO of a San Diego satellite communications company. David has been a North Park resident since 1994, owns both residential and commercial real estate in North Park and has been an electrical, systems, and software engineer since 1993, managing engineering projects and development for customers including Caterpillar, Volvo Trucks, Komatsu, and numerous industrial, transportation, and telecommunications companies.
David is an advocate of all modes of transportation. He used to race BMX bikes in the 80s, owns an electric bike, rides a skateboard now and then, and frequently walks or bikes all over North & South Park, Balboa Park, Golden Hill, Downtown, Hillcrest, Mission Hills, University Heights, City Heights, Normal Heights, Kensington, Mission Valley and beyond.
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