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Another Turning Point For Mission Valley

August 22, 2017 1:17 p.m.

Another Turning Point For Mission Valley


Rob Hutsel, president, San Diego Riverpark Foundation

Related Story: Another Turning Point For Mission Valley


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Mission Valley has reached a turning point. Land construction of more housing has expected to turn it into a community -- a place to live. Traffic congestion and a shortage of good public spaces and schools and parks make a lot of people wonder why he would want to live there. In the second of a two-part series, Tom fudge looks at what is missing -- missing in mission Valley.

Target and Best Buy are 200 yards apart. It is surprisingly hard to get from one to the other by foot, bike, or car when they are separated by fences and a road. This isolation of big block stores -- big box stores is seen all over -- often the connecting road between the places is the high-traffic road which is hard to cross. Mike is a faculty member at San Diego school of architecture and says mission Valley was developed as a series of islands.

We looked at everything on a project by project basis. This is an island -- you are building a shopping center. We didn't think about how it connected to the housing next door the stuff across the street.

He calls Friars Road disaster that doesn't solve congestion, but promotes a. He thinks the greenline probably needs more stops and he says it also has to be easier to find the trolley stops which are often hidden with no obvious path. The lack of roads connecting North and South in the Valley exit hard to navigate on a bike or on foot.

Step is optimistic because the market is making it clear that reliance on cars and an oversupply of empty parking lots is unprofitable. He said the answer seems to be housing either but it -- a better way to get around the Valley.

It has the potential for this. If the market recognizes that, maybe the push will be to make improvements that we know are needed. We just haven't done this yet.

Today the market tells us that retail -- the decades long force in mission Valley is over Bill. The rise of online shopping is hurting department stores and big box stores around the country. The closure of Macy's at the mission Valley Mall is an example.

Nancy Graham is the project manager for the mission Valley community plan update. She said nobody will tell you that retail is going away.

We want to keep retail is a thriving use but we want to right size it. As you downsize the stores to fit the market, it leaves this available space. The question is, what should we fill that in with?

Another thing driving this process the city I'm at action plan. Nearly all of mission Valley is defined as a transit corridor. This means they need to create developments that reduce vehicle miles traveled. Graham said you do this by making it easier to walk by taking mass transit. You do this by reducing the amount of parking by converting parking lots two different uses. How do you get to Best Buy? Needs to be a network of pedestrian paths to connect the lots.

Graham spoke on the back veranda of the library. The view shows the trolley in the foreground the river in the background. I am hopes in the end that mission Valley will becomes a special place as the library.

It's one of the most beautiful buildings in mission Valley and at the Trevor -- I treasure. The community wants to see development investing in creating a special place whether it be through architecture or whether it is creating new Park space along the River. Really creating a place that you want to be as opposed to a place you drive through.

Reporter: The head of the Riverpark foundation said his goal is to see the development of 60 acres of Riverpark land in the mission Valley whether it is on the old QUALCOMM State a lot or elsewhere. Is a member of the planning group and when asked how the plan was going he said --

It's sausage. All these pieces come together. They look terrible. But, hopefully, the city will guide you through a process and by the end it makes a lot of sense. Bike, it doesn't make a lot of sense now.

Tom fudge, KPBS.

Joining me is the head of the Riverpark foundation and a member of the planning group. Welcome.

Thank you.

Can you expand on your sausage comment? Fact that what is being proposed doesn't make sense now. What is it that doesn't make sense about the plans as they stand now?

I lock sausage. -- I like sausage. It's an interesting process. Everyone has an idea. Everybody wants to see them committed right away and is not the way it works. You talk and talk and to listen to other people. It doesn't make sense in the direction. But the city staff is supposed to listen and take it all in and at some point come up with a logical plan. The process is a little unnerving in the sense that you don't know what the outcome will be until you start to take bows. We have never taken a vote on anything although we have been in the process for some time now.

Is one of the impediments to the plan -- what is going to happen to the Qualcomm site ?

Yes. With has been put on hold until the proposal was decided not to be taken to the special election. When that happened the green light was to talk about it. This is interesting as I would've thought we would've talked about it two years ago to get ahead of the discussion and shape the discussion. We were reactive.

Reporter: You support the plans for Riverwalk?

Support is a strong word. We worked with them a lot. Accepted our adopted position about what should happen. We have embraced that. We will work with any partner who proposes anything to work toward the goal. They said publicly they would endorse that. The vision we have.

Reporter: If the soccer city proposal goes away for one reason or another, do you see another way that a large Riverpark could be developed and funded in mission Valley?

May be not. The investor set a high bar. They have offered a lot beyond what traditional developers would offer. For example, they offered up to $52.5 million for public parks beyond what they were expected to do. That is a lot of money.

Another developer would necessarily have to do that. They offered to manage the lands as long as they were there. That is a big financial commitment. In a time when the city is always worrying about their resources it was a wonderful thing to see.

Reporter: You've gotten permits to build an educational facility that you hope will be a hub for Riverpark. Tell us about that.

We are closed -- it has been in permitting for 3 1/2 years for an education facility. It's right on the river. It's a 10,000 square foot building on a 17 acre lot donated by a wonderful family. We see it as the hub of the center of mission Valley where the neighborhood will come together and start to think about the river and celebrate it and see it as what it is -- really, our birthplace. Where our entire community was born. It's an important thing. As we talk about this, it is in the back of a parking lot or behind a fence.

Reporter: Does the Riverpark foundation have an overall scenario of what a Riverpark should be and what it should look like?

Absolutely. We work closely with San Diego and the County and the forest service on different sections of the river. It is 52 miles long. In the city of San Diego we were card and they adopted a few years ago the master plan which set the vision. It talks about guidelines more than specific plans of what the park should look like.

Reporter: Supportive are you of the goal of a higher density residential buildout in mission Valley?

I am to appoint. Mission Valley is transitioning from what it was 50 years ago -- it was still calls and farms and those sorts of things. It has transitioned from a regional center for hotels and the regional shopping centers progressing to the next phase. The next phase is going to be a community of people. It will have to provide services. If we don't have schools like a lot of communities -- I am supportive of this. How much density? They are talking 50,000 just 10,000-20,000 more. The impact of where you put them and how you provide the transportation they will need, that is a concern to me, sure, but also an exciting opportunity to really have the vision we talked about for 16 years. For others maybe longer.

Reporter: You do see a conflict between the aim of this region with the goal of a Riverpark wax

Yes, a potential. There is a way to fund this. If you look at the golf course it's a great example. Talking with the owners of that, they are proposing up to 80 acres of parkland.

So, think about that. If they care for it and care for the river in that process, all of a sudden we are celebrating the river. And we will have more people to care about it and more people that will take better care of it. That's what the mission is -- to engage people with the river. We are excited about this. The opportunities have dark side. If we don't do it well it will be worse

Reporter: The river makes itself known -- one problem with the river -- the mission Valley -- big storms, and the area flood. There has been work to mitigate that but is that a natural part of living near the river?


The reality is, we can plan for it. Riverwalk is a great example -- I'm passionate about this issue of whether we want to build an area that is narrow in a control channel which leads to other issues such as bridges across the river, or should be captured the expensive flood plane that exists at Riverwalk and save it as parkland? By doing this we can do a better job for the river and for the community.

I was speaking with the head of the San Diego Riverpark foundation. Thank you.

My pleasure.