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Coming to Grantville: More affordable housing … and wider roads?

Officials broke ground today on a new affordable housing project next to San Diego's Grantville trolley station. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen takes a closer look at that project, and how it fits into the surrounding neighborhood.

Local and California government officials broke ground Monday on a new 126-unit affordable housing complex right next to San Diego's Grantville trolley station.

The project from developer Affirmed Housing will offer one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments guaranteed to be affordable to households earning between 30% and 60% of the county's median income. That would translate to between $36,350 and $72,720 for a family of four.

Construction is already underway on 250 market rate apartments right next door. Both complexes are part of a push from the Metropolitan Transit System to build more housing on the agency's real estate — in particular, on underutilized trolley station parking lots.

"This housing will be perfectly placed," County Supervisor and MTS Chairman Nathan Fletcher said at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday. "As MTS, we identify the land, we work with incredible partners and we are thrilled to bring this to fruition and get it going."

RELATED: MTS Approves Affordable And Student-Oriented Housing On Trolley Parking Lot

But step outside the trolley station and into the neighborhood of Grantville and you'll find wide arterial streets busy with impatient drivers — a far cry from the pedestrian paradise envisioned in the city's Climate Action Plan. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said the neighborhood has to change.

"Right now, folks only have a car to get around Grantville," Gloria said. "And I think that we owe it to them to provide the pedestrian, bicycle and mass transit opportunities that will further help enhance this community, make it a better place for everyone to live and work."

Yet as hostile as the streets of Grantville can be for pedestrians and cyclists, San Diego has plans to make them even more car-centric. In May 2021 the city produced a study called the Alvarado Canyon Road Realignment Project, which calls for widening many of the streets surrounding the trolley station to accommodate more traffic.

Last year Gloria promised to review such road widening projects to determine whether they're consistent with his climate and traffic safety goals.

RELATED: San Diego Pledged To Shift Away From Cars. So Why Is It Still Widening Roads?

"It's a status quo that has to be questioned," Gloria said of the widening proposals in Grantville. "And that's a difference from the past, where a traffic study would tell you what to do and you did it. I think now we have to examine these things within the lens of climate equity."

Still, the mayor declined to say whether he agreed with the specific road widening proposals included in the Alvarado Canyon Road Realignment Project. Cost estimates for the project range from $19.6 million to $46.2 million, depending on which design alternative the city would select.

The city has another study of the Grantville trolley station area that would leave the width of the roads untouched while improving pedestrian and bike access, mitigating flood risk and beautifying the adjacent Alvarado Creek. The Alvarado Creek Revitalization Study, completed in 2017, would cost an estimated $10.4 million.