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San Diego’s Fifth Avenue May Become Car-Free ‘Gaslamp Promenade’

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A plan is in the works make a stretch of Fifth Avenue in downtown San Diego car-free and pedestrian friendly, modeled after other car-free zones such as the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

Speaker 1: 00:00 A plan is in the works to make a stretch of fifth Avenue in downtown San Diego. Car-free and pedestrian friendly. The walkway would extend from Broadway to L street and be patterned on a similar car free zone such as the third street promenade in Santa Monica. They S Gaslamp promenade has the backing of the gas line quarter association and some city leaders, but there are some kinks that need to be worked out like financing, business deliveries and trash pickup. Joining me is David Garrick who cover city hall for the San Diego union Tribune. David, welcome. Thanks for having me. What's the vision for this pedestrian promenade? What would it look like?

Speaker 2: 00:42 Uh, it would be basically an eight block stretch of a pedestrian Plaza with street art and uh, street furniture, trees, painted murals and maybe some outdoor entertainment venues with, you know, buskers singing. Uh, it's something that they hope would be a magnet that would make, uh, the gas lamp even more of a tourist attraction and even more popular with locals than it already is.

Speaker 1: 01:05 Is this idea coming from the business community in the Gaslamp quarter?

Speaker 2: 01:09 It is. They've spent quietly, they'd been working out the kinks of this for about a year and a half. They told me they didn't want to let it out of the bag and told, they felt that they had every a T crossed and every I dotted, cause they want everyone to buy in. It needs to have unanimous support for it to make sense and for it to work.

Speaker 1: 01:25 Uh, and who else supports this idea?

Speaker 2: 01:28 A Councilman, Chris ward. I don't know if he officially supports it, but he's certainly enthusiastic and he's been talking about it, uh, around town. Uh, and the downtown San Diego downtown partnership supports it. Uh, and the question is whether the mayor and the city council will end up approving it because it's got a roughly $40 million price tag.

Speaker 1: 01:45 How do supporters say this kind of a promenade would benefit the city?

Speaker 2: 01:49 I think the idea is that, ah, you a little Italy's kind of stolen some of the thunder of the Gaslamp quarter. They had their own little one block stretch of, of a pedestrian Plaza. Uh, and while the gas lamp is certainly a success and certainly conventioneers go there, um, it's maybe not as popular as people would like it to be and I think this will make it an easier place to walk around. It'll be a public gathering place. I think it'll become a magnet, uh, and a place that people can really gather. It will be sort of a gathering place and a destination.

Speaker 1: 02:18 You say it would cost about $40 million. Where would that money come from?

Speaker 2: 02:22 Well, according to the gas damn quarter association, they're confident they can get federal and state grants and some money from the counties, regional plan planning agency, the San Diego association of governments. I'm not sure how that will happen. You know, if that Phil end up managing to do that and the $40 million is a really, I think a vague price tag. I think no one's really sure exactly what this is going to cost. There's a lot of moving parts.

Speaker 1: 02:45 No, apparently among the problems that need to be sorted out, our store deliveries and trash pickup on fifth Avenue. Tell us about that.

Speaker 2: 02:53 Yeah, there's one thing it's interesting about San Diego is a lot of downtowns have an alley behind the main commercial, you know, thoroughfare. But San Diego does not have alleys. So all these businesses must get all of their deliveries through the front door and they must have all the trash picked up, you know, on the, in the front. And so, uh, taking cars off of fifth Avenue would make that a major problem. Even FedEx deliveries and other issues like that. So the idea is that while there won't be cars allowed on fifth Avenue during sort of business hours, uh, they may be allowed between something like three and 11:00 AM so that way, you know, the bars would close at 2:00 AM and one hour later delivery for the next day would happen. And then at 11:00 AM those deliveries will all have to be completed because it's time for the lunch crowd to start coming in.

Speaker 1: 03:37 And are there other obstacles to this plan?

Speaker 2: 03:40 Um, well getting support is certainly an obstacle. Uh, and another element would be if you're going to allow cars during certain hours, where are you going to locate the public art and the trees and the murals and the street furniture? Because some of those would be not moveable. And so you'd have to sort a strategically placed the unmovable objects where they wouldn't interfere with the cars during those early morning delivery hours.

Speaker 1: 04:04 Would this be a strictly pedestrian walkway or would bicycles and maybe scooters be allowed?

Speaker 2: 04:11 That's another huge issue that has to be dealt with console. And Chris ward said he'd like to see if possible a especil protected bike lane that as scooters might also be able to use. I talked to the head of the downtown residents group though, and he doesn't want scooters anywhere near this pedestrian Plaza. He didn't mention bikes. So I think that will be something that'll have to be sorted out. Um, I think, I think to a lot of folks, it makes sense to have bikes and scooters be allowed to go down this as a commuting option because there's trolley, uh, lines on both sides of it. But if it's not wide enough and it's gonna limit the sort of the pedestrian freedom, then maybe it won't happen.

Speaker 1: 04:46 The effort to create a Gaslamp promenade is in its first steps. What has been done so far?

Speaker 2: 04:52 Well the Gaslamp quarter and like I'd mentioned earlier, I spent some time quietly, you know, working behind the scenes. They hired an architecture firm, one of the leading local firms, carrier Johnson, and they hired an engineering firm to explore some of the details and the hurdles and the problems and they've sort of been gathering a public support. They made sure that apparently what I've been told there was dissension early on among the merchants downtown with retailers being more supportive of this then bars and restaurants. But apparently they've managed to make sure that everyone is now, at least in some what support. So a, they've been behind the scenes creating support, hiring the right firms to study it and just trying to get all the T's and I's a teeth crossed and I's dotted so they're ready to present it to the city full, full blown. And when does that happen? There's a meeting scheduled for November 8th that'll be sort of a first steps meeting, but a lot of times those are really important meetings because you know the city's going to give them an initial yay or nay and get a real feel for how it's going to work.

Speaker 1: 05:50 I've been speaking with David Garrick who covers city hall for the San Diego union Tribune. David, thank you. Thanks.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.