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Council Approves Mission Valley Community Plan Update

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The San Diego City Council Tuesday unanimously approved an update to the Mission Valley Community Plan, which calls for increased mixed-use development that is pedestrian-friendly and helps residents make better use of public transit.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego City Council has approved a plan that could in the next 30 years transform mission valley. The plan will allow an increase of 28,000 housing units, including a new emphasis on mixed use zones for businesses. The new community plan approved by the council would also rezone areas within mission valley, which could bring in an additional 20,000 jobs. The entire plan with a river walk, parks, pedestrian and bicycle paths and visions. A new kind of neighborhood for San Diego. Joining me is Jennifer van Grove reporter who covers growth and development at the San Diego Union Tribune. And Jennifer, welcome. Hello. So the mission valley community plan passed the council unanimously, right? Why did council members and Mayor Kevin Faulkner show such support for what is really a very ambitious plan?

Speaker 2: 00:51 Well, it checks all the boxes for them, right? So there's all these climate action goals and it goes back to the city's general plan, which focuses on urban villages, right? So San Diego wants a city of urban villages and this community plan is really focused on urban villages. So right now mission valley is extremely car centric. And the city would point to the old community plan as the reason for that. So that was adopted in 1985 kind of centered around the automobile. This time around. The goal is kind decenter the plan around transit, so they have that trolley line that runs straight through mission valley, but also to create the infrastructure for bikers, for walkers and for people to get to the trolley stations a little bit more efficiently. And so to do that they've kind of divvied up mission valley into four different urban villages. There's the Western Mission Valley verus central, which is the central business district. There's eastern, which has higher densities, and then there's south of IAA, which is all commercial. And so in doing so, each little village has its own character, but the idea is to get people to kind of live and work in the same place so they don't have to take car trips outside of mission valley as often

Speaker 1: 02:08 done. Yeah. The community plan update would bring approximately 50,000 more residents in the area. How can mission valley handle that? Yeah,

Speaker 2: 02:16 that's a question with an answer. I think we'll have to wait to see. But city planners, I'm Nancy Graham who led the effort on behalf of the city. They really see this as an opportunity to right a balance. So they would say mission valley right now is a city of commuters. So two thirds of people are commuting and only one third are residents. So they've established a mixed use zone, which is brand new. This city mission valley will be the first community where they implement this zone. And that zone is, is it gives developers a little bit more certainty about their project. Um, so they can do what's called, um, a ministerial permit applications, right? So they know if they apply for a permit, they're going to get that they can build their projects, but within that zone they can do flexible, they have flexibility to do housing, but also office and, and just kind of mix it up if they need to change the character of, of their project.

Speaker 2: 03:12 And so in doing that, the idea is to kind of right the balance bring mission valley's residential population up, um, and kind of level off the, the working side. So, so you have kind of this 50, 50 balance. If people work in mission valley, they won't have to necessarily leave mission valley to get to the jobs which is happening right now and they won't have to drive on the freeway, which is already a nightmare. It's a nightmare. And um, the environmental impact report doesn't, uh, necessarily give us any hope that will be less of a nightmare. Um, I believe, you know, I can't remember the number, but most freeway segments are going to be significantly impacted and same, same with a lot of the major roadways. However, um, there are two new roadway connections that are a part of this. Two new streets, they're a little bit controversial because they crossed the San Diego River, which also blows through all of Mission Valley and environmentalist don't like whenever you have a structure that crosses the river because it affects the habitat.

Speaker 2: 04:11 But these north south connections are in dire need in mission valley. So Scott Sherman, this is his district, he would say that as well as um, Nancy Graham and other people in the city's planning office. But they would take pressure off the east west connections, which we all know, friars road, um, and some of the other east west connections. It's kind of, those are the main arteries right now and there's not a lot of ways to travel across the river. And so by creating these two new connections, one through the future riverwalk development, which will replace the golf course that's there now. Um, so that's on the west side. And then one also on the east side, I'm complaining the connection of Fenton Parkway, which has been envisioned for a very long time. The San Diego River plays a very big role in this transformation of, of mission valley, doesn't it?

Speaker 2: 04:59 Oh, absolutely. So the river is supposed to be kind of the inspiration almost for the plan. It's the organizational spine, so to speak. And the planners really hope that in crafting this plan, they've given developers and incentive to celebrate the river. They want to see what's called the San Diego River pathway completed. So right now, um, as a pedestrian or biker, there are paths that start and stop along the San Diego River, um, from the coast to the hills. But the goal is to get developers who do new projects that are adjacent to the river. Um, so in using this mixed use zone, they'll have to create pedestrian paseos that connect to this pathway and then also maybe absorb some of the cost of the pathway so it's ideally completed, right. And so part of it, we're going to see through the, the SDSU project that that's also in the planning stages over for, um, the stadium site, but river walk that the Heinz developer there, they're going to be responsible for their portion.

Speaker 2: 05:59 So ultimately as properties come up for redevelopment along the river, the developers will then have to take on some of the costs to get these, this bike way completed, essentially. And then the thinking is, okay, the river can be an asset as opposed to an afterthought. What, where does the new mission valley stadium fit into all this? Well, it's, it's complicated and some might say it's, it doesn't fit in enough. Um, so if you look at the community plan, planners have essentially created what, um, one urban planner, uh, expert called a black box for the SDSU mission valley plan. But, um, they, so the plan did study the environmental impacts of the program that SDSU is proposing for that site. So they would say, no, they're not ignoring that project, but at the same time, the community plan states, okay, this particular area, it's going to be developed through a site plan or a campus master plan, which has, you know, STCU is going through the CAS campus master plan process right now to be announced it. I had been speaking with Jennifer Grand Grove. She's a reporter who covers growth and development at the San Diego Union Tribune. And Jennifer, thank you so much. Thank you.

Speaker 3: 07:18 Uh.

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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.