By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
At the June 1 meeting of the Mission Valley Planning Group, residents and board members debated the merits of a road proposed to connect Serra Mesa and Mission Valley through the Civita development.
Seth Litchney from the San Diego City Planning Department presented the findings of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) for the connector road that would extend Franklin Ridge Road to meet up with Phyllis Place. The road has been controversial because the Mission Valley Community Plan includes the road but the Serra Mesa Community Plan does not.
San Diego City Council initiated an amendment to the Serra Mesa Community Plan to include the connector, which offered another option to get to Friars Road from Serra Mesa, Litchney said.The proposed road would be four lanes wide and have bike and pedestrian features.
The PEIR analyzed the road’s impact to land use, air quality, noise and biology, and concluded they could be mitigated. However, the report found traffic could not be mitigated on connecting streets, highways and intersections.
“The impact on traffic would remain significant and unavoidable,” Litchney said.
Board member John Laraia said the subcommittee of the planning group that looked at the PEIR voted 4 to 1 in favor of recommending to approve the road but with a contingency clause to address problems with the report.
He then motioned to support road construction “in theory” as described in the [PEIR] but also ask the city to further address the following areas: increase discussion on noise impact concerns; address the Bike Master Plan; address the quantitative analysis on the no road alternative, specifically as to how a no road alternative will impact other connection points in Mission Valley; show clearly how traffic is reduced with the connection; address Caltrans on metering light cueing at the Duboce Place/Interstate 805 ramp; and correct apparent inconsistencies in the executive summary.
The motion then brought discussion among the planning group as well as from community members who came to speak in favor of or against the road construction.
Board member Josh Weiselberg spoke against building the road and was the lone vote against approving the PEIR in the subcommittee. He said that it would be better to encourage more development of light rail rather than build roads that encourage car traffic and suggested that the Mission Valley Community Plan should be amended to match Serra Mesa’s and have no road.
Laraia agreed that mass transit is preferred but that the planners should work with what they have at the moment.
“Today we have … freeways and connections to those freeways and the fewer connections you have, the more back up you have, and the more connections, you have traffic flowing better,” he said, adding that the report on this road has been worked on for more than 30 years.
“Well for 30 years they’ve been working on a bad idea,” Weiselberg said.
Bryce Niceswangler, a local resident, said she read the entire PEIR and noted the report stated that the connector road will not improve the level of service, currently graded F, on existing roads leading to Interstates 8 and 805.
“My conclusion … is to not recommend the Serra Mesa Plan be amended based on the facts that the alternatives are not comprehensive, [the PEIR] does not meet the proposed goals and is fundamentally inadequate.”
Board member Deborah Bossmeyer said she was not necessarily against the road, but voiced concern about how it will affect the residents along Via Alta, which will also be connected to Serra Mesa by the proposed road.
“The difference between Via Alta and all these others is you have doorsteps walking right out onto [the street],” she said, adding that bedrooms and balconies in those residences also face the street.
Marco Sessa, a senior vice president for Sudberry Properties, said Civita has two transportation phasing plans.
“One says everything that we have to do if the road connection is in and one says all the different things we have to do if the project doesn’t have a road connection,” he said, explaining that without the road connection, improvements need to be made at places like Mission Center Drive and Interstate 8 and the Friars Road connections to State Route 163 and Interstate 15.
“At the end, they all cost the same, which is about $50 million worth of work that has Civita funding for,” he said.
Paul Brown voiced his support for the PEIR, pointing to the time and money spent on it and that the city must “rely on something” to make its decision.
Rob Hutsel supported the PEIR because it was part of the Mission Valley Plan, but voiced frustration over the process.
“It is unfortunate that any of us are in a pickle like this,” he said. “Two community groups should not be pitted against each other. It should not happen.”
The board took a vote on the motion to recommend the PEIR, which ended in a 7-7 tie. That means the report will go in front of the San Diego Planning Commission without a recommendation unless the planning group decides to take the issue up again.
Litchney said the commission will take comments on the PEIR under consideration. Comments must be submitted in writing by June 20, sent to: Seth Litchney, City Planner, City of San Diego Planning Department, 1010 Second Ave. MS 413, San Diego, CA 92101.
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.