Jeff Clemetson | Editor
Because of a light agenda with no action items to vote on, the Mission Valley Planning Group used its Oct. 3 meeting to hear a progress report from the Mission Valley Community Plan Update Subcommittee.
Nancy Graham, city of San Diego community planner for Mission Valley, started the presentation by giving an overview of what the subcommittee has already accomplished. The subcommittee formed last fall and starting in the spring it held a kickoff meeting, a community vision meeting, a Planning Commission workshop, stakeholder interviews, a design professionals workshop, and by summer the subcommittee began its regular meetings.
The update is currently in Phase 3, which consists of doing online outreach for input from the community and holding workshops on land-use alternatives.
“The last few months we’ve been putting together the building blocks of what [land-use alternatives] will look like,” she said. “When those are ready, they will go to subcommittee and then a community-wide workshop.”
At that workshop, the three alternatives will be combined and compromised into a preferred alternative. When the preferred alternative is done, it will come before the board for an endorsement because the final plan is written around the preferred alternative.
“What we don’t want to do is be writing the plan without the endorsement of the board that this is the direction that we want to be going,” Graham said, adding that there may be a vote on the preferred alternative in the near future.
Subcommittee member Elizabeth Leventhal then gave a presentation on the goals of the Community Plan Update for mobility, recreation and urban form. Those goals include improving the pedestrian and bicycling experience; having a river focus that includes community open spaces and more active recreation facilities; creating a diverse mix of land uses while reinforcing the regional commerce; creating more housing options, including affordable housing; and creating a more “general urban experience.”
Leventhal also outlined circulation improvements the plan would focus on such as different roadway connections, pedestrian/bicycle connections and potential new bridges along the river trail.
The subcommittee looked at dividing the valley into three areas – west, central and east, Leventhal said. The west side would be lower density with a nature preserve, parks, commercial and residential areas. The central area would be high density with a central business district, main street and mixed-use development. The east side would be medium density with parks, civic uses, mixed-use developments, a potential university or college, and potential entertainment-type facilities.
Andrew Michajlenko, another subcommittee member, said the committee looked at several concepts for development in Mission Valley.
A corridor concept would consist of an urban street with storefronts along the street and housing or offices above. This would create a central core for the valley and then there would be other areas east and west with different development.
The node concept would be “essentially like a string of pearls along the river” with higher density developments scattered throughout the valley with lower density developments between them.
A river edge approach would focus all the development along the San Diego River, and a district campus approach was mentioned as a possibility for Qualcomm Stadium.
Michajlenko then presented a drawing of what a possible redevelopment area might look like. The subcommittee focused on low-density and undervalued areas in Mission Valley to focus on first because they are the most likely to be redeveloped, he said. The site he presented was the area along Friars Road, north of the river, east of Hazard Center, west of Civita and south of the Fenton property.
The mockup of the area used large urban blocks and because of the unlikelihood of Mission Valley adding new roadways, the planners used existing roadways but added pedestrian pathways and greenspace to connect back to the river, Michajlenko said. Also in the drawing, the Food4Less center would become a mixed-use development and Mission Center Road would be transformed into an urban Main Street.
Michajlenko reminded the board that this was just one of many potential plans as the subcommittee goes forward.
“But this is a glimpse into where we’re heading,” he said.
Graham said the presentation was to give a picture of what a dense urban core could function as and allow people to see what a future Mission Valley could be and provide context for creating the alternatives, which is the next step in creating the Community Plan Update.
Graham then took questions and comments from the Planning Group board.
Marco Sessa asked why the presentation did not include a study on the impacts and effects of development and pointed to the need to improve sewage lines and other infrastructure if density increases in Mission Valley.
Graham replied that the subcommittee can’t model a study until some assumptions are made on what future plan could look like first.
Randall Dolph encouraged subcommittee to do a model for the stadium area.
“That is the one thing — over the next however many years it will take to redevelop — that the community plan will probably have its biggest impact on helping to mold that.”
Graham said the subcommittee has purposely avoided focusing on the Qualcomm site because of the uncertainty surrounding its future.
“The position of the city is that it is premature to put pictures out there when voters have not gotten to weigh in [on the Chargers stadium ballot measures],” she said. “So we have been intentionally silent on this issue because it’s not fair.”
Even though the Qualcomm Stadium site will potentially be the most affected by the Community Plan Update, Graham reminded the board that it is still important to continue the work.
“There is an incredible amount of redevelopment pressure in other areas of Mission Valley and [redevelopment projects] will continue under the existing plan if the future of the update is 100 percent tied to [the stadium] site,” she said, adding that getting bogged down by the stadium could turn the update into a 10-year process as opposed to a three-year effort.
In the meantime, Graham said, the subcommittee will continue to focus on the underutilized areas like the Park in the Valley shopping center by the trolley station, a property on the south side of Interstate 8, and the Veterans Affairs Hospital site.
Because Mission Valley has unique roadways that do not fit on a traditional grid, the subcommittee is challenged in creating a cohesive plan, but it is also creates an opportunity to improve Mission Valley.
“So when you look at development, [Mission Valley’s layout] points different directions, so development doesn’t all fall in line with one another,” Graham said. “Because of that, the plan has an opportunity to create an organizing framework so as new development comes along, it starts reflecting its neighbors better than it does now.”
For more information on the Mission Valley Community Plan Update, visit bit.ly/1NAqQuN.
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.