By Ken Williams | Editor
Owners of Park in the Valley, a strip shopping center along Camino de la Reina in Mission Valley, are asking city planners to modify existing permits to add more restaurants than currently allowed.
The sprawling Park in the Valley shopping center stretches from Best Buy on the east side of Mission Center Road to Staples on the west side of Camino del Este. The shopping center is bounded on the north by the San Diego River and the trolley tracks, and is served by the Mission Valley Center trolley station.
On the Border, Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza & Grill, Panda Express, The Kebab Shop Mission Valley and a Starbucks are among the restaurants and coffee shops already operating on the property.
According to the notice: “The project is proposing to modify condition 2(a) to change the ratio of retail use to restaurant use and condition 2(b) to utilize the current San Diego Municipal Code parking regulations.”
The department gave 10 business days for any responses. Because the request falls under a low-level Process Two review, the department is allowed to make a decision without a public hearing no less than 11 business days after the notice was issued. Mission Valley News could not confirm with Francisco Mendoza, the city project manager assigned to the request, by press time on what the department decided.
However, Ziebarth and another associate appeared before the voluntary Mission Valley Planning Group on May 4 to seek its blessing. Planning group members grilled them about various issues, mostly related to the proposed loss of parking from the existing 1,046 spots and the possibility of an increase in traffic in an area of Mission Valley that is often congested. The massive Westfield Mission Valley Mall is directly across the street from Park in the Valley.
Although Ziebarth framed the request by stressing that no new development would be added to the property, a number of the volunteer planners appeared concerned that the owners were trying to make “an end run” to change the rules to their advantage without clearly showing why there was a need to amend them. One planner questioned whether the change would impact taxes the city collects on the property, for example.
Ziebarth came to the meeting without a PowerPoint or a hand-out showing what the owners had in mind. He said they were “trying to create more outdoor public space” and a plaza, but there were no maps or diagrams to illustrate what he was talking about.
“This is one of the most important retail spaces in Mission Valley,” said Nancy Graham, the city planner who advises the local planning group. “And there’s a trolley stop right there.”
Ziebarth said they wanted to eliminate some of the compact-car parking spots by converting them to larger spaces, but could not provide an actual number of parking spots that would be lost in that process.
Although this project was listed as an action item on the agenda, the local planners voted to table the matter until the June 1 meeting.
In other business, the local planners heard:
- The San Diego Oasis education program for adults 50 and older was losing its home on the third floor of Macy’s in the Fashion Valley Mall and is looking to find a senior-friendly location of about 3,000 square feet that would be near bus and trolley lines. Earlier this year, mall owner The Westfield Group brought the Macy’s store, one of its anchor stores, for $16.5 million. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in March that Macy’s has a lease to stay in the mall until January 2017, but the retailer nor the mall owners would confirm whether the store will remain in Mission Valley after that. The 55-year-old Macy’s building, designed by acclaimed architect William Lewis Jr. and built by the May Company in 1961, was classified this year as “historic” by the city’s Historical Resources Board. That would make it nearly impossible for The Westfield Group to demolish the building.
- Crime is down in Mission Valley, but homelessness is up. San Diego police Officer Tom Bostedt and two officers assigned to the “quality of life” team that focuses on homeless issues discussed the problem. With Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game coming to Petco Park, the city’s efforts to spruce up Downtown are forcing a lot of homeless people out of the area and into the San Diego River valley, among other locations. One officer dropped a grim statistic: “Only two out of 100 homeless people actually wanted help to get into a shelter.” Another cop described one homeless man who camped out on a steep hillside in Del Cerro, who was finally evicted, had singlehandedly discarded two tons of trash at the site. And Rob Hutsel, a local planner who is executive director of the San Diego River Park Foundation, said his organization’s volunteers have picked up 100,000 pounds of trash in the river basin since January. His group is also involved in the official counting of the homeless in the county, and somberly noted that the number of homeless people is up 97 percent this year.
- The proposed city budget would include a traffic signalization pilot program in Mission Valley, according to Liz Saidkhanian, representing District 7 City Councilmember Scott Sherman.
—Ken Williams is editor of Mission Valley News and Uptown News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 619-961-1952. Follow him on Twitter at KenSanDiego, Instagram account at KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.