The Livable Streets Coalition* hosted a Mayoral Candidate Speaker Series in October to speak with them on important issues related to livable streets and to get specific answers on 5 questions. Three events were held, one each with candidates David Alvarez, Nathan Fletcher, and Kevin Faulconer. Results from the Q&A are below.
1. How would you implement the goals of smart growth and provide a mix of transportation options amidst fears of parking loss and traffic congestion that arise from infill development, bike lanes, and pedestrian improvement projects?
D.A. – We must build up and not out. We can accomplish this through Specific Plans and through Community Plan Updates. We need to move forward with the remaining Community Plan Updates to ensure there is no impediment to development.
K.F. – We need new political will to move this forward and flexibility to know that one size does not fit all. We need to let communities know how this will benefit them. We have 30,000 residents in downtown currently, but the Downtown Community Plan calls for 90,000 residents. We cannot build enough parking spaces (to accommodate new growth). Downtown is one of the few areas where people don’t oppose growth, they embrace it. I want to encourage walkability and smart growth in our downtown, make the right decisions to make transit convenient so people will adapt. Another example is the Bayshore Bikeway. I worked on this and prioritized balancing business needs with bikeway vision.
N.F.— Smart growth is right on. It requires us to do things differently. We need to invest in our neighborhoods. I can talk about what other cities are doing, but no one is talking about San Diego. How do we get other cities to want to be like San Diego? Everything should align with these goals whether it be infrastructure, public safety, density. Land use policy is important in moving these things.
2. As mayor, what goals would you set and what steps would you take to make San Diego’s streets safe for everyone and reduce the City’s higher than average pedestrian fatality rate?
D.A.— We need to focus on implementing the Pedestrian Master Plan. The City needs to invest in small inexpensive projects with big impacts. I will adopt a Vision Zero platform with the goal of zero bike and pedestrian fatalities. We currently don't have the culture of a walkable and bikeable city but this is changing with the bike share program and sharrrows being added throughout the City. Walkability and bikeability go together, and together they tell drivers that they have to watch out for people not in cars.
K.F. – We need human scale (design) to interact with each other and our environment. I championed the North Embarcadero Plan, a portion of which is now under construction. This will make the waterfront more pedestrian friendly and help activate the public space we have there. I have also championed the new world class public park at Horton Plaza. This will be a major gathering space for our downtown. As much as we need the big projects, we also need smaller projects. I helped to install a new traffic light at Mission Bay to make it safer. It was not expensive, but it made a lot of sense to do it to promote greater safety.
N.F. – Without a goal there is nothing to measure success with. New York City said we are going to cut deaths in half. Others have said zero deaths. I’ll assemble a Mayoral dashboard to gather ideas. I’m willing to work with you. There will be a series of steps.
3. How would Neighborhoods First fit into your administration?
D.A.— I was the one who originally proposed neighborhoods first. The City must respect Community Planning Groups, make transit first, and build Safe Routes to School projects. I have supported the funding of these kinds of projects as a Councilmember and will continue to do so as mayor. The State of the City’s infrastructure, such as roads and public buildings, has been allowed to deteriorate. We have the opportunity, through smart planning, careful prioritization of resources, and a better long term vision, to rebuild San Diego into the world-class city we know it can be.
K.F. – The pension debacle was bad for our city and we are still paying it off. We need smart governing decisions to get our city back on track and I am doing this on the Council. We repaved 500 miles of street last year. We will continue to prioritize this work. We need simple economic choices. We have ignored critical issues like infrastructure, sidewalks for too long. I will prioritize bringing back funding back for these.
N.F. – Our city has neglected its neighborhoods. In the past several years, our roads have gone from the eighth worst in the nation to the fourth worst, responses to 911 calls were late more than 37,000 in the past 2 years alone, and sidewalk and pipelines are years behind on their repair and maintenance schedules. As Mayor, I will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the backlog of neighborhood needs, develop a way to consistently receive public input on needs, and implement the plan with city leadership in partnership with communities. It’s important that each neighborhood develop their own culture and identity yet that we find solutions for them together.
4. What steps would you take as Mayor to ensure that a variety of projects in the Bike Master Plan are completed, in a timely fashion, and that bike ridership increases in the City?
D.A.— Steps include increasing expenditures on bike projects from $500,000 to $1 million and leveraging more grant funding for bike projects. I will lead an effort at the City to get people passionate about walking and biking.
K.F. – I’m a cyclist myself. Having a mayor who is also a cyclist will help. I understand the issues. We need new dedicated bike lanes and plans that are actionable. We have the Bike Share program coming to San Diego which is going to take off and promote more cycling. I will lead political will to make sure the Bike Plan is implemented.
N.F. – I will set clear goals such like doubling the miles of bike lanes in San Diego by 2020, and increasing the number of San Diegans choosing to commute by bicycle to 65,000. The failure to move common sense solutions for bike commuters forward is not from lack of funds, but from failure of leadership. I’m committed to bringing together the people and the organizations that are dedicated to improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians to get things done.
5. Describe your vision for San Diego’s public realm and how you plan to catch up to other cities that have embraced Livable Streets as a way to improve the urban environment. Will you appoint a full time manager to oversee the transformation of San Diego’s public realm?
D.A.— San Diego's leadership has been lazy and relied on tools that made their jobs easy, for example redevelopment. We need to challenge ourselves to find other financial tools, especially in our neighborhoods and not only through major projects downtown. Every part of the City wants to see reinvestment in their neighborhoods. For example, we have wide streets that can be redesigned as public spaces. We can look at our trolley line and focus on Transit Oriented Development. I want to include neighborhood residents in the decision making process to make these things happen.
K.F. – I believe in world class public spaces. Yes, I will bring on great staff to create public spaces. I gave the North Embarcadero project example earlier – this is now funded and under construction. It will be a transformative project. We need to match this with more trees, innovative ideas like parks on rooftops. May be more expensive but it is worth the investment. Bottom line, let’s try something. Let’s see some action.
N.F. – I would consider appointing a manager to oversee the public realm. The City is more than its structures. It’s about the people. We want to create an environment where people feel connected. We are always going to have cars but we need to provide options. Our question is how do we support these options? Who are we as a city? We don’t want to build structures for the sake of building. We need a vision and the public realm is a big part of that.
* The Livable Streets Coalition is a coalition of transportation non-profits, planners and designers, representing thousands of San Diego residents passionate about rebuilding our city’s streets and neighborhoods. Read more about our vision for livable streets in our 5 in 5 Plan which outlines 5 strategies to achieve livable streets in San Diego.