Welcome to Viva-city and Downtown San Diego
Sandra Simmons

Life in the City

-by Sandra Simmons

Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. - John W. Gardner

Despite the rapid transformation of our Downtown into urban neighborhoods filled with everyday life activities, our waterfront edge is lacking refinement.

Although at first glance it’s as appealing as any postcard shot, once on the ground there’s a disconnection between the water’s edge and the urban surroundings.

Some areas feel rather inauthentic with shops and activities surrounded by quasi-public spaces designed for tourists. There are green open spaces that float upon the water, but without a simple connection to the city. The most unpleasant areas are those expansive blocks of parked cars leaving you feeling far away from the desired destination.

Urban planners, architects, and Downtowners agree: the area between the water’s edge and the city needs to be authentic, connected, and activated.

With the adoption of the Development Plan and Urban Design Guidelines for Redevelopment of the Navy Broadway Complex, 15-acres along Harbor Drive will see an astonishing transformation.

Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) is charged with ensuring the finalized project “reflects a shared vision that fits seamlessly into the surrounding community.”

The language within the governing document provides “the opportunity to develop a significant waterfront open-space in Downtown San Diego; (and) creation of a balanced mixture of public-oriented uses that will be attractive to nearby residents, employees and visitors alike.”

Prior to and as each building comes forward for approval, CCDC will ask neighbors to weigh in on the subjective aspects of the building and its surrounding open-space. This will be our time to make sure the proposals are authentic and activated places with neighborhood uses that connect our community.

Will we be able to make our waterfront truly public? Will we continue to develop spaces for private commercial interest and visiting tourists, making it quasi-public, but not our public? Or, do we campaign for extraordinary?

I mull over...Will Downtowners accept the extraordinarily ordinary?

Why settle for the ordinary, when Downtown already has so many components in place to activate the extraordinary. These Downtowners all have something in common: hopes for a communal place to invite outdoor mingling and artistic touches.

Peter and Elaine Rodman (Horizons) will move into Electra and anticipate looking down on a beautiful development. Peter envisions a pleasant promenade surrounded by remarkable gardens to stroll through on his daily walks. Terrific restaurants and a Whole Foods Market would greatly enhance the neighborhood. Elaine would particularly enjoy a performing arts center located within the site.

Norma Vega (Park Blvd West) envisions a promenade with shops and restaurants serving residents. Matthew Roth, her husband, would like a museum dedicated to Downtown San Diego’s history.

Living in East Village, Tina Victory (Diamond Terrace) thinks the development should include a reason for her neighbors to walk to, such as places to have a picnic under a canopy of trees, places to relax and socialize with friends, and a dog friendly park.

Creating a space is ordinary. Creating a place is extraordinary. Downtown deserves extraordinary! - November 2006

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