Welcome to Viva-city and Downtown San Diego
Sandra Simmons

Life in the City

-by Sandra Simmons

“ There was only one catch and that was Catch-22,” stated Doc Daneeka. "That's some catch, that Catch-22," Yossarian observed. -Joseph Heller

Research shows that 83% of Downtowners want to walk to work, shopping, and entertainment venues; yet, the car and its parking remains a hotly contested topic.

CCAC, the community planning and advisory group made up of elected neighborhood representatives, recently recommended the parking minimum be increased to 1.5 per dwelling unit, no matter the number of bedrooms or unit size.

When the Downtown Community Plan Update was adopted in February, the City Council/Redevelopment Agency decreased the minimum to 1.0 per unit.

Here’s the Catch-22.

If a set minimum per unit is required, small studios and MacPenthouses receive the same number of parking spaces; in this case, one.

This discourages multi-car buyers (families in need of three-bedroom units or those with a large discretionary income) from living Downtown.

However, requiring a larger parking space minimum increases the cost of construction. These costs are passed on to the buyer, further increasing the cost of housing and excluding a larger portion of the population, such as teachers, police officers, office workers, and again families.

Another vicious cycle is our belief that parking should be free, whether it’s at work, at our favorite shopping spot, or neighborhood streets.

If developers don’t supply enough spaces, residents are forced to seek curb parking, leaving no room for guests, service workers, or shoppers. With curb parking at a premium, traffic increases as cars cruise the streets seeking the elusive space.

Yet if developers do provide more parking, in addition to the increase of cost per unit, wouldn’t it mean more cars and fewer units, decreasing the density?

Do we build parking garages for the maximum number of cars, when public and private garage spaces go unused 50% of the time, or more? Wouldn’t sharing garages between offices and neighboring housing complexes be one answer? And isn’t it time to get on with a viable shuttle system for those moments when time and distance requires four-wheeled transportation?

I ponder…Is Catch-22 just a catchy phrase?

These Downtowners share how parking and living Downtown has changed their daily lifestyle.

Joseph Anthony (Acqua Vista) needs to drive to Salon David Perez to carry supplies. He would take a shuttle if available.

Jim and Carla Bassi (Porto Siena) are fortunate to have two spaces and one car. The car rarely leaves the garage as both walk to work in the neighborhood.

So does another Little Italy couple, Rita Morares and Charles Almack. They sold their second car.

If we want to reduce the dependence on cars, and thus lessen the need for more parking spaces, we need to create jobs for those living in our neighborhoods, and housing for those working Downtown.

More importantly, it’s essential that we continue making our community an amazing place to walk; one that is visually engaging so residents will relish leaving their cars at home, or even sell them! - May 2006

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