Welcome to Viva-city and Downtown San Diego
Sandra Simmons

Life in the City

-by Sandra Simmons

Which do you prefer, progress and prosperity or dreams and daisies? – a political ad in the San Diego Union, January 21, 1917

The debate of industry versus quality of life began in our city nearly a century ago during the 1917 mayoral campaign between George Marston and Louis Wilde.

A successful banker and developer, Wilde campaigned under the moniker “More Smokestacks”. After his electoral victory, he set out to fulfill his promise: develop the water’s edge for military and commercial industries.

Marston, a successful merchant and lover of nature, gifted our city with the renowned urban planner John Nolen, Balboa Park, the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, several of our parks, and too many esteemed institutions to name in this oh so short column. Wilde infamously dubbed him “Geranium George”.

It seems our political mindset hasn’t progressed; the debate still rages on.

Perhaps, it's because there are too many governing agencies each trying zealously to protect their own turf. Even when the public is invited to weigh in on a proposed plan, as an outside observer, it appears the decision has already been made.

Those who bring differing views into the discussion are more often branded as obstructionists and dismissed. As the debate progresses, an attitude of “it’s my way or the highway” emerges from both groups.

Regrettably, both factions are polarizing with neither taking into the account the betterment for all.

Why not look at the waterfront development with a holistic approach, combining commercial interest within a park-like setting that is truly beneficial for all? Why spend $650 million on improvements to the south side of Lindberg Field when we already have gridlock on Harbor Drive? With the escalating cost of fuel and no end in sight, doesn’t linking transportation options into a central hub along Pacific Highway begin to make more sense? Wouldn’t this free up our water’s edge for more recreational use?

I question: Why can’t we have both – prosperity and daisies?

Downtowners weigh in.

When I walk through Little Italy, I feel like I am in Europe. The recent addition of the flowerpots along the streets is the best! It adds a bit of home to the community. -Alexandra Rosa, Acqua Vista

Strong urban areas thrive on the ability to literally think outside the box and integrate open spaces that work with buildings. A perfect example is the Park at the Park. It’s a great urban space. -Brian Graham, Nexus

We can have it all. Right now we have too many high-end buildings. It’s time to add pocket parks. -Barbara Edelson, Parkloft

Imagine all the agencies coming together (sans their egos) and developing our waterfront from Liberty Station to National City with a grander vision incorporating our dreams of commerce and esthetics; an all-inclusive master plan with each agency funding a share of the improvements. It’s not a new concept; it’s been floated a number of times. It’s a concept that when presented, people seem to have a Homer Simpson moment, and exclaim, “Duh!” -July 2008

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