A look at the First Avenue Street Bridge — Uptown News Article

A look at the First Avenue Street Bridge

A look at the First Avenue Street Bridge


By Leo Wilson

One of the distinctive features of Bankers Hill is the presence of three historic bridges. The largest bridge, and the only one used by vehicular traffic, is on First Avenue between Nutmeg Street and Redwood Street — not surprisingly known as the “First Avenue Street Bridge.”

It is 104 feet high and 463 feet long, and crosses over the Maple Canyon Open Space. Both sides of the bridge have spectacular views of the canyon below with its stately eucalyptus trees and other vegetation; the western side also has a magnificent view of San Diego Bay.

The original First Avenue Bridge in 1930 (Courtesy of Digital Archives, sandiego.gov)

The original First Avenue Bridge was built in 1911. It was nicknamed the “People’s Bridge” because its construction was at the instigation of local property owners. This bridge was replaced in 1931 with a steel truss arch bridge, which is the only one of its kind that now exists in San Diego. The replacement bridge was actually built and pre-constructed in Ohio, then dismantled, shipped to San Diego and erected at its current location.

Seventy-seven years later in 2008, the First Avenue Bridge had a major seismic retrofit, which cost almost $13 million dollars. The bridge was closed for about two years while the retrofit took place. In addition, the existing lead-based paint was removed and the bridge was repainted.

The project was mostly funded by two California State Highway Bridge Programs, whose purpose was to provide funds for seismic upgrades and lead paint removal.  The city of San Diego also contributed approximately $500,000 for the retrofit project. Besides being seismically unsafe, many corroded metal components of the bridge structure were replaced. The surface deck of the bridge was also rehabilitated.

Aside from the retrofit, another goal of the project was to restore the bridge to how it originally looked when it was built in 1931. This included installing the original type of railings and light standards, as well as restoring the bridge’s bronze color.  The retrofit project was done in a timely manner, with the bridge rededicated on Feb. 22, 2010.

On March 19, 2010, shortly after the re-opening of the First Avenue Bridge, stop signs were installed at several intersections on Fourth and Fifth avenues, between Laurel and Upas streets. Installation of the stop signs was delayed until the First Avenue Bridge was reopened.

Although placing stop signs at these locations had been fiercely opposed by many city officials, the decision was supported by petitions with over 500 signatures of local residents and business owners. Many western Bankers Hill residents opposed the stop signs, fearing First Avenue would be negatively impacted by increased traffic.

Uptown Planners voted overwhelming 14-1 to support placing the stop signs, and then-City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer directed that they be installed. Once the stop signs were placed, traffic accidents dropped almost 80 percent along the section of Fourth and Fifth avenues in which they were located. There was no major increase in traffic along First Avenue.

Subsequently, additional stop signs have been placed along Fourth and Fifth avenues. Although initially controversial, the stop signs are now looked upon as a success story.

However, the controversy raised an important issue. Even with the retrofit, there are limitations on how much additional vehicular traffic the First Avenue Bridge can safely handle.

Several engineers involved with the retrofit project indicated that its purpose was earthquake safety, not strengthening the bridge so that it could accommodate additional traffic. They expressed concerns over the impact of too much additional vehicular use.

Future mobility planning in Bankers Hill needs to take this limitation into account.

— Leo Wilson is administrator for Metro San Diego CDC and is a Bankers Hill resident.

Sixth & Olive Project (“St. Paul’s Cathedral”) Informational Presentation at February 6, 2018 Meeting of the Metro San Diego CDC

Over 45 people were in attendance at the February 6th meeting of the Metro San Diego Community Development Corporation, to hear a presentation about the amended Sixth Avenue & Olive Street project. The original project was approved in 2011.  Representatives from Greystar Rental Construction & Development made a presentation regarding their revised project, and responded to questions from the audience.



Link to Fox News story about the meeting: http://fox5sandiego.com/2018/02/13/bankers-hill-residents-not-happy-about-20-story-development/

Metro San Diego CDC Agenda for January 29, 2018




29 January 2018: Monday, 4:00-5:00 p.m.

St. Paul’s Cathedral “Guild Room” 2700 Sixth Avenue

Metro CDC Website: http://www.metrosandiegocdc.org/



a.) Administrator’s Update: Proposed 4th & 5th Avenue Maintenance Assessment District on hold;


1.) Olive Street Park/AIDS Memorial (“Woods McKee Park”): – Update by Susan Jester & Leo Wilson on the planning and design of Olive Street Park, which will include the San Diego AIDS Memorial.  The design plans for Olive Street Park & AIDS Memorial will be presented at a special meeting of Uptown Planners on February 22, 2018 in the St. Paul’s Cathedral “Great Hall”;

2.) Bankers Hill Art & Craft Beer Festival: — Presentation by Jake Sutton, Executive Director of the Bankers Hill Business Group, about this year’s festival, which will take place on March 23, 2018.  The Metro San Diego CDC is co-sponsor of the event;

3.) Hillcrest Gateway Project: — Presentation by Mercedes Sheehan, of the Greenwald Company, about the Uptown Gateway Council planning effort for the Hillcrest Commercial Core, that seeks to make it a vibrant and renewed commercial center, which will attract businesses and new residents;

4.) Letter of Support for the San Diego Half Marathon; — Update by Susan Briggs, Executive Director, San Diego Half Marathon; the event will take place on March 11, 2018; between  4:00-11:45 a.m., and the marathon course  will travel through Mission Hills, Hillcrest, Bankers Hill/Park West and downtown San Diego;

5.) Maple Street Angle Parking – Proposal to create eight new parking spaces on the 200 block of Maple Street through converting existing parking to angle parking, and removing a red zone on the south side of the street.  A blue zone angle parking space will also be created.  All the adjacent property owners have signed a petition in favor of the conversion to plan;

3.) FUTURE MEETING:           

 1.)  6th & Olive Street Project – Presentation of the revised plans for the previously approved Olive Street & Sixth Avenue project, which increases the unit count and height from that of the approved project. The developer will make a informational presentation at the Metro San Diego CDC meeting on  February 12, 2018;


“Living Under the Airport Flight Path” — Uptown News Article

Living under the airport flight path



Living Under The Airport Flight Path

By Leo Wilson

If you reside in Bankers Hill, people will often ask: “How bad is the airplane noise?” or “Do you live under the airplane flight path?”

Almost all of Bankers Hill is under a flight path that leads to San Diego International Airport (SDIA). It is one of the defining features of Bankers Hill; in most areas you can look up and see airplanes flying overhead, often at a very low altitude.

Even if you don’t see the airplanes, you can hear them — often loudly, even when you are indoors. Excessive airplane noise and flight path safety concerns are a prominent feature of land-use planning in Bankers Hill. Often buildings must incorporate noise attenuation measures, and building heights and certain types of land uses are restricted in some areas.

There are actually two distinct airport flight paths overlaying Bankers Hill. Both are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and are subject to other federal, state and local agency regulations as well.

  1. Main SDIA Flight Path:This flight path passes east-west over southern and central Bankers Hill. It overlays about two-thirds of Bankers Hill, particularly the area south of Laurel Street. The SDIA Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan (ALUCP) is the major policy document regulating this flight path.

The ALUCP was adopted pursuant to state law, and is incorporated into San Diego’s current General Plan. It requires the city minimize excessive aircraft-related noise when it effects residential and other noise sensitive areas, and limits the height of buildings and certain type of land uses allowed under the SDIA flight path.

Pursuant to the ALUCP, proposed development projects under the flight path must be reviewed by the local Airport Authority to determine if they are consistent with the ALUCP. A determination of inconsistency by the Airport Authority will stop a project, unless it is overridden by a two-thirds vote of the San Diego City Council — which must make a specific finding that the proposed project will protect the public health, safety and welfare; and minimize excessive noise and safety hazards in areas around the airport.

A separate city regulation that also applies to the main flight path is the city’s Airport Approach Overlay Zone (AAOZ), which creates a 50-foot buffer zone under the FAA flight path. The AAOZ completely prohibits any new development intruding into the AAOZ buffer zone. It has no exceptions, but does not apply to the first 30 feet from ground level.

After its adoption in the 1990s, the city failed to enforce the AAOZ. The Bankers Hill/Park West Community Association, which I chaired, demanded it be applied and enforced during the approval process of several controversial projects in Bankers Hill beginning in 2004.

  1. Small Plane Flight Path:This flight path passes north-south, and is used by small planes to land at SDIA — which, in most cases, are not permitted to use the main flight path.

Small planes arrive from the north, and fly south through Bankers Hill above Fourth/Fifth/Sixth avenues and Balboa Park. They then make a sharp west turn when they arrive at the main SDIA flight path, and proceed to land at the airport. Often these small planes fly only a couple hundred feet above the ground when utilizing this flight path. Many residents and those working in tall buildings in Bankers Hill wave to the pilots as they fly by at very low altitudes.

This north-south flight path is part of the FAA 14 CFR Path 77 “horizontal surface” flight path, and is regulated primarily by the FAA. It begins at approximately 160-170 feet above the ground surface in north Bankers Hill.

Any proposed project that may impact this FAA flight path is required to obtain a consistency determination from the FAA prior to being approved. The FAA determines whether the proposed project creates a potential obstruction to air space, or if it creates a visual or electronic interference with air navigation.

The airport safety regulations that apply to Bankers Hill are complex, but are a necessary and vital part of protecting Bankers Hill, as well as the public-at-large, and contribute to making Bankers Hill a vibrant, urban community.

— Leo Wilson is administrator for Metro San Diego CDC and is a Bankers Hill resident.


Olive Street Park — KUSI Turko File Reports

On December 5, 2017, the consultants hired by the city to design the Olive Street Park site, KTU+A, will make a presentation at Uptown Planners.  The future park will be named the “Woods/McKee Park” after the family that donated the land almost 100 years ago.  Below are three investigative reports by renowned  KUSI Reporter, Michael Turko, who played a major role in the process of demanding the land donated by the Woods/McKee family finally used for its intended purpose — a public park.


Original Turko Story from 2008:


Turko Story from 2010:



Turko from 2014: