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Metro San Diego CDC Letter Requesting the Decision to Approve a CEQA Exemption for the Uptown Regional Bike Corridor Project be Continued To Allow for Assessment of Safety Issues/ Proposed Mitigation:

METRO

SAN DIEGO CDC

536 Maple Street, No. 103

San Diego, CA 92103

June 19, 2016

Honorable Chair Ron Roberts & Board of Directors

San Diego Association of Governments

401 B Street, Suite 800

San Diego, California 92101

 

Re: Uptown Regional Bike Corridor Project: Request that Decision on CEQA Exemption be Continued for Assessment of Safety Issues/Proposed Mitigation:

Dear Chair Roberts & Members of the Board of Directors:

This letter is written on behalf of the Metro San Diego Community Development Corporation (“Metro CDC”), whose membership includes commercial, business and residential property owners representing over 20 full blocks in Bankers Hill/ Park West, and the Five Points/Middletown communities of Uptown. The Metro San Diego CDC has been following the progress of the planning for the Uptown Regional Bike Corridor project on Fourth & Fifth Avenues in Bankers Hill, and Washington Street & San Diego Avenue in Five Points and Middletown.

The Metro CDC approved the following motions regarding the alignment of the Uptown Bike Corridor project along these two routes:

“1.) Bankers Hill/Park West: Metro CDC recommends a two-way bicycle lane be placed on Fourth Avenue; the alternative of a bicycle lane on Fifth Avenue (preferably a two-way lane) might be supported if issues, such as providing parking for delivery vehicles and postal vehicles; buses not stopping in a traffic lane for boarding of passengers; and preservation of street parking, are effectively addressed;”

“2.) Five Points/Middletown: Metro CDC recommends a two-way bicycle lane be placed on the north side of Washington Street from India Street to Ibis Street;”

Regarding the recommendation for Fourth & Fifth Avenues; the Metro CDC believes strongly that a two-way bicycle lane on either Fourth Avenue or Fifth Avenue is preferable to one on both streets.  This would save a considerable amount of money, which can be used for projects elsewhere.  The number of bicycle riders presently using the painted temporary lanes on Fourth and Fifth Avenues is abysmally low, in early 2016 the documented count of ridership was:

FIFTH AVENUE:  44 BICYCLE TRIPS ON AVERAGE A DAY;

FOURTH AVENUE: 43 BICYCLE TRIPS ON AVERAGE A DAY

This low ridership brings into question whether it makes sense to place bicycle lanes on both Fourth & Fifth Avenues, rather than a two-way lane on only one of the streets. Two-way bicycle lanes have successfully been installed in cities throughout the United States, and have proven both safe and popular.  Seattle is an example of a city that has successfully installed a multiple two-way bicycle lanes.   Likewise, a two-way bicycle lane would make sense on Washington Street, and might mitigate the need to cut into the slope on the south side of Washington Street.

On June 24, 2016, the SANDAG board will determine if the Uptown Regional Bike Corridor project should be granted a CEQA exemption.  To grant the exemption, California Public Resources Code Section 21080.20.5 requires:

“Prior to determining that a project is exempt pursuant (b) to this section, the lead agency shall do both of the following:

Prepare an assessment of any traffic and safety impacts (1) of the project and include measures in the project to mitigate potential vehicular traffic impacts and bicycle and pedestrian safety impacts”

The Metro CDC believes it is premature to make a CEQA determination at this time, prior to the following safety related issues being resolved:

1.) The SANDAG bike project has transit buses stopping in a lane of traffic on Fifth Avenue to pick up passengers.  This is dangerous and creates a safety hazard. Fifth Avenue is a busy street, particularly at rush hour.  There have been no mitigation measures or alternatives proposed to mitigate this dangerous proposal;

2.) The current SANDAG bike project will remove loading zones and areas that service vehicles use to deliver supplies to businesses on Fifth Avenue. This will effectively prevent businesses from receiving the supplies necessary to operate. There are no back alleys or nearby side streets that can provide alternative parking;

3.) The San Diego Fire Department requires that buildings above a certain height have ladder access from the street curb; often this removes the ability to place parking along the sidewalk as the curb in front of the building is required to be “red-curbed.”  A buffered bicycle lane along the street prevents curbside access, and may in effect operate as a height restriction on future construction along one side of Fifth Avenue in Bankers Hill, and create additional fire safety concerns.  This is an area zoned for high density with a height limit of 150-feet;

4.) The north side of Washington Street is adjacent to a canyon in which there is disturbed riparian habitat, and that provides drainage to the adjacent hillsides.  It appears the proposed bicycle lane at this location may encroach further into this area, which may impact sensitive lands, and raise drainage issues.  These impacts should be studied and mitigated.

The above issues need to be assessed as required by California Public Resources Code Section 201080.20.5, and appropriate mitigation provided, prior to the granting of a CEQA exemption for the Uptown Regional Bike Corridor project.

In making this request, the Metro CDC is not opposing the Uptown Regional Bike Corridor project, and is on record in support of installing protected bicycle lanes along the corridors in question. It also believes a CEQA exemption may be appropriate at a later date.  However, the Metro CDC believes the current request is premature.

Sincerely yours,

Leo Wilson

Administrator, Metro San Diego Community Development Corporation

  1. Metro San Diego CDC Board of Directors

 

The Metro San Diego CDC has previously voted to support placing a two-way cycle track on Fourth Avenue in Bankers Hill/Park West, and Washington Street in Middletown: http://sduptownnews.com/metro-san-diego-cdc-supports-separated-bicycle-lanes/