SDUT: North Park residents file lawsuit over city’s plan to remove hundreds of parking spaces

August 13 – San Diego Union Tribune – Andrea Lopez-Villafaña reports – Community members in North Park on Tuesday filed a lawsuit challenging the city of San Diego’s plan to replace hundreds of parking spaces with protected bike lanes.

The “30th Street Protected Bikeways Mobility Project” calls for a fully protected bike way along the 1.7-mile stretch of 30th Street from Howard Avenue to Juniper Street.

The project, backed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, directs city staff to remove street parking along the corridor­ ­– a total of 420 parking spaces on both sides of the street — while evaluating where parking can be converted into angled parking on adjacent streets. The project, one of three options considered, could ultimately remove a total of 571 spaces, including those reserved for the handicapped.

The lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court asks that the project be rescinded, alleging it does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, the North Park Community Plan, the city’s Bicycle Master Plan and General Plan.

The group behind the lawsuit, Save 30th Street Parking, argues the project will greatly impact local businesses and residents in the direct and surrounding areas. Save 30th Street Parking has over 100 members and is made up of residents, business and property owners.

The mayor’s office said it was aware of the group’s intent to sue the city. In an earlier email, Christina Chadwick, senior press secretary, said the mayor’s office plans to continue to allow input from community members, business owners and stakeholders as it moves forward in an effort to develop solutions to the concerns several community members have raised.

Pat Sexton, president of the group, said they have collected over 950 signatures on a petition opposing the removal of the parking spaces.

Proponents, however, say the bikeway project presents an opportunity for the city to improve public safety for cyclists and pedestrians as well as meet its Climate Action Plan and Vision Zero goals.

The project gained support from bike advocates and residents who want to see mobility improved in the city. Supporters of the project believe that adding safer bike lanes will encourage more riders and actually benefit businesses along 30th Street.

Sophie Wolfram, director of programs with the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign, said the legal challenge is baseless and is a last-ditch effort to get media attention.

“It’s unfortunate to see this small group so intent on scuttling a project that is fundamentally about meeting our climate goals and securing safe streets,” Wolfram said.

She said the mayor’s direction provides an opportunity to shift the narrative around mobility in San Diego.

“It’s really important that we continue to push for actually prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists for safety, for climate,” Wolfram said. “We’re just not going to meet our goals as a city until we start actively making those things priority.”

She said she understands change is hard and that concerns will always arise with change. And while it’s valuable to have open dialogue with community, at some point, Wolfram said “we have to move forward and do what’s right.”

The mayor’s selected option offers protected bike lanes on both sides of the street, from Howard Avenue to Upas Street and keeps the center lane on 30th Street. It also allows for protected bike lanes from Upas to Juniper Street, but no center lane or parking.

Opponents, however, say the project will cause hardship.

Attorney Craig Sherman, representing Save 30th Street Parking group, said the project is a “bad, backwards, ill-conceived” project that was “concocted behind closed doors.”

Diane Strum, a property owner and member of the group, said she feels angry about the city’s plans. Strum’s apartment complex is one of the few properties on the block that has a parking lot, which accommodates 23 vehicles. Despite this, she joined community members in speaking against the project.

Strum is concerned that the lack of parking will negatively impact the local businesses and property owners who have invested their savings into North Park.

“We stand to lose a lot,” Strum said.

Councilmember Chris Ward, who represents the neighborhood, suggested the city explore the feasibility of protected bike lanes as it will need to repave the roads after the completion of the 30th Street Pipeline Replacement Project.

While both formal and informal presentations were given to several community groups by Ward’s staff, members of Save 30th Street Parking argue it was not enough.

North Park resident Kate Callen said the city should have included a serious canvassing approach in the neighborhood or outreach as was done for the pipeline project. Callen added that the whole project feels like bait and switch.

“When did a pipeline project become a parking removal project?” asked Callen.

The 30th Street Protected Bikeways Mobility Project is expected to begin following the completion of the pipeline replacement project in 2020. The group plans to file an injunction if the city moves forward with implementing the project.

Read the full article here.