As our Active Transportation team looks back on 2016, we are reminded of many local achievements to celebrate even as we close out what has been such a difficult and harrowing year nationally and globally. Take a moment with us to reflect on our work in 2016 — The Year of Follow Through, Construction, and Transportation Justice.
The Year of Follow Through
Impressive 2016 Track Record for Grassroots Built Environment Team
City Heights Built Environment Team (BET) leaders successfully advocated for the two strategic targets they selected for 2016. The 54th Street Complete Street transformation, pictured here, included sidewalks where there had been none, and the City’s first protected bike lane. Councilmember Marti Emerald and her office provided crucial leadership during the final days of the 2016-2017 budget negotiations to identify funding. The improvements come after the tragic death of 15-year-old Jonathan Cortez, who died here in a hit-and-run in 2015.
The BET, with the support of the local Karen refugee community and Environmental Health Coalition, rallied to advocate for a safer crossing at Altadena Ave and El Cajon Boulevard where a Karen family had been hit by a car, as they tried to cross this intersection in 2015. Installed in November 2016, just months after BET began to advocate for this improvement, the crosswalk, like the 54th St improvements, demonstrates the effectiveness of resident-led advocacy efforts.
The Year of Construction:
Longevity allows CHCDC, Now 35-Years Old, to Turn Plans into Projects
We celebrated the February groundbreaking of the $14 million SR-15 Commuter Bikeway, which will provide a crucial link between Mid-City and Mission Valley via a one-mile separated bikeway along State Route-15 from Adams Ave to Camino del Rio South. This bikeway was negotiated in the late 1980s by Mid City community members in the City Heights CDC-initiated “Visions Project” to help mitigate the impacts of the SR-15’s construction through the middle of our community.
Construction progresses on the $65 million SR-15 Mid-City CenterLine Transit Stations, and first transit-only lanes on a San Diego freeway, along the SR-15 to service the high-frequency and popular Rapid 235 route that connects Mid City to Downtown and North County.
The City Heights Walks to School Report, co-authored in 2010 by City Heights CDC and Walk San Diego identified pedestrian safety deficiencies in and around local elementary schools. In response to the report’s findings and ensuing community advocacy, the City installed Safe Routes To School pedestrian safety upgrades including crosswalks and bulbouts at Ibarra Elementary (pictured above), Cherokee Point Elementary, and Hamilton Elementary. And the Fairmount Ave road diet and buffered bike lanes further increased safety in front of Hamilton Elementary along a high-speed corridor of Fairmount Avenue.
The Year of Transportation Justice:
Creative Engagement to Achieve Transportation Justice
In November, City Heights CDC hosted a Transportation Justice film screening and panel discussion of the documentary East LA Interchange that tells the story of how freeway development and certain urban planning policies negatively impacted the resilient Boyle Heights neighborhood. Local advocates from the 60s, 80s, and today joined the panel to share their experiences opposing the impact of freeway expansion on their San Diego neighborhoods.
Prior to election day, City Heights CDC created and shared this map to educate residents on the correlation between environmental justice communities (in red and dark orange) and the planned freeway expansions of the Measure A sales tax initiative.
Since 2010, City Heights CDC has been involved in the advocacy for pedestrian safety upgrades to the area near 50th St and University Ave, an ethnic enclave of the Somali and East African community that has long suffered from outdated street infrastructure. In June of this year, building on local enthusiasm for newly constructed community-advocated crossing and pedestrian refuge, City Heights CDC, local artists, and the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans facilitated a community conversation about cultural representation opportunities in the immediate business corridor, culminating in a temporary Cultural Gathering Space build-out with benches and tables topped with Ladoo, an East African strategy game. The Gathering Space has been warmly received by the local community and transit riders who use the shaded seating daily.
From all the feedback we received, with 15 bands along a 3.3 mile route through City Heights, North Park, and Normal Heights, this year’s CicloSDias Open Streets Event was the best yet. It was fun to see so many of you enjoying the car-free streets!
Our Active Transportation Team has so much to be grateful for as we close out 2016. We’re proud of our resident-led work with the BET in achieving remarkably quick turnarounds on the funding and construction of critically-needed active transportation safety improvements. At the same time, we’re privileged to be part of an organization that has been involved in the SR-15 advocacy efforts for more than three decades for community benefits that are just now being constructed. And we’re glad to have partnered with so many amazing community leaders, stakeholders, and funders along the way. And we had fun doing it with your support!
Special thanks to our funders: The California Endowment, Ford Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Transportation For America, SANDAG, Caltrans, and the California Office of Traffic Safety.
Many thanks to our elected officials: City of San Diego Councilmember Marti Emerald & Staff, Mayor Kevin Faulconer & Staff, Councilmember David Alvarez & Staff, Councilmember Todd Gloria & Staff, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez & Staff, Assemblymember Shirley Webster & Staff.
Huge thanks to our partners: Environmental Health Coalition, City Heights Built Environment Team, MA+O Design House, San Diego County Bike Coalition, Media Arts Center, Speak City Heights, PANA, Youth Empowerment Focus, Climate Action Campaign, City of San Diego Department of Transportation, MAAC Project, Circulate San Diego, The Boulevard Business Improvement Association, United Women of East Africa, United Taxi Workers of San Diego, Somali Bantu Association of America, UC San Diego Center for Community Health, Center on Policy Initiatives, Bikes del Pueblo, Cherokee Point Elementary School, Hoover High School, Bike SD, CalBike, Mid City CAN.
Randy Van Vleck, Active Transportation Manager
Anastasia Brewster, Active Transportation Coordinator
Maria Cortez, Outreach Assistant