50th St & University Ave: Complete Streets & Complete Communities
The 50th St & University Ave Complete Streets and Gathering Space Project is a model for participatory community planning process that is equally committed to implementation of a bold, community-shaped vision.
In 2010, City Heights CDC began working with the Somali-American community to improve pedestrian safety at the 50th St & University Ave intersection. The intersection has been a cultural hub for Somali-owned businesses since the 1990s. After multiple pedestrian deaths, the City considered installing a fence that would make it more difficult for pedestrians to cross.
Community leaders and our team agreed that the fence would make an unsafe, legal crossing even less safe while carrying a negative social stigma. We worked alongside the community to re-imagine the space in a way that would prioritize pedestrian safety and beautification while celebrating East African identity.
We helped generate consensus among the parties, including the City of San Diego. In 2011, the City transformed the intersection with paint and cones. In 2015, we launched a community planning process that explored opportunities for gathering spaces and art. Shortly thereafter, the City implemented additional improvements at the intersection.
This inspired additional community-shaped solutions since as an award-winning low-cost gathering space and murals that celebrated Somali and East African cultural identity.