Plan for College Avenue sparks debate

File photo

File photo

by Emely Navarro, Staff Writer

The San Diego State mix-use project South Campus Plaza has spurred debate among San Diego organizations and the community.

The project, currently under construction on College Avenue between Hardy Avenue and Montezuma Road has raised a question: should this project extend sidewalks to create a bike lane, or should this additional space be used as a traffic lane in each direction on College Avenue?

Originally, SDSU planned to make the area along South Campus plaza better suited for pedestrians and bicyclists by adding bike lanes and widening the sidewalk on College Avenue, but later opted for a plan that would add two car lanes instead to reduce traffic congestion, according to The San Diego Reader. SDSU recently decided to go with the pedestrian-friendly plan.

Councilmember Marti Emerald wrote a letter to Mayor Kevin Faulconer and SDSU President Elliot Hirshman in February in which she encouraged them to reject the new plan. She favored the addition of a traffic lane because she said a bike lane would not reduce traffic in the area.

Since she sent the letter, Emerald has clarified that she does not favor one plan over the other.

“I’m asking that bike advocates, city staff and members of the community meet with me on-site to discuss this further so we can consider a plan that will work for everyone,” she said.

Meanwhile, in a letter sent to the university and the city, residents of College View Estates said they believe a traffic lane would benefit the community best, according to The San Diego Reader. They argued against the idea that adding a bike lane would benefit the environment and encourage walking and bicycling by saying traffic backups would increase emissions. Residents added that drivers would avoid College and go to other congested streets, increasing overall traffic in the area.

Paul Jamason, a board member of Bike SD, disagrees. He believes widening roads creates more traffic and leads to congestion in the new lanes.

Bike SD is a nonprofit organization that advocates for safe bicycling.

Jamason said the university would create a safer environment for pedestrians and bicyclists by adding a bike lane, ultimately encouraging more people to use bikes instead of cars.

Katleen Ferrier, director of advocacy for Circulate San Diego, shares a similar sentiment.

“We know from experience that once people feel safe biking, they are much more likely to bike,” she said.

She said College Avenue is an important link for pedestrians using the trolley and the new Rapid busses.

“Currently there are few road features to help people bike or walk from the station into the community, the proposed improvements will help make these connections,” Ferrier said.

The proposed bike lanes and wider sidewalks on College Avenue include design features Circulate San Diego often request. The organization began advocating for the pedestrian-friendly plan after members alerted it about the College Avenue debate.

The future of College Avenue will ultimately be made by the city. SDSU submitted a permit for the proposed street improvements, but Chief Communications Officer Greg Block said the university doesn’t know when it will receive a decision.

South Campus Plaza broke ground last fall and is expected to be completed by fall 2016. It will include student housing, and restaurant and retail options for both the campus and community.

Bock said the city’s decision will not impact the ongoing construction of the project.

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