City Council Vote on Regents Road Bridge

Regents Rd looking North toward UTC. Clairemont Times file photo 2/9/16
Votes 6-2 to Remove Regents Road Bridge
Commentary by Louis Rodolico
       On December 5th after two generations of wrangling and heated debate San Diego took another step in the saga of the Governor Avenue Bridge and the Regents Road Bridge.  This hearing was centered on the fate of the Regents Road Bridge. City Planning Staff started out with a 10 minute presentation which completely ignored ambulance service times. Staff went over all the reasons why the Regents Road Bridge was a bad idea and they all kept their jobs. There were about 100 residents present to remove the Regents Road Bridge and 80 to build it. For 3 hours there was heated, emotional and deeply personal testimony given by both sides.
     The pro bridge coalition went first. They submitted a petition with 3,000 signatures to build the bridge. They submitted evidence that the UCPG had 3 or 4 illegal members and therefore UCPG’s letter recommending removal of the bridge did not represent the community. Doctors and medical personnel testified about the need to complete the road to save lives. Cardiac calculations were submitted showing 7.1 lives would be lost each year until the bridge is built. Harry Mathis, who lives in West UC, was the last speaker and he gave a thorough analysis that laid out the history of the issue and how the bridge would make the community whole.  How the canyon was walled off from public view by all the houses on the canyon rim with private views. Building the bridge would grant the public a terrific view of the canyon along with providing a much needed link for; vehicles, ambulances, cyclist and pedestrians.
     The anti-bridge coalition went next. They were heavily represented by residents who had a clear monetary interest in the Regents Road Bridge being taken off the plan. The director of the friends of Rose Canyon earned her $42,000 a year salary by providing a complete list of organizations that would fight any bridge ever built. They testified that if the bridge were built too many cars would use it. There was universal denial that property value had anything to do with it. Speakers disclosed their close calls making it to the emergency room, they were glad that what happened to them did not happen at rush hour. I assume those that had a rush hour experience were not able to make it to the hearing. The last speaker was a 6 year old who won the cutest kid in class; the child wove a tale that the bridge would end the peaceful neighborhood and all the animals would get sick from the air pollution.
     It then went to City Council. Sherri Lightner gave a detailed explanation noting UCPG’s influence. She also stated that traffic would not improve if the bridge is built which flies in the face of all reports and testimony. David Alvarez who was mostly absent from the hearing felt obligated to repeated several times how seriously he takes this issue. He repeated his thoughts from the SG&LU (Smart Growth & Land Use) hearing. Scott Sherman was OK with a bridge in the canyon but was in denial about ambulance transport times. He reiterated the anti-bridge position that if the bridge were built too many cars would use it. Chris Cate District 6, south of the Regents Road Bridge, tried to detail the reasons why his constituents need the bridge and asked about the regional planning process. Lori Zapf District 2, also south of the Regents Road Bridge, was surprised that there were no options other than removing the bridge. Council chair Lightner cut her off by limiting Lori’s time to speak. Marti Emerald, Mark Kersey and Myrtle Cole were all silent. Unlike the Planning Commission and the SG&LU hearings the fire department was not asked to testify, also there was no questioning of staff or the traffic engineer either. The City Attorney was also uncharacteristically silent offering no warning on mitigation. Without any of this interaction the fix was clearly in. Of the 8 votes Chris Cate and Lori Zapf were alone voting to keep the bridge in the plan. 2 votes short.
      The Regents Road Bridge is now off the plan. One remedy is to put one or both bridges on a 2018 city ballot initiative which would require over 70,000 voter signatures. If the citizens vote to build the bridges then City Council cannot overturn it. The ballot would read something like this:  “Would you approve building both the Governor Avenue Bridge and the Regents Road Bridge in District 1. Each bridge would be 2 lanes wide with a wide enough striping separation for the bicycle lanes that would allow for passage of emergency vehicles during rush hours. No fiscal impact since both bridges would be paid for from Developer Impact Fees.”
      Based on its own PEIR the city is in a poor litigation position going forward. Sherri Lightner has been brilliant on moving this issue to where it is now. We have her, UCPG and residents looking to make a profit, to thank for an 8 year delay which works out to over a hundred cases of permanent paralysis and the loss of more than 50 lives and 120 million dollars in; man hours, gasoline and property damage.
     In the end I saw adults in the Council Chamber giving Sherri the vote to protect her, after she leaves office, from the same anti-bridge coalition that got her in office. Scorning public safety, obsessed with property values and keeping all the views private, the anti-bridge coalition bullied the city staff for years while evoking the innocence of a 6 year old child.
Commentary by Louis Rodolico who has been a resident of University City for 15 years.

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