How and why Regents Road Bridge promises were broken to UTC, UC and Clairemont taxpayers
by Louis Rodolico
How is the Regents Road Bridge or any new infrastructure paid for? The city of San Diego collects Development Impact Fees (DIF) as it approves additional development. Developers paid DIF’s in the 60’s to build the Regents Road Bridge. There is a bitter community dispute over completing the Bridge. While the two factions in the University Community square off like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, projects like the Westfield Mall expansion continues unabated. This particular expansion also includes a new 22 story 300 unit apartment tower at Nobel and Genesee, one of the most congested intersections in the region. Costa Verde is expanding and building several new residential towers and UCSD recently announced a new phase of expansion. There is a rush to get the bridge off the plan before several thousand of these new “trips” hit our community.
How can we expand so much and eliminate planned roads at the same time? In 2008 each UTC property had been assigned a specific number of vehicular “trips”. Westfield acquired an entitlement (City Approval) in 2008, to expand their mall, but that was before there was any proposal to remove the Regents Road Bridge from the plan so their trips were grandfathered in at that time. We are keeping our promise to Westfield, but not to those who paid for and who were promised the Regents Road Bridge. We are removing roads, but we are not correspondingly lowering trips. Ergo, we get the unplanned excessive Genesee Avenue traffic with its added: deaths, injuries, extended emergency travel times, noise, greenhouse gas & property losses.
What is the bridge status now? The Existing Conditions EIR was released in December, 2015. When I called the engineer who was the author of the EIR he could not get off the phone fast enough. The EIR was riddled with errors, it was not stamped, or signed by the engineer, the long awaited Existing Conditions EIR was a position paper, it has no legal standing. The Draft PEIR was recently released and this document clearly supports the construction of the Regents Road Bridge, see the impact synopsis on Table ES-1. City Council is scheduled to vote on the bridge on December 6th.
Property owners, near the bridge site, seek to improve their properties marketability & views by not building the Regents Road Bridge. Westfield would benefit if Genesee was the only north south feeder and eventually widened to bring in more shoppers. Westfield is paying a half million dollars to fund removing the bridge from the plan, see Resolution R-309237 10/14/2014. Not building the bridge leaves over 30,000 residents in UTC, UC and Clairemont at elevated mortal risk due to longer emergency travel times. Like other communities with uncompleted roads ambulances are delayed. When an Ambulance arrives on the scene and finds a patient without a pulse, they may have to wait until they get to an Emergency room to revive the patient, but when the roads are not available many patients, including children, have expired in route as a direct result of the delay. I doubt that this the marketing image Westfield wants.
Let’s look at what could happen if the Regents Road Bridge is taken off the plan. Eventually the existing bridge abutments would be removed and the area rezoned residential. New homes would be built, eliminating any possibility of a bridge in the future. At some future point after that, traffic will be much greater than it is now. A new (Westfield financed?) EIR will likely show a need for 6 or 8 lanes on Genesee between Westfield and Clairemont.
Why was the blue trolley line designed to terminate at Westfield? Granted for years the improvised Westfield transportation center has been on Genesee, but not because it is the best location, it was there because Genesee was the only one of the 3 north south roads that was completed. The obvious solution to mass transit is to complete the regional rail system by placing the Coaster and Surfliner just east of I-5 at UTC. This would allow for a transit center at Nobel and or Voigt. The Coaster and Surfliner would be super green by bringing in commuters from downtown to north of Los Angeles. Rerouting the Coaster/Surfliner shortens the current route, requires 3.3 miles of new double track, but utilizes existing; trains, power systems & employees. In stark contrast SANDAG’s new blue trolley line section requires we pay for new 11 mile double tracks, bridges, tunnels, new trolleys, extended power systems and all the additional equipment and employees necessary to run the extended line. SANDAG has managed to keep me in the dark on my questions. This November SANDAG will be asking for additional taxes.
I for one try and keep myself informed on what is going on in my community, but all too often by the time I get a description of a project it is already too late to have any discussion. Like the blue trolley line, the UTC residential towers and possibly the University Fire Station locations. By the time details of projects come to light their shovel ready and too late for community input. Or bulldozers just appear without anyone being informed. These “Dark Projects” are becoming the norm, not the exception. Who has time to be on every committee? That simply is not realistic. Westfield, SANDAG and others have been at work for decades and reveal unsavory project specifics to the public when it is too late for the public to have a say.
Louis Rodolico has been a resident of University City since 2001. www.louisrodolico.com
Existing Conditions EIR
Draft PEIR See: June 17, 2016 PDF University Community Plan Amendment / Project No. 480286 / Draft PEIR
Coaster and Surfliner just east of I-5
Fire Station locations