University City One Fire Station or Two?

The home of the Fast Response Squad 56. A single family home rented in University City by the San Diego Fire Department on Governor Drive. Photo by Chris O'Connell Clairemont Times

One Fire Station or Two, 2016 Ballot Looms

Commentary by Louis Rodolico


If all crew members from a fire station are on call, and another call comes in, it falls to the neighboring fire stations to lend support. It therefore becomes important that all fire stations be able to get to their neighbors area as quickly as possible. Surrounded by interstates, landfills and a Military base; Clairemont, University City and UTC are good examples of fire stations that share a co-dependency. Station 35 in UTC and Station 27 in Clairemont have been sharing responsibility for University City for years.

University City recently put into operation a Fast Response Squad (FRS). The FRS is at Governor and Stresemann in extreme west UC with equivalent service times and distance to west Clairemont and southeast UC. See attached illustration F-2. Southeast UC is still vulnerable to poor service times due to both extra distance and traffic. Currently West Clairemont has Station 27 and the FRS during rush hours. During PM rush 27 can still support 35. For now the only area without a primary fire station is southeast UC. This is unfortunate since the 55+ community near Governor and Gullstrand, in southeast UC, is rapidly expanding.

San Diego Fire Department Station 27 in Clairemont. Photo By Chris O’Connell, Clairemont Times

There is a general consensus that both the FRS and new Fire Station should be between Genesee and Mercer on Governor. This more central location does several things:

1)    Places all houses in UC within 2 miles of a Fire Station.

2)    Provides backup, for both west and central Clairemont at AM rush.

3)    Provides backup for West Clairemont during PM rush

4)    Provides backup for UTC at PM rush.

5)    Good location for school group tours.

The new UC Fire Station or FRS could only provide timely backup for central Clairemont PM rush and UTC AM rush if the Regents Road Bridge were completed.

A central location for a Fire Station is preferred since the benefits radiate out from it. There is a temptation for City officials to look only at available city land assets in placing new fire stations. The 2 new ballot proposed Fire Stations at Nobel and South UC are both sited on city land at the periphery of the community.  A new central UC Fire Station will need to be on land not currently in the city’s asset inventory, this means more work. Work that will translate into minutes off of trips to residents in crisis. Two minutes is the difference between coma and consciousness, paralysis and mobility.

Illustration F-1 shows the preferred location of the new central UC Fire Station. At this location all residences in UC are within two miles. It is not only central to the community, but is well positioned to support stations to the north and south.


Map F-3.1 shows the locations of the three potential fire stations. The 55+ community is at the intersection of Gullstrand and Governor, this location is used as a benchmark for Ambulance arrival time; F-3.2. Ambulance calls go up gradually after 8AM, peak between 5 PM & 6 PM and drop off at 8PM. The best overall performance is the new central Fire Station just west of the Middle School. This one central Fire Station location also will serve UTC and Clairemont better as well.


Ambulance to Hospital times will improve if the North-South secondary road system is completed, or building the Regents Road Bridge. 85% of all 911 calls are ambulance related. So, since 35 & 27 have the full range of fire-fighting apparatus the new station at UC could be a double ambulance station with rescue personnel certified and equipped to enter a smoke filled building.

It is politically easy to build the two proposed Fire Stations, the city already owns the land so there would be minimal up front work. It will be difficult to build one central Fire Station, the land would need to be acquired from the School District and neighbors compensated. San Diego High School is currently in a dispute to keep their land in Balboa Park, with good will and a little horse trading UC could acquire a spit of land just west of the Middle School.  That’s extra work, but the work of smart governance. With the 2016 Fire Station Ballot coming up it would be great politics to show the city is willing to dig in, work hard and build the one central Fire Station that does the most good. This would not only be the humanitarian thing to do, but would save the taxpayers 232 million dollars over the next century.



Louis Rodolico has been a resident of University City since 2001 and has been a pro-bono community advocate for over 30 years.  Email:

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