San Diego's Redevelopment Undermined by Parking Lot Blight

Now that redevelopment projects in CA are officially dead, a retrospective on one of the state's 'most successful' redevelopment projects reveals an inconvenient truth: demolition for surface parking has undermined much of its accomplishments.

Now that the state's redevlopment agencies have been shuttered, land use attorney and front line redevelopment infantryman, Bill Adams, takes a redevelopment body count in what was considered by many to be one of California's most successful redevelopment efforts: the City of San Diego's downtown.  While reviewing one of the last casualties of the City's redevelopment project, he makes the following observations: 

"An ugly side of redevelopment (RIP), a side rarely mentioned in all the self-laudatory hype, is the demolition.  Too often its of historic structures, or structures that create the street-level fabric necessary for a walkable city.  Too often its not even for a new structure but for surface parking, or simply to make property more attractive to investors by clearing it of anything requiring maintenance or additional entitlements.  Too often its to land-bank the property for downstream full-block developments instead of more near-term and pedestrian friendly infill development. . ."

"As I walk through downtown San Diego and compare it to the 1990s, I’m amazed at how much of it has been demolished without replacement structures. Our downtown, especially the Eastern half, is pock-marked with large expanses of formerly developed now barren land....[M]uch of the building boom of the last decade [has] been squandered by an equal amount of demolition for surface parking.  While some may respond that these parts of downtown are a work in progress, I say that they didn’t have to go so far backward to move forward. . . "

"The history of redevelopment, here and elsewhere, has proven that its destructive and disruptive effects, if left unchecked, are at least as powerful as its revitalizing effect....To prevent further undermining past redevelopment efforts and to foster an incremental improvement in downtown’s urban environment,  San Diego should consider some stronger measures.  For example, a no-demo-for-surface-parking ordinance like Salt Lake City or a tax on undeveloped land downtown as is being advocated for Minneapolis, would be a good start. Follow this with a loosening of the on-site parking requirements for new residential construction, as is boldly being tried in Portland and Los Angeles to boost affordable infill development and a transit based urban environment."

Full Story: San Diego’s Parking Lot Blight; Requiem for Redevelopment


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