The event held at UPSES Portuguese Hall was sponsored by the Point Loma Association, a nonprofit working to improve the quality of life of Point Loma through beautification, education, charitable activities and civic collaboration.
Panelists included: Capt. Brien Dickson, commanding officer Naval Base Point Loma; SDPD chief David Nisleit; District 2 Council staffer Miller Saltzman; Midway Community Planning Board member Dike Anyiwo; District 4 County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher; and Kimberly Becker, president/CEO of the San Diego Airport Authority.
The conversation was emceed by PLA president Dave Martin and past president Clark Anthony, who began by saying, “Let’s talk about the bigger issues, and one of those is transportation.”
“We need to find ways to reduce congestion. You don’t need to remove that many cars from the road to reduce congestion,” responded Fletcher adding transportation woes occur in the air too.
“We have an air-quality crisis in San Diego,” Fletcher added. “The American Lung Association has estimated that a child born in Barrio Logan is eight times more likely to have asthma than a child in La Jolla. We need to build a transportation system that rethinks what we’re doing.”
“We’re working with other organizations to improve driver education and on traffic enforcement of people violating laws really impacting safety on the road,” said SDPD chief David Nisleit. “We’re working on ways to make problematic intersections, where we’re seeing an increase in serious-injury accidents and traffic fatalities, safer.”
“We’re responsible for managing transportation not only in the air but on the ground,” said Becker. “We realize we create impacts on ground traffic by our 24 million passengers a year. We’d like to build an airport roadway that frees up traffic on Harbor Drive.”
The Navy’s Dickson said he’s working on improving the situation with commute times for Point Loma Naval Base workers.
“We’re placing more of an emphasis on taking advantage of ride share opportunities,” he said adding, “Between 10 and 20 percent of our personnel take an alternative means to get to work once a week.”
Dickson said the Naval base was working with MTS on ways to improve existing base bus service.
Saltzman, pinch hitting for Councilmember Jen Campbell who was tied up in a City Council meeting, responded to an audience query about a recent plan group vote favoring creation of a protected bike lane on West Point Loma Boulevard.
“A big part of planning for ‘green’ transportation is getting people out of cars and onto a bike or walking, and that is supported by protected bike lanes,” Saltzman said. “This is not just a strip of paint, but actually a protected lane with some type of (physical) barrier.”
Challenged by audience questions about airplane noise and allegations that more planes are deviating from course, Becker replied, “Our goal is to be as good a neighbor as we possibly can, which doesn’t take care of the fact that noise exists. Our one runway dictates how much traffic comes to the airport. We’re updating our (flight) forecasts right now. Your calls are very important to us, they’re not just put on the shelf. We work very closely with the FAA and the airlines to try and find better ways to manage traffic.”
Addressing homelessness, Anyiwo of Midway planners said, “My personal view is that the number of homeless on the streets has decreased for the last 12 to 18 months.”
Of homelessness, SDPD chief David Nisleit said, “One of the first things I did was start a neighborhood policing unit, which is part of our Homeless Outreach Team that works seven days a week. My belief is that nobody should be living on our streets. We’re a better community, a better nation, than that. People who are in crisis, we need to give them the resources to get them out of that crisis.”
“We have to come together as a region to address the problems of substance abuse and supportive housing,” said Fletcher. “The county is pushing relentlessly to have health and human services provided to the homeless.”