Businesses in College Area face a major issue: The thousands of SDSU students should provide a huge customer base but the dangerous roads connecting the campus to the businesses create a barrier for anyone without a car.
In October, the College Area Business District presented a proposal to the College Area Community Planning Group and the College Area Community Council (CACC) about ways to make the streets safer for bikers and pedestrians.
“The presentation is more of a starting point for asking the community members to help with having a comprehensive plan in place for improving the connections between the neighborhoods (including SDSU campus), slowing vehicular traffic, reducing vehicular traffic, and looking at the larger College Area community to create a biking and pedestrian friendly network of neighborhoods,” said CABD Executive Director Jim Schneider. “While the CACC is going through the Community Plan Update, the College Area Business District is working on a campaign to attract new, viable business and development investment to the commercial corridor. This campaign is called, ‘Locate Here’ and is part of our Vision of the Future concept.”
There are many potential projects to improve driving and biking possibilities, including places of grassy areas, visual interest, places to rest, adding trees and building a bridge overlook at 4800 block of College Ave. In some places, a lane of traffic and parking will be removed to slow traffic, add a bike lane and widen the sidewalk.
Through these projects, the business district hopes to attract new investment into the area, including small shops in mixed-use developments people can visit on the way to existing businesses.
In addition, the business district wants to create safety for pedestrians.
One of the first steps will ask the City of San Diego to convert three streets into Slow Streets to add space for outdoor space. The three streets suggested for the expedited process are Art Street, Catoctin Street and 63rd Street between Montezuma Road and El Cajon Boulevard.
The safe streets projects will take longer as they require construction.
The council and planning group had a positive reaction to the plan, according to board president Jose Reynoso. He said it aligned with the goals of the College Area Community Plan Update the group has been working on for the past year.
The switch from an emphasis on vehicular traffic to multi-modal transportation is also good for the environment as well as meeting Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths.
Another part of the Locate Here plan’s push for safety is dealing with crime and homelessness.
At the request of the business owners and commercial property owners along El Cajon Boulevard, the College Area Business District (CABD) piloted a program in October to reduce visibility of homeless persons and other potentially criminal behavior along the commercial corridor.
These efforts included hiring security patrols which focused on specific hotspot locations where activity has increased since March 2020. The month-long trial will be assessed and if it is deemed that it went well, the discounted security patrols will be offered to commercial property owners who are CABD members.
“We have also been working closely with the police and these additional security patrols can help to make a noticeable difference. After one week, I see a significant difference that others may not yet be able to notice,” wrote Schneider in a letter to the El Cerrito Community Council.
The homeless patrol program coincides with CABD’s Locate Here campaign to attract new viable businesses and development investment to the El Cajon Boulevard commercial corridor.
“We are trying to invite new commercial investment to the commercial corridor and we have to put our best foot forward,” Schneider said.
In addition to security patrols, the CABD is also asking for the public’s assistance to make a difference in the area by reporting to the city any unacceptable activity that they see using the Get It Done app.
“We hope to instill the ‘good enough is not good enough any longer’ attitude throughout the College Area. This can only be accomplished if we all do our part in reporting any unacceptable behavior or activity,” Schneider said. “Our staff will also be reporting any repairs that are needed by the city such as the faded street-name signs, traffic lights, street repairs etc. We ask you to do the same as well.”
• Bridge Overlook – 4800 block of College Avenue – Bridge that can accommodate some sort of activation. One idea is to build an overlook as a pedestrian rest stop.
• Incorporating Residential Mixed Use (RMX) zoning along the 4700 Block of College Avenue to include unique shops operated by owner operators creating live-work Spaces for entrepreneurs. This can be done simply using the existing housing stock or incorporated into any new development as well.
• Transportation modification along College Avenue between SDSU & El Cajon Boulevard: Widen the existing narrow sidewalks and include bicycle lanes along College Avenue between SDSU and El Cajon Boulevard. Reduce vehicle traffic lanes to 1 lane each way and eliminate parking along College Avenue.
• Remove existing traffic control lights at Arosa and install a roundabout.
• Activate part of the College Avenue Baptist Church – Create a small grassy outdoor activity space at the southwest corner of the parking lot (near Arosa and College Avenue intersection) that would allow pedestrians to rest and relax and enjoy the outdoors. Can include outdoor activities (yoga, workouts, vendors etc.).
• Restrict traffic & parking along Arosa Street between College Avenue and 63rd Street: Modify the vehicular traffic along Arosa Street (Rose Street) to one-way and maintain the existing street parking on both sides of the street. Or eliminate on-street parking on only one side of the street and allow two-way traffic.
• City of San Diego’s Slow Streets Project: Request the city to incorporate “Slow Streets” on the following streets to create additional outdoor activity spaces: 63rd Street between Montezuma Road and El Cajon Boulevard; Art Street between Montezuma Road and El Cajon Boulevard; and Catoctin Street between Montezuma Road and El Cajon Boulevard.