New Balboa Avenue Trolley Station project to spur development
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 07/29/17 - 09:31 AM | 3111 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The public is registering what they'd like to see considered in planning for preparation of an environmental impact report, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act for the Balboa Avenue Trolley Station project, following a July 19 city scoping meeting at Pacific Beach Library.

The trolley stop at Balboa Avenue is one of nine planned for the Mid-Coast Trolley project, which will extend trolley service 11 miles from Sante Fe Depot downtown to University City, ending at UTC and serving major activity centers including Old Town and two stops at UC San Diego.

The Balboa Avenue project is to establish a “specific plan” that would increase residential density by re-designating and rezoning lands to allow for transit-oriented public and private development adjacent to the trolley station. The plan provides recommendations and guidelines for new mixed-use development and improvements to the public right-of-way to develop access to the station on Balboa Avenue and to capitalize on the new regional transit connection in the area. 

The plan promotes increasing transportation choices, decreasing dependence on single-occupancy vehicles, and reducing traffic congestion at local intersections and roadways. The plan would re-designate approximately 51 acres of commercial land uses to the “community village” land use designation within the Pacific Beach community. The community village land use designation would allow for the development of high-density multifamily housing in a mixed-use setting and commercial, service, and civic uses.

The plan would also identify multi-modal improvements to increase bicycle, pedestrian, and transit access to the trolley station.

Environmental issues to be addressed in the upcoming EIR include: air quality, biological resources, energy conservation, geology and soils, greenhouse gas emissions, historical resources, human health/public safety/hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, land use, noise, paleontological resources, population and housing, public services and facilities, public utilities, transportation/circulation, tribal cultural resources, and visual effects and neighborhood character.

Henish Pulickal, chair of Pacific Beach Planning Group, gave the community advisory group's perspective on the Balboa Avenue Trolley Station project.

“The overall impression of the project from the planning group is favorable,” Pulickal said. “Obviously, we all wish it was built 30 years ago. The biggest concern is how it helps people – or how it connects people – who don't live within a quarter-mile of the station.”

Pulickal offered his personal view of the project.  

“I believe the funds for the trolley would have been better spent improving current technology, like driverless cars and shuttles, and the infrastructure needed to support those efforts in our neighborhood and surrounding areas,” he said. “I don't believe the effectiveness of the trolley in this location is justified by its massive cost.”

Mid-Coast Trolley construction, costing approximately $2 billion, has already begun along sections of the trolley extension route. Construction is expected to be completed in 2019, with the Balboa station construction expected to be complete in 2021.

The city has received a $787,000 state grant to begin developing a specific plan for the region surrounding the proposed station that will slice through Pacific Beach and Clairemont.

Residents of Pacific Beach and Clairemont are being engaged in producing the plan, and an implementation program that would address transportation demand, economic market analysis, urban design concepts and multi-modal improvement projects.

City supervising public information officer, Arian Collins, said the city’s plan “does not impact the construction or completion of the transit/trolley station or expansion currently being done by the San Diego Association of Governments.”

Collins noted the city will review all written comments received during the public comment period now until Aug. 4, for consideration of the scope of the analysis to be conducted within the environmental impact report, as well as alternatives to the proposed specific plan.

Following the close of that comment period and the review of all received written comments, the city will conduct technical analysis and prepare a draft environmental impact report for the project, which will take approximately four to six months.

The city will then circulate the draft environmental impact report for a 45-day public review. 
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