Posted by: cantmisssd | December 21, 2010

Quick question

As I jet off to visit the east coast megalopolis- Why shouldn’t San Diego be aspiring to dramatically more? Is lack of ambition part of the civic DNA? Is density anathema to San Diego’s raison d’etre? Flip the question- why is so much of San Diego’s design predicated on being inside buildings or cars?

Given incredible inherent benefits of San Diego, why are grand aspirations left to the people who can pay for them instead of people who could benefit from them?

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Responses

  1. The first two questions are a great ones, and I’m interested to hear what you or any other commenters have to say.

    The question on density, though, I think is wrong. A lot of SD is dense. Mid-City, Logan, the beaches, UC, National City, parts of Chula… I don’t have good data handy, but when you look closely, particularly when you remove canyonland, half of the city is urban, dense, plain and simple. I don’t think that’s just cherry-picking data. It’s a very large core that we live in, with a fortunate amount of in-city open space confusing matters.

    (Part of the problem, I believe, is just that dingbat apartments don’t look like midrises, they look low-density.)

    There’s something to the question of being in cars and buildings and not on the street. But in mid-city and the beaches, probably less than meets the eye.

    Your last question is a great one too. Hoping those will get engaged.

    • A rather slapdash question admittedly, but I see density in this context more in terms of function than form.

      • The question was slapdash, but important. So hoping it gets refined. Put another way, simple numerical density isn’t precisely our problem, so what is?

        I can relate to the frustration with the built environment here, and the importance of that can’t be overstated. But I don’t think I’m myself confident that I know what exactly the problem with it is. There’s enough density in the core areas, and just enough street life. OTOH, the crappy public transit means that connections are weak or private. Likewise the lack of connectors for pedestrians and cyclists.

        The point about common ambition certainly is true. While that can be negative, I can appreciate a positive side to it as well. It’s part of our character. Complacent, unpretentious.

      • I think my point, which I’ll explore in more depth later, is that simply having a high volume of things in a given space is not the same as having functional density- an effective interrelation between those things. Many parts of San Diego have variations on crowded, but that hasn’t transformed the lifestyle- people still feel the need to drive, still often fail to develop community connections or get to know their neighbors. They still prefer field trips to big Mission Valley chains to walking/biking to local businesses. This isn’t universally true and is beginning to shift, but is still more true than not.

        The smart development of density prioritizes connectivity and interaction. When such concerns have even been present in San Diego, they’ve rarely been prioritized. And I’m particularly thinking of outside the central core- North of the 8, east of the 15, south of the 94 give or take. Buzz terms like ‘smart growth’ and ‘mixed use’ have evolved so quickly that already it’s been reduced for many to just a collection of things- add some bulb outs and modify your parking structure and you’re cutting edge! But there are very few who are meaningfully digging deeper to examine strategies to bring people into collaboration with each other.


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