By Colleen O'Connor
When did San Diego become so ugly?
It’s a horrible question, but one that needs asking. How else might we stop the “Los Angelization” of our once beautiful “Camelot by the Bay?”
Take a drive—any drive—or better still a walk or bike ride to see for yourself.
It is not just the homeless—though the task of moving the tent cities and river bank and bridge encampments is part of the problem. Just last week, that became more obvious as the usually hidden homeless had to be hustled out of view for both the Padres home game and Rock ‘n Roll Marathon.
The result is more homeless sleeping under the awning of the now vacant downtown public library, along the side streets of the nearby post office, in front of the county Mental Health building and at the trolley station in Old Town.
Every neighborhood sees and smells the decay. Some have it worse than others, but it’s everywhere.
Add to the smells the rising density and ugly infills in once desirable old-stock neighborhoods. Former custom-built, single-family homes have been bulldozed to erect “six-pack condos” on postage-stamp lots along pothole-plagued streets.
The proliferation of unregulated short-term rentals makes all this worse, as will the removal of off-street parking requirements.
Take Mission Valley—where cows once roamed—and green spaces with baseball fields and a golf course once dominated. Now that valley is dwarfed by unmitigated ugliness along Friars Road, where of thousands of “stackable storage units”—called condos—blot out the sky.
What happened to the old office of the City Architect that prevented such modular block housing to proliferate? Where is the imagination?
Where is the open space that should have been maximized before the inside deal for a new San Diego State University campus that will occupy the old Qualcomm Stadium site?
Then there is the sink hole that awaits Hotel Circle.
Consider the religious campus under construction, the high-rise additions to Town and Country, massive redevelopment of the old Union-Tribune office and the looming loss of the Mission Valley golf course. You get the drift.
Further north, we have the pollution of La Jolla Cove, where the stench adds to the violation of the Ellen Browning Scripps Trust. Now only seals — not humans and definitely not children — have regular access a beach once designed as “The Children’s Pool.”
And how about the dockless scooters and bicycles? Despite the danger on our sidewalks, boardwalks and crosswalks, the regulations are being slow-walked.
Speaking of water, the bays around Harbor Island, the San Diego Yacht Club, Point Loma Sea Food, the Naval Training Center and San Diego Bay are now primarily boat parking lots. There are fewer and fewer blue-water views.
All of these once beautiful vistas are now eyesores.
Yet, something can be done. And should be done. And it’s near criminal if not done.
Simply put, San Diego’s next mayor must prioritize saving what grace and beauty still exists and battle the ugliness. San Diego needs an environmentalist Mayor.
Stop the cement trucks. Save Fiesta Island from development. Curtail Sea World’s expansion. And save the wetlands of Mission Bay.
Stop any further commercialization of the once crown jewel of Balboa Park.
Protect the other city parks and add acres to them. Water the plants. Water the grass. Save the trees. Clean the beaches. These are the lungs of the city.
Support the Save Our Heritage Organisation winners who strive, voluntarily, to preserve what remains of our heritage. They are the unsung heroes of this city.
And name a preservationist czar to act forcefully to prevent San Diego from becoming another Los Angeles.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.
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