Friday, November 17, is the deadline for submitting public comment on the Plan Hillcrest draft that will be moved forward to the San Diego Planning Commission.
Launched in 2020, allegedly to address the 11-acre area around the Hillcrest sign that had been carved out of the 2016 Uptown Community Plan, Plan Hillcrest warped into a do-over community plan covering 400 of the 2,700 acres in the Uptown planning area.
Plan Hillcrest is intended to allow development of 19,000 new “units” and buildings of 30 stories and higher to add 50,000 more people — all of it in “one of the more intensely developed neighborhoods in San Diego” and one of the six neighborhoods in Uptown, whose total population is under 60,000.
The city has said that it doesn’t expect this growth to happen immediately, and that the final build-out will probably be much smaller. But the consequences of approving Plan Hillcrest for Uptown and all of San Diego will be immediate and devastating.
The proposed mobility changes, such as turning Robinson Avenue and University Avenue into one-way streets and painting out existing traffic lanes and parking for bike and bus lanes — and the resulting impacts to emergency services, will happen overnight.
Meanwhile, the proposed trolleys and “aerial skyways” that will supposedly offset this crush are decades away and based on speculations of funding from outside agencies.
It would add two completely new zoning designations, CC-3-10 and CC-3-11, with densities of 218 and 290 dwelling units per acre, respectively, to the city’s land development code.(Currently, the highest density zoning in Hillcrest is 109 du/ac.)
These zoning designations would then be available to be used in other planning areas, such as University City and College Area.
The city believes the development will be “incremental,” as it will involve the “redevelopment of existing properties.” But existing land values would skyrocket, instantly incentivizing the demolition of existing affordable housing and increasing rents, turbocharging the cycle of displacement and homelessness.
Despite planning to shoehorn a population higher than the city of Poway into an area smaller than De Anza Cove, there are no plans for more fire stations or libraries or schools, much less a park in a neighborhood that already is the only one in Uptown without a park of any kind.
And rather than implement and protect a proposed Hillcrest LGBTQ+ Historic District, the city is planning to substitute it with an LGBTQ+ Entertainment District organized for the monetization of Hillcrest’s heritage for private profit.
Yet with SANDAG projecting only 40,000 more people in the entire San Diego region in 2060 than there were in 2020, and California continuing to lose population, none of this makes any sense.
Going forward with Plan Hillcrest isn’t just irrational, it’s a dangerous dereliction of duty by our electeds.
It’s time to stop the madness, scratch the current plan, and start over where it should have: the nine-block area around the Hillcrest sign.
Mat Wahlstrom has been a renter in Hillcrest for over 20 years and founded Rescue Hillcrest. He is also on the board of Uptown Planners.