Plan for Midway District would include bay-to-bay trail

SAN DIEGO — The Planning Commission Thursday advanced a community plan update that would make the Midway District more vibrant with dense housing, commercial projects, parks as well as increased pedestrian and bicycle paths, including a bay-to-bay trail.

The City Council’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee will decide in May whether the plan is a suitable update to the neighborhood’s current development plan, which was created in 1991. If so, the City Council will debate it in June.

The update includes proposed roads and multi-use pathways that would fragment existing industrial blocks and aid in the creation of mixed-use neighborhood “villages” with distinct characteristics.

The plan would bolster an area housing stock of 2,000 units to approximately 11,000 units over a 20-year period. Projected business development would also generate a similar number of jobs, city project manager Vickie White said.

The district would be peppered with nearly 30 acres of parks, including acreage on land already owned by the city.

“We think it’s an important opportunity to provide for the park needs of the community,” project manager Vickie White said.

Parks would fit into an improved pedestrian and bike network intended to make use of existing transit infrastructure and reduce the area’s heavy reliance on cars. The plan includes provisions for a long-proposed bay-to-bay trail that would span Laurel Street at the San Diego Bay and Interstate 8 at Mission Bay.

“We’re focused on creating comfortable connections along transit corridors to make this a more appealing area to walk or bike — we see a lot off opportunities for modal increase in this area,” White said.

Reducing reliance on cars complies with the citywide Climate Action Plan, which champions significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Commissioner William Hofman praised the plan’s mobility proposals.

“If there’s one real, glaring problem with this community it’s a lack of connectivity from district to district,” he said.

In particular, the area surrounding the city’s sports arena, Valley View Casino Center, would receive an influx of streets and paths.

The plan includes several possibilities for the sports arena, including operating it as is, replacing it with a new arena or demolishing it and pursuing other land uses.

Several zoning changes would alter the Midway District’s residential and commercial zoning complexion.

Though the plan would grow housing availability in the Midway District, commissioners lamented the city’s 30-foot coastal development height limit, which limits housing density potential. Bypassing the limit requires a successful ballot measure.

While some Midway District neighborhoods would be rezoned to increase housing development, others will retain a strong office, industrial and research identity.

“We think it’s important to ensure this remains a subregional employment center,” White said.