The city of San Diego is facing more criticism for its effort to marry pedestrian, bike and car traffic in residential neighborhoods. This time, it’s in Pacific Beach.
After the pandemic shut down the beach and the boardwalk, the city’s “Slow Streets” initiative closed off Diamond Street to thru traffic between Ingraham and Mission Boulevard. Project leaders are now surveying residents about the future of the street, and neighbors have mixed reactions.
“It’s crazy. Pedestrians and cars should not -- maybe in a perfect world they can exist together, but they are not meant to be together on a street,” said Cindy Van Voorhis who lives on Missouri Street.
At the intersection of Diamond and Ingraham streets, beach and boardwalk traffic is routed around the block leaving a stretch of Diamond for walkers, riders and residential traffic only.
Garnet Avenue Is the main road into Pacific Beach. To avoid that traffic, many drivers take Ingraham north to Diamond, but since Diamond is closed they are rerouting to Missouri, Van Voorhis’s street.
“It used to be a nice quiet street. Now it’s a thoroughfare,” she said.
Voorhis started an online petition to reopen Diamond. At last check, 142 people have signed it. Some of them are fellow Diamond Street neighbors who say they have been harassed while parking their cars.
“People are flipping them off, yelling at them. Neighbors are yelling at neighbors now,” she said.
The Slow Streets project has some supporters, though. Diana Hill and her family live on Diamond just outside the closure zone.
“It’s really nice to just step out on the lanai, the deck, and just ride our bikes to the boardwalk or go get family dinner,” Hill said.
Kristin Knickerbocker lives off Diamond nearby but says she enjoys the space.
“Walking the dogs, walking down to the boardwalk,” is how Knickerbocker takes advantage of the slow street.
The city says the slow street on Diamond won’t include an advisory bike lane pattern like the one striped on Gold Coast Drive in Mira Mesa. That project infuriated neighbors and Mayor Todd Gloria ended up going door to door apologizing. On Thursday morning the traffic pattern was changed back to the traditional two-lane design most are familiar with.
Both projects are, however, part of the same city mobility initiatives.
After a week of asking, city transportation spokesperson Anthony Santacroce responded to NBC 7’s questions about the project on Diamond.
“We are engaging with the community and, with their input, are still making decisions on the state of Diamond Street and whether it will remain a slow street,” Santacroce said.
PB residents, even those in favor of the slow street, say that same communication didn’t happen ahead of the project in 2020 and that the signs just showed up.
Voorhis said she wrote an editorial in a local paper asking the city to remove the signs and even penned a letter to her councilmember, Jennifer Campbell, and other city leadership but never got a response.
“The city has engaged and sought input from the community. We have communicated through the council office and local planning groups as well as administered surveys and responded to a fair amount of media coverage,” Santacroce said.
Residents on both sides of the debate also say the project has created other traffic hazards.
“If it is not somebody at midnight coming down with a big truck running [the signs] over – yeah, people aren’t really minding them at this point,” neighbor Sterling Morales said.
Knickerbocker admits she still drives down Diamond, but slower.
“In the morning these signs are all over, moved over by our house or they are in the alley. They are smashed, they’ve been run over,” she said.
Not everyone is stopping for the cross streets in the closed section either, so it seems no solution could be the best solution.
A city spokesperson said transportation representatives will attend next week’s joint Pacific Beach Town Council and Planning Group forum to discuss the project.