A small but vocal group of business owners in University Heights lashed out at San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and the city council at a hastily organized protest early Monday morning.
While the group criticized city leaders, crews began working on Park Boulevard on the next phase of the city’s resurfacing plan.
At issue are new protected bike lanes that business owners say will take away coveted parking spaces.
“I’m incredibly frustrated," said Susy Holts of University Heights referring to Gloria. "I despise what’s happening. [Gloria] and the city council are not listening to the people or the residents."
“I think the mayor is more concerned about urban living and density more than what it’s going to do for small business in this area,” business owner Ben Evans said.
The protected bike lanes will eliminate 88 parking spaces along a one-mile stretch of Park Boulevard between Adams and University avenues.
City officials, though, are quick to point out that 165 parking spaces will remain after the bike lanes have been installed.
“The city has continued to analyze parking in the area and has found it can add 55 more spaces on cross streets in the area by converting angled and parallel parking into head-in parking on many side streets that intersect with Park Boulevard,” said Anthony Santacroce, a senior public information officer with the city of San Diego.
The new bike lanes will be laid out next to the pedestrian sidewalk, adjacent to a three-foot safety lane. A parking lane will be on the outside of the safety lane, next to a single driving lane in both directions.
Residents are concerned the project will force delivery trucks to park in the middle of the street, blocking the two driving lanes. There’s also concern over potential bus and emergency vehicle access.
“Where are all of our customers going to park if we lose this parking?" Evans asked. "How are we supposed to stay in business?”
Business owners said their complaints and concerns were ignored by the city.
“I’ve been in business for 30 years, and this is the first time that I felt threatened that the city was not on my side, the city wants me out of business," said Lance Stratton. "I don’t appreciate that."
A representative for Gloria noted the bike lanes on Park Boulevard were called for a year ago in three different plans: the City’s Bike Master Plan, the Uptown Community Plan and the North Park Community Plan, each established with significant public input and review.
"A single death or severe injury on city streets is unacceptable, and in 2021 alone, 16 bicyclists were killed in San Diego,” said Dave Rolland, deputy director of communications for Gloria. "We must make it safer for residents to travel by bike, and that’s why Mayor Gloria is increasingly creating protected lanes. The mayor is also committed to meeting the ambitious goals in the City’s Climate Action Plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and decreasing car trips and increasing bike trips is a major part of hitting those goals."
Stephen Whitburn, who represents the neighborhood and District 3 on the city council, also offered support for the project.
“Bike lanes are a necessary safety measure," Whitburn said. "Too often we hear of terrible accidents and tragedies involving bicyclists. City staff is looking to add parking spaces on nearby streets. Further, our office continues to emphasize the importance of the city communicating with residents regarding projects in our neighborhoods."
While the business owners have been vocal, several University Heights residents said they were happy with efforts to make the roads safer for cyclists.
“You know, I live here and use Park Boulevard to get places,” said an unidentified resident. "I’m really excited to be able to bike safely throughout my neighborhood."