East Village South Workshop #2
Saturday, April 2 2016
New School of Architecture + Design
On Saturday April 2nd more than 100 people converged at the NewSchool of Architecture + Design to discuss part two of the focus plan for East Village South. The workshop series is the conception of the East Village People, a group of citizens with varying backgrounds and interests, but unified by their shared love of the East Village and downtown San Diego. Both workshops have been sponsored by Citizens Coordinate for Century III and AIA San Diego.
After our first workshop, a group of talented planners, architects and designers led by Rob Quigley developed 3 scenario plans based on the common themes identified in March. We were thrilled that about 60% of the attendees returned for the second workshop and a new group of neighborhood residents, EV/downtown business owners, design professionals, academics and community leaders were inspired to attend after hearing about our earlier efforts.
Once again we asked attendees to respond “workshop style” to the scenarios presented. At the end of the workshop, each group presented their ideas. We were most excited about the new, creative and innovative ideas that emerged from this participation. It was truly a rich discussion.
- A mix of academic, residential, commercial and retail uses enhanced by open space, parks, public art and street connections. This mix will act as a catalyst to create people-to-people and peer-to-peer connections that is a hallmark of all great neighborhoods.
- Respect the street grid – words like porous, connectivity, walkability were repeated frequently
- Again, this group talked about the importance of density. In fact some comments were that there was too much green space in some of the scenarios, they wanted to see buildings of more varying heights, not just high-rises.
- Encourage a diversity of uses and people – the importance of keeping families downtown especially as East Village is where most academic institutions catering to school-aged children are located. East Village South is the epicenter of a rich cultural stew and should celebrate that.
- Restore connections to the Barrio and Sherman Heights; the 14th Street Promenade was discussed at length.
New Ideas & Emphasis:
- Embrace the military. Both as future residents and the technology-based businesses linked to the military that could incubate in the district.
- Importance of view corridors – while this was mentioned in the first workshop, there was a more concerted focus on protecting and enhancing views to the water, the central library (from the southwest) and down the street grids.
- Plan for and build to both permanent and “temporal” scale and uses. This means identifying places that can be deliberately changed to meet the needs of the community; a food truck haven turns into pop-up work space turns into playground turns into public art exhibition.
- Deliberately link City College to the north to Chicano Park to the south along 14th Street Promenade with iconic wayfinding, open space, enhanced pedestrian and biking mobility and infrastructure that encourages social interactions.
- Fight the tendency to be thematic or Disney-esque. Signage should be timeless and classy – no Vegas; even the landscaping should have more variety and serendipity.
- Use lighting as a way to further distinguish and differentiate East Village South from other downtown neighborhoods – the idea of glowing lanterns/glass boxes at night that trickle through the district would give the area its own identity and capacity for wayfinding.
- People were looking for innovative ways to connect this part of downtown to the Bay/water and the natural environment. Rather than wall-off the view and waterside experience, participants used examples like San Antonio and Venice Beach that use water as the “connective tissue” to enhance the place experience. This included building over the rail yards to create better pedestrian and recreational connection.
The consensus further stresses that large monolithic developments like a stadium that creates walls rather than connections are inconsistent with these principles and the currently approved Downtown Community Plan.
Detail on the Broader Discussion
Located in the southwest quadrant of downtown San Diego, adjacent to the new Central Library and across the train tracks from the water and convention center, East Village South represents the last significant piece of privately and publically owned land to be developed. Its location makes important physical connections to the Gaslamp District, to development occurring in East Village North (currently known as the IDEA District) and to the culturally-rich neighborhoods of Barrio Logan and Sherman Heights to the south and east that have been segregated from downtown by development despite their physical proximity.
- This workshop is part of the public process to engage citizens and community leaders to imagine what is possible in this important piece of downtown; especially those most impacted by its development.
- The development of a focus plan completes the work started by the Community Planning process that stalled during the downturn.
- Plans made public to build a new football stadium and convention center annex being promoted by private interests makes the need for this process urgent.
- With the proposed public investment in any new development it’s important for San Diegans to have an honest and open dialogue about the highest and best use for East Village South – who will it benefit and who will be impacted?
Who was invited?
- Local residents
- Representatives of East Village, Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights and others involved in the downtown community – arts organizations, artists, residents and community groups
- Design professionals – architects, landscape architects and planners
- Representatives of the academic community (UCSD, SDSU, City College, New School of Architecture + Design, FIDM, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Urban Discovery Academy)
- Real estate development community; especially those working in East Village and downtown
- People representing both the stadium and convadium proposals
- Local political leaders
Dave Malmuth provided an update of what has been happening as the proponents of the stadium/convadium emerge with their plan and initiative. Rob Quigley provided an overview of the three design scenarios developed as a result of the design team meetings. All plans took into consideration the following:
- Earthquake fault lines
- View corridors
- Need for open space
- Preserving historic structures like the Wonder Bread building
- Need for density and a mix of uses
- Street connections to adjacent neighborhoods and through East Village South, including the 14th Street
Plan B (by far the most popular scheme)
Participants were then divided into 11 groups to critique the scenarios presented, select their favorite scheme (and why) and to provide both BIG and SMALL Placemaking ideas. The central question posed by the Placemaking exercise was, “How do you know you are in East Village?” vs. the rest of downtown. Themes were designed to be provocative and spur conversation.
- Embellish and extend an academic vibe
- Emphasis on public space not buildings
- Connections and wayfinding
- Public art
- Street furniture
- Signature landscaping
- Unique paving and hardscape
- Incorporation of public art
Some Additional BIG Ideas That Emerged From the Workshop
- Team Zocolo – the idea of buildings being placed on a central “quad”, square or zocolo was pervasive throughout the groups.
- Celebrate and honor diversity through deliberate efforts – signs in different languages
- East village should be family- and dog-friendly (that’s the reality)
- Parking is needed, but should be underground to maximize open space that everyone can enjoy.
- Involve local artists in the creation of wayfinding and public art
- Need to address attainable/affordable housing (needed now)
- Based on the results of this workshop a group of volunteer professional planners and architects representing some of San Diego top firms will finalize the focus plan.
- This will be followed by presentation of that plan along with the economic impact of the plan on Saturday, July 30th at the Central Library. Email invitations and “save the date” will be sent out in the next few weeks.
We thank you again for your participation and invaluable ideas about a highest and best use scenario for downtown’s last piece of significant property: East Village South.
Please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/eastvillagesouth for updates and information.
If you would like your name added to our participant list send to firstname.lastname@example.org.