Jan. 27 2015 06:21 PM

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Some civic-minded ideas

Regarding your Jan. 7 editorial, "Eyes on these guys": First, about having to justify using the word "guys": If anyone wants to find that problematic, especially with anyone at CityBeat using it, they need to have their head examined. No need to waste precious ink explaining it in this, apparently hypersensitive, day and age.

Second, I want to address how urbanism and density have been addressed in these pages. You have given good coverage to the Howard Blackson style of thinking, but I'm not sure you've addressed why urbanism is important especially for anyone who cares about lefty-progressive politics. Walkability, bikability and urbanism are all good things and goals that help us all experience elements core to our value systems, even if we may not necessarily realize it on an intuitive sense, but urbanism is a means to attaining social equity and eliminating inequities that have been perpetuated by building and maintaining an auto-centric society. 

Transit is the only transportation mode that has no physical barriers—it's truly open to anyone who can afford the fare (the cost of the transit pass is an issue worth discussing on its own, because transit users are expected to pay for the full operating costs, whereas drivers are not). Bicycling, besides being fun and healthy, is also environmentally friendly, creates more space on the road and increases vehicle parking spaces (each bike at a destination is one less parking space required). And walking is core to our identity as a species. 

Local blogs (San Diego Free Press being one) have addressed how freeways have completely economically  decimated thriving neighborhoods (City Heights and Barrio Logan being two examples). The general fear of developers can be attributed to the haphazard planning that has destroyed open spaces in the county, increasing both infrastructure-maintenance costs for spread-out developments and creating a city where residents are explicitly divided into haves and have-nots (for example, note how Mello-Roos taxes don't benefit the broader city). 

Spread-out development also creates an infrastructure backbone that becomes strained with having to deliver services to neighborhoods located all over our huge city, and due to both historical neglect and a seeming inability to just look at the city's balance sheets, elected leaders have (in the past) been unable to really calculate costs of services delivered and benefits attained. Little things like parklets can expand public space and increase the retail opportunities in the city. Bike corrals or any bike parking can help create a visual welcome mat for anyone who rides.

But specific to the mayor, acknowledging his role as a Republican, here are some ideas to improve quality of life: 

Great cities are great because they have a lot of activity: people congestion. Why not use our City of Villages general plan to help cut down on the process needed to open the main streets up on a regular basis? Test the idea on main streets like Imperial Avenue, Market Street (Downtown), University Avenue (Hillcrest), Garnet Avenue (Pacific Beach), Newport Avenue, National Avenue, San Ysidro, and Convoy Street and close a street off for long periods by programming it with either farmers markets, busking activities or just encouraging people to show up and experience our outdoors regularly, maybe every weekend? 

Partner with MTS to offer 24-hour discounted day passes to encourage people to leave the car at home. If there is mistrust with the police, having officers mingle with the public in casual, impromptu meetings could go a long way toward building trust. Encouraging people to get out on the streets also creates a safety effect, as people are watching out for one another. If something like this is done regularly (Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.?), the opportunity is there to also engage on a wide range of other city issues (figuring out where the potholes are, or whatever the issue is). 

The mayor himself should be out and about and walk the talk: Take the bus to Convoy or ride the rapid to Rancho Bernardo and document it. He doesn't have to rattle his highway-happy buddies if he doesn't want to, but pushing the city to take a more active role and ownership in activity through all that asphalt we have surrounding us would help showcase his commitment toward urbanism and help him (and our city) understand solutions he could champion.

Samantha Ollinger, City Heights


Thanks from Newtown

Just wanted to drop a quick note to tell you how much I enjoyed Ryan Bradford's Jan. 14 "Well, That Was Awkward" column about going to a gun show on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. I didn't want to like it. I didn't even want to read it when the Google alert reached my inbox. And yet, something pulled me toward it, and I gave it a chance.

I'm glad I did. Thank you for your fabulous deprecating humor. I loved the description of the scared-white-man stereotypes and the "autocorrect" you set up. Brilliant.

Thank you for taking on the chest thumping Second Amendment zealots in a way that most of them won't even understand. If I ever bump into you at 10 a.m., I'll buy you a beer. 

 

Shannon Hicks, 
Associate editor,
The Newtown Bee


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