Where Traffic Congestion Remains King: University City

Where Traffic Congestion Remains King: University City

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Rose Canyon

 

Many University City residents want the city to repair their roads. Debbie Knight’s highest priority, however, is stopping the construction of a new one across Rose Canyon.

The battle stretches back decades and last came before the City Council in 2006. Knight and other environmental advocates stalled the project through lawsuits, but the heated debate continues to simmer among residents today.

I’m spending the week in City Council District 1 to find out what matters to residents and put their issues to the City Council candidates.

The bridge is one of University City’s most divisive issues. Here, traffic concerns are king and some view the proposal as an avenue to relieve congestion and make their streets safer. The long-standing problem, most residents say, is traffic along the neighborhood’s main north-south thoroughfare, Genesee Drive.

The street parallels Interstate 805 through the middle of the neighborhood and provides the only way across Rose Canyon. During the morning and afternoon rush hours, residents say Genesee Drive becomes an unbearable bottleneck and a dangerous crossing for pedestrians.

Photo by Sam Hodgson
Debbie Knight, executive director of Friends of Rose Canyon, explains what could happen to the land.

 

But Knight continues to argue the bridge is unnecessary and would come at too great of cost. The city’s already spent millions studying the proposal and Knight said it was last estimated to cost $37 million to build.

Knight moved to University City in 1998 and said Rose Canyon became her sanctuary for exercise and exploring nature. During a tour of the canyon Tuesday, she pointed out her favorite tree (a sycamore) and identified different species of birds, plants and other wildlife.

At one point, Knight threw back her arms and stopped me and photographer Sam Hodgson from taking another step along the baking dirt path. We didn’t hear the rattlesnake but Knight noticed it slithering through an outcropping of shadows.

“That’s the first one I’ve seen this year,” she said. “It’s so cool when people come here and get to see all this nature.”

Photo by Sam Hodgson
A rattlesnake passes through Rose Canyon.

 

Photo by Sam Hodgson
Debbie Knight

 

Knight highlighted a few possible changes she’d like to see at the park. Its hillsides are speckled with invasive species like mustard and radish that transform into dead sticks during the hot summer months, and a railway runs through its valley.

“It’d be nice if someday they could remove the train,” Knight said, but then emphasized, “The top priority is do no more damage.”

Other residents, though, worry about safety. At the intersection of Governor Drive, children cross bustling traffic each morning on their way to three schools in the area. Some of them have been hit in the past by cars whizzing by, residents said.

And, bridge proponents underscore, traffic is expected to get worse. They point to the planned expansions of major institutions in the area like the Scripps Hospital, UC San Diego and Westfield Mall, as well as the booming high-tech and bio-tech sectors.

“It really comes down to safety,” said Carole Pietras, an active businesswoman in the community who supports the new bridge. “I hope to heaven we never have an emergency because if we do, we’re going to be in dire straits.”

Residents south of Rose Canyon have long cited not having their own fire station and concern that traffic along Genesee Drive could block an engine from coming quickly to their aid. Improving response times is the main reason why San Diego’s police and fire chiefs have supported building the bridge.

Knight brushed aside concerns about traffic in University City. She lives near Genesee Drive and said most of the day congestion is no problem at all. It’s only bad at rush hour, she said, and that wouldn’t change with a new bridge.

Still, she wants to know if the four candidates campaigning to represent her on the City Council share this same view. The bridge proposal isn’t dead. It’s still included in the community’s blueprint for future development. In 2006, faced with lawsuits, the city just decided to stall the project.

Pietras said she hopes to bring it back to the forefront of the City Council’s attention this year. Later this week, I’m planning to ask the candidates what they think about the bridge proposal and other issues raised by residents during my week of interviews in District 1.

Asked about the candidates, Pietras said she wants her representative to at least keep an open mind to the project. Knight described her ideal candidate as someone with a “super, rock-solid commitment to preserving Rose Canyon.”

So where do the candidates fall? I’ll let you know later this week or next. In the meantime, please share your thoughts on the bridge proposal in the comments section below. What would you ask the council candidates?

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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85 comments
Joel Bengston
Joel Bengston subscribermember

As a nearby resident, I am appalled at the residents who look upon the Regents Road area as their private park, and mock the concerns of the rest of us! It is obviouis to any thinking person that building the Regents Road bridge wouild improve north-south traffic in the area, including an improvement of the "trivial" rush hour traffic jams on Genessee>

Jbengston
Jbengston

As a nearby resident, I am appalled at the residents who look upon the Regents Road area as their private park, and mock the concerns of the rest of us! It is obviouis to any thinking person that building the Regents Road bridge wouild improve north-south traffic in the area, including an improvement of the "trivial" rush hour traffic jams on Genessee>

I. PERRY NERENBERG
I. PERRY NERENBERG subscriber

We have always been in favor of the Regents Bridge, and we hope to see it built while we're still in the area.

SOCCER3774
SOCCER3774

We have always been in favor of the Regents Bridge, and we hope to see it built while we're still in the area.

Ariane Jones
Ariane Jones subscriber

UC does not need Regents Road bridge and we do not want it. The research has been done and the studies conducted over many years - it will NOT help traffic but will make things dangerous for pedestrians and will increase traffic around Doyle Elementary school. What we do want is a fire station in South UC to improve response times and we want our children to be able to hike in Rose Canyon like we do now. We've done just fine without that bridge. I drive Genesee every day between North and South UC and it is not bad at all (even during rush hour). Let's get Regents Road bridge off the table completely and focus on what our community does need.

UCscientist
UCscientist

UC does not need Regents Road bridge and we do not want it. The research has been done and the studies conducted over many years - it will NOT help traffic but will make things dangerous for pedestrians and will increase traffic around Doyle Elementary school. What we do want is a fire station in South UC to improve response times and we want our children to be able to hike in Rose Canyon like we do now. We've done just fine without that bridge. I drive Genesee every day between North and South UC and it is not bad at all (even during rush hour). Let's get Regents Road bridge off the table completely and focus on what our community does need.

Walter Chambers
Walter Chambers subscribermember

The definition of crazy is continuing to do the same thing over and over and getting the same bad result. Stop this insanity.

WaltSDCA
WaltSDCA

The definition of crazy is continuing to do the same thing over and over and getting the same bad result. Stop this insanity.

Sam Ollinger
Sam Ollinger subscriber

Leaders in this city crow about their successes such as keeping libraries open and I shake my head in dismay because, seriously...is that really the best we can hope for: keeping libraries open? How about putting some brain power together to think big visionary, ground breaking ideas on solving long standing problems and actually putting San Diego on the map in demonstrating that we're capable of solving problems in well trod ways that make economic sense?

SamOllinger
SamOllinger

Leaders in this city crow about their successes such as keeping libraries open and I shake my head in dismay because, seriously...is that really the best we can hope for: keeping libraries open? How about putting some brain power together to think big visionary, ground breaking ideas on solving long standing problems and actually putting San Diego on the map in demonstrating that we're capable of solving problems in well trod ways that make economic sense?

Daniel Arovas
Daniel Arovas subscriber

Both the Regents Road bridge as well as the Genesee Avenue widening projects are in the University Community Plan. Perhaps one day one or both will be built, and perhaps not. Right now it seems that a more pressing need is for additional fire stations, which is why the bridge and widening are being pushed back in the FBA phasing to around 2017. By then, there may be insufficient funds to complete either project (though the widening is far less costly than the bridge). Both projects would serve to bring additional freeway trips through the community, which is why they are unpopular with local residents.

Traffic Watcher
Traffic Watcher

Both the Regents Road bridge as well as the Genesee Avenue widening projects are in the University Community Plan. Perhaps one day one or both will be built, and perhaps not. Right now it seems that a more pressing need is for additional fire stations, which is why the bridge and widening are being pushed back in the FBA phasing to around 2017. By then, there may be insufficient funds to complete either project (though the widening is far less costly than the bridge). Both projects would serve to bring additional freeway trips through the community, which is why they are unpopular with local residents.

Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez subscriber

We all have an opinion, fine. We all care about the traffic and nature and safety. Why not dedicate the passion for these things to accepting what has legally been committed to and making to most out of the end result instead of trying to persuade the government officials to overturn a legal decision made 40 years ago? This is exactly why our goverment doesn't accomplish meaningful actions in any timely fashion.

KMartinez
KMartinez

We all have an opinion, fine. We all care about the traffic and nature and safety. Why not dedicate the passion for these things to accepting what has legally been committed to and making to most out of the end result instead of trying to persuade the government officials to overturn a legal decision made 40 years ago? This is exactly why our goverment doesn't accomplish meaningful actions in any timely fashion.

Daniel Arovas
Daniel Arovas subscriber

The prognosis for the bridge is quite dim because the FBA money is not going to be there to build it. In any event, the city and the University Community have more pressing needs.

Traffic Watcher
Traffic Watcher

The prognosis for the bridge is quite dim because the FBA money is not going to be there to build it. In any event, the city and the University Community have more pressing needs.

gene carman
gene carman subscriber

I understand the desire to have a place to walk, and a bridge OVER the canyon will not eliminate that.

genec430
genec430

I understand the desire to have a place to walk, and a bridge OVER the canyon will not eliminate that.

Kelly Pryor
Kelly Pryor subscriber

I have lived near Genessee in UC for 8 years. I commuted up and down Genessee to UTC for work for several years. While I agree that the bottleneck is a pain during rush hour, in no way do I support a bridge or any distruction to Rose Canyon. You can always add a new bridge somewhere, but once you destroy nature it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to restore it. They should repair all of the horrible streets in UC before they ponder the contruction of a new bridge.

KP
KP

I have lived near Genessee in UC for 8 years. I commuted up and down Genessee to UTC for work for several years. While I agree that the bottleneck is a pain during rush hour, in no way do I support a bridge or any distruction to Rose Canyon. You can always add a new bridge somewhere, but once you destroy nature it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to restore it. They should repair all of the horrible streets in UC before they ponder the contruction of a new bridge.

Steven Greer
Steven Greer subscriber

I don't think that the residents of University City will be worrying about the canyon once they re-locate Lindbergh Field to Miramar.

Steve Greer
Steve Greer

I don't think that the residents of University City will be worrying about the canyon once they re-locate Lindbergh Field to Miramar.

Greg Barnes
Greg Barnes subscriber

Build the darn Bridge now. Just walk around the columns Debbie and watch out for the trains and don't trip over any of the sewer manholes or the trash in the Canyon. Pretty rich that the photos in the article don't show the tracks, the manholes, the sewer line repair scars, or the trash!

GregUTC
GregUTC

Build the darn Bridge now. Just walk around the columns Debbie and watch out for the trains and don't trip over any of the sewer manholes or the trash in the Canyon. Pretty rich that the photos in the article don't show the tracks, the manholes, the sewer line repair scars, or the trash!

Bob Byr
Bob Byr subscriber

There has been a spate of pro-bridge comments on this article recently. I must remind everyone: Studies have not been able to justify the need for a bridge, when measured against any criterion.

NatureBoy
NatureBoy

There has been a spate of pro-bridge comments on this article recently. I must remind everyone: Studies have not been able to justify the need for a bridge, when measured against any criterion.

Les Kacev
Les Kacev subscriber

I have followed this issue for many years and I am surprized that the bridge is still on the city plans. It has never proven to be the most economical or viable alternative. It has been shown to draw more traffic from the freeways into suburban neighborhoods. It has been opposed by Fish and Wildlife. The fill area obstructs the natural watershed. It increases traffic flow past schools and churches. How much more tax payer money will be wasted on study after study which will again show that there are better solutions for traffic, police and fire fighters.

Les K
Les K

I have followed this issue for many years and I am surprized that the bridge is still on the city plans. It has never proven to be the most economical or viable alternative. It has been shown to draw more traffic from the freeways into suburban neighborhoods. It has been opposed by Fish and Wildlife. The fill area obstructs the natural watershed. It increases traffic flow past schools and churches. How much more tax payer money will be wasted on study after study which will again show that there are better solutions for traffic, police and fire fighters.

Joel Bengston
Joel Bengston subscribermember

I just read the article about a resident near the gap in Regents' Road boasting about her private park. As a nearby resident (just south of UCSD), I've often found the gap frustrating in my auto trips, and see no good reason for not completing the gap. I'm sure it could be done and still maintain most of the wilderness in the area.

Jbengston
Jbengston

I just read the article about a resident near the gap in Regents' Road boasting about her private park. As a nearby resident (just south of UCSD), I've often found the gap frustrating in my auto trips, and see no good reason for not completing the gap. I'm sure it could be done and still maintain most of the wilderness in the area.

gene carman
gene carman subscriber

I would think the impact of the railroad running through the the entire length of Rose Canyon would have far more impact than some quiet bridge columns.

genec430
genec430

I would think the impact of the railroad running through the the entire length of Rose Canyon would have far more impact than some quiet bridge columns.

tarfu7
tarfu7 subscribermember

Finally, a side note to Keegan Kyle: The words "Regents Road" don't appear anywhere in this article, even though that is the location of the proposed bridge that is the subject of the piece. I happened to know it was Regents Road because I already knew about this issue, but for other readers this missing bit of information could be confusing.

tarfu7
tarfu7

Finally, a side note to Keegan Kyle: The words "Regents Road" don't appear anywhere in this article, even though that is the location of the proposed bridge that is the subject of the piece. I happened to know it was Regents Road because I already knew about this issue, but for other readers this missing bit of information could be confusing.

gene carman
gene carman subscriber

I find it amazing that the article totally misses the fact that there is a railroad running the entire length of this "pristine" canyon.

genec430
genec430

I find it amazing that the article totally misses the fact that there is a railroad running the entire length of this "pristine" canyon.

Steve Miller
Steve Miller subscribermember

I don't think the issue is dead as long as it remains in the master plan. I think of it like cancer -- currently in remission, but always a threat to reactivate. I'm strongly against making Regents Road an adjunct of the I5 north/south corridor. The traffic reports I read showed that this is the traffic it would carry -- not local, resident traffic. The residents have spoken, we don't want it. But, the economic powers that contribute massive sums to candidates often have far more influence than we mere residents so I remain vigilent on this issue.

sfm_home
sfm_home

I don't think the issue is dead as long as it remains in the master plan. I think of it like cancer -- currently in remission, but always a threat to reactivate. I'm strongly against making Regents Road an adjunct of the I5 north/south corridor. The traffic reports I read showed that this is the traffic it would carry -- not local, resident traffic. The residents have spoken, we don't want it. But, the economic powers that contribute massive sums to candidates often have far more influence than we mere residents so I remain vigilent on this issue.

Robert Starkey
Robert Starkey subscribermember

University City is blessed to have two great canyons; one on the north and one on the south. The are both pristine yet three bridges cross these two canyons - two on Genesee and one on Regents Rd. The canyons remain beautiful and pristine and are not damaged by the bridges. Even with the railroad tracks and utilities Rose canyon remains pristine. Make no mistake about it - the argument is one of "Not in my backyard". The need for additional access to UC was recognized in the original master plan in 1960 and every update since - it's time to move ahead.

Bobs
Bobs

University City is blessed to have two great canyons; one on the north and one on the south. The are both pristine yet three bridges cross these two canyons - two on Genesee and one on Regents Rd. The canyons remain beautiful and pristine and are not damaged by the bridges. Even with the railroad tracks and utilities Rose canyon remains pristine. Make no mistake about it - the argument is one of "Not in my backyard". The need for additional access to UC was recognized in the original master plan in 1960 and every update since - it's time to move ahead.

gene carman
gene carman subscriber

A bridge will not ruin the canyon... just take a look at Marion Bear canyon to the south along 52... the canyon still exists and is a nice walking area for local residents... and the columns of the bridges in the area are a small footprint where they hit the canyon floor... and these columns certainly take up far less space than the railroad tracks running the whole length of Rose canyon.

genec430
genec430

A bridge will not ruin the canyon... just take a look at Marion Bear canyon to the south along 52... the canyon still exists and is a nice walking area for local residents... and the columns of the bridges in the area are a small footprint where they hit the canyon floor... and these columns certainly take up far less space than the railroad tracks running the whole length of Rose canyon.

Omar Passons
Omar Passons subscribermember

eems like a concern that--in either direction--is remarkably amenable to statistics-driven arguments. Also, if even if traffic has gone down in the last 20 years, I'm not sure that alone is a compelling argument that it won't go up in the next 20 years. This article makes me think that we should get some UC residents to look at thorny issues in our community--might be a useful way to view things through a different lens.

omarpassons
omarpassons

eems like a concern that--in either direction--is remarkably amenable to statistics-driven arguments. Also, if even if traffic has gone down in the last 20 years, I'm not sure that alone is a compelling argument that it won't go up in the next 20 years. This article makes me think that we should get some UC residents to look at thorny issues in our community--might be a useful way to view things through a different lens.

David Lynn
David Lynn subscribermember

I know, I know! Let's continue cuts to school busing and mass transit and build a bridge instead. Yup, that makes sense.

davidalynn
davidalynn

I know, I know! Let's continue cuts to school busing and mass transit and build a bridge instead. Yup, that makes sense.

Jeanne Eigner
Jeanne Eigner subscribermember

Sorry, this is not a "poster-fest" organized by Friends of Rose Canyon. Not a member of that organization, but I am someone who lives, works, goes to school and drives in the neighborhood. We don't need a bridge over some of the last open space left in the city, especially one that will cause more problems than it solves. Better public transportation and a fire station south of Rose Canyon would be better solutions.

Jbeigner
Jbeigner

Sorry, this is not a "poster-fest" organized by Friends of Rose Canyon. Not a member of that organization, but I am someone who lives, works, goes to school and drives in the neighborhood. We don't need a bridge over some of the last open space left in the city, especially one that will cause more problems than it solves. Better public transportation and a fire station south of Rose Canyon would be better solutions.

Shelley Plumb
Shelley Plumb subscriber

I have lived in South University City for 21 years. I travel Genesee Ave. during rush hour a few times a week. I can tell you, with certainty, that the traffic has gotten lighter during the past few years. It is not as bad as depicted in your article. Rather than spending a few minutes traveling from La Jolla Village Drive to Governor Drive in the evening rush hour, it may take ten minutes. Those ten minutes are well worth having beautiful Rose Canyon to enjoy. It is a priceless treasure and must be protected. We don't need another roadway in University City. We need our open space park.

sheljoy
sheljoy

I have lived in South University City for 21 years. I travel Genesee Ave. during rush hour a few times a week. I can tell you, with certainty, that the traffic has gotten lighter during the past few years. It is not as bad as depicted in your article. Rather than spending a few minutes traveling from La Jolla Village Drive to Governor Drive in the evening rush hour, it may take ten minutes. Those ten minutes are well worth having beautiful Rose Canyon to enjoy. It is a priceless treasure and must be protected. We don't need another roadway in University City. We need our open space park.