It’s not true that members of the Southeastern San Diego Planning Group, myself included, are against a community plan update.

We just want an update that will really help the community, not just enrich developers.

The members of an ad hoc subcommittee of the planning group, who wrote the improvements to the plan update, want to keep jobs in the area and make new, higher-paying jobs available. One of our aims was to create a multicultural, vibrant community. (Note: Check out the subcommittee’s comments on mobility, economic prosperity and land use.)

This project was started after we determined that the planner, Karen Bucey, would not accept any significant suggestions. We saw that the draft plan update stated it would not create a substantial number of jobs. We decided to save a deficient community plan update by improving it.

The biggest change was to move the Orange Line trolley station from 32nd and Commercial streets to Imperial Avenue underneath the I-15 freeway, and connect the trolley to the I-15 Bus Rapid Transit and Imperial Bus lines.

This new multimodal station would provide the people of southeastern San Diego the ability to travel north and south on public rapid transit.

A second substantial change is to require metrics for the plan. These metrics should provide data that can be used to either modify the plan or assist in the design of other community plan updates.

Our planning group had been upset by the lack of access to the I-15 Bus Rapid Transit when the draft was first presented. Except for City Heights, the I-15 BRT predominantly serves middle-class and more prosperous people and provides them with a direct link to downtown without serving the needs of southeastern San Diego.

Since the I-15 BRT route downtown stops in places that are already serviced nearby by the Orange Line trolley, riders’ ability to transfer between the trolley and the rapid transit line should enhance the combined schedule of both modalities.

Here’s the real question: Why did two city planners actively block a design that provided the people of southeastern San Diego access to a multimodal transit stop, which would increase their chances of finding jobs that paid living wages?

As for the eastern part of Commercial Street staying industrial, the area’s economy would have been hurt by the loss of comparatively well-paying jobs. I own some property in the area, and I suggested that a deal could be worked out where the industrial area that would be lost in southeastern San Diego could be replaced by an equal area in Barrio Logan.

Since the Commercial Street expansion would be an extension of the residential part of downtown, the zoning and percentage of affordable housing should be appropriate for market-rate housing. San Diego’s middle class needs access to new housing, especially housing that’s close to a multimodal transit station.

The local retail establishments would significantly benefit by having some relatively affluent customers. And low-income residents in the area would benefit from members of the middle class moving in, bringing with them potential networking and job opportunities.

The best form of gentrification is when the children of the present inhabitants can become members of the middle class, yet can also stay close to their parents.

Robert Leif is a member of the Southeastern San Diego Community Planning Group. Leif’s letter has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

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