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Donating $50 covers the costs for one resident to attend an advocacy training to promote safer and healthier transportation in City Heights.

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City Heights is known for its actively involved community, and the City Heights Community Development Corporation has been there to help through it all: from affordable housing and community development to resident services, active transportation efforts and more.

The organization was formed in 1981 and has a rich history of transportation advocacy resulting in many successes throughout the years.

City Heights CDC’s Active Transportation program works with residents to achieve transportation justice and make their neighborhood safer to walk, bike, and ride transit by:

  • Promoting safe, convenient and healthy walking, biking and transit options
  • Working for long- term community engagement in the decision-making process
  • Encouraging community advocacy, organizing and community-based transportation planning

Here are some of City Heights CDC’s Active Transportation programs most significant highlights:

City Heights Organizes Around the Interstate 15

In the ‘80s, City Heights was in jeopardy of being separated in half by a two-mile segment of the I-15 freeway. Residents came together, with the help of City Heights CDC, to advocate for features to the I-15 that would maintain community cohesion.

While the community’s original vision for the I-15 wasn’t approved, it was successful in achieving one of the only freeway-cap parks in the nation with transit plazas, parallel bikeways, and bike and pedestrian bridges in the early 2000s . They were even promised a future bus rapid transit service through freeway-level transit stations, now known as the Centerline.

Community Celebrates Long-Awaited Centerline Groundbreaking

Just this July, the Active Transportation program had the chance to celebrate groundbreaking success — literally. After promises made 35 years ago, City Heights CDC, the community, SANDAG, and Caltrans celebrated the groundbreaking on the Centerline transit stations at the City Heights Transit Plaza and the Boulevard Transit Plaza along the SR-15.

“We had felt for years that we were the dumping ground of the city, but times have definitely changed,” resident for 45 years and City Heights CDC staff member Maria Cortez said. “It takes the community to have power; as long as we stick together we can get it done.”

The Centerline stations will be the first in San Diego to let passengers board buses at the freeway level. The stations will serve the Centerline Rapid 235 traveling the I-15 corridor that opened last summer, providing crucial connectivity for Mid-City residents to job centers in downtown and North County.

Cortez has been a strong advocate for the Centerline and other transit improvements in the community because she wants her grandkids to have better commuting options.

“The Centerline started off like a vision, it was a dream, and to me, dreams are meant to come true,” Cortez said.

SR-94 Inspires New Advocates

Residents often come to City Heights CDC to voice immediate safety concerns like insufficient lighting and dangerous intersections.

Cristobal Navarette, City Heights resident.

Cristobal Navarrete, a student at Hoover High School and City Heights resident for eight years, originally got involved with the Active Transportation program when he had concerns about biking in the neighborhood and wanted more bike lanes. He received training from City Heights CDC on how to advocate for cleaner, safer transportation alternatives.

Navarette says his proudest moment volunteering was when he attended his first San Diego Environment Committee meeting to advocate why San Diego needs healthier alternatives to how it builds its freeways.

“I remember I was there with some of my other friends from Hoover High (School), and they didn’t want to talk,” he said. “I was nervous, but I felt that I had to go, I had to make my voice heard. I told (our city leaders) how important it was for transportation in the inner city, and for us to have a community free of pollution.”

With the support of several city councilmembers and California officials, CalTrans and SANDAG considered the concerns of residents, like Navarette’s, and agreed to include community-supported, innovative alternatives in the draft of the Environmental Impact Report, including a transit stop in the neighboring communities. Agency staff also agreed to implement a demonstration project of one of the community’s ideas: A bus that will pick people up from throughout the SR-94 and I-805 corridors for three years.

Local advocates support the $30.9 million bus-on-shoulder pilot project, which will allow buses to ride on the freeway shoulder to better their stop times and increase reliability without building a new lane for car traffic.

City Heights CDC Active Transportation Manager Randy Van Vleck says this type of community involvement is essential to the program.

“The folks who know best about the issues in the neighborhood are those who live here,” Van Vleck said.

*Transportation justice ensures that overburdened communities have increased access to transportation, improvements to public health and safety and equity in transportation planning, policies and investment.

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