Kent's Climate Tour

My solo bike tour exploring climate change solutions

Exploring San Diego’s urbanism


I spent a little time observing some of San Diego’s urban features while there.

 The city isn’t afraid of building taller to meet demand and does so gracefully I think. These tall, slender towers, well spaced to preserve sky vistas remind me of Vancouver.
 On the ground, wide sidewalks are common in the Downtown district, softening the impact of the tall buildings and inviting walkers to enjoy outdoor gathering places.
Just a bit inland, the East Village district (above and below) is alive with new housing and adaptive reuse of older buildings. Ground floor retail is pervasive, offering a good variety of local services to residents.

 An intriguing local innovation (above and below), at least two vacant parcels in the East Village have been adapted to temporary, multi-purpose entertainment uses. This is the Quartyard, sporting a fully equipped stage, food concessions, bar, beer garden, coffee joint and even a dog park. Structures were created from repurposed shipping containers.

A few blocks away is the Silo space (below) in the Makers Quarter, seen in my previous post at night and here during the day. I’d think this would be a natural for some parts of LA. 

Bike share and car share are both available in and around the downtown.
I like the bold colors of their trolleys and the generous shelters at this stop.

Alas, this vibrant setting seems to be the exception in San Diego.  Elsewhere along their trolley lines neighbors have “revolted” when planners tried to allow denser housing near the stations, preventing the construction of modestly taller buildings. This effectively sabotages one of the main benefits of public transit: allowing more people to adopt lifestyles where they don’t need to drive so much by creating compact, walkable, mixed use centers around transit stops.  Thus, some San Diego communities are stifling a much-needed strategy to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge spans over a rail yard, trolley tracks and six lanes of traffic. Alas, there are no bike ramps so it is a real slog to carry your bike up the steps, a puzzling oversight for a facility built in 2011. Thankfully the gradient of the steps is quite gradual so conceivably they could be retrofitted with wheel channels for bikes…
 … like these (below) seen in the Netherlands and very common there.

 Last Wednesday I departed the HI hostel in the Gaslamp Quarter and headed back to Los Angeles via train. My knee had been acting up so I decided to spare it the return trip. After attending to some personal business I plan to point my wheel north this coming week.

San Diego’s beautiful Union Station on the left, trolley terminal on the right.


2 thoughts on “Exploring San Diego’s urbanism

  1. Santa Fe Depot……….Like!


  2. San Diego’s NIMBY-ism is very disappointing, but so typical in the U.S. I remember when planner Gail Goldberg rolled out a vision for creating a city of urban villages in San Diego at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference held in San Diego in 2002. These were to be dense nodes around transit stations. Those villages are having a tough time coming into being because in this country, people living nearby have been given a lot of power to stop them, if they don’t like the idea. And San Diego is very low-density suburban. Los Angeles is growing some urban villages (Gail got more traction for her ideas in LA) and they are a hit in the Washington DC area.


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