Some of the country’s most innovative ideas for inner-city redevelopment are soon to come before the San Diego City Council, and they have come from a most unlikely sourcethe community residents themselves.
The Euclid Avenue/Market Street corridor in the southeastern San Diego area is the focus of a proposed redevelopment plan designed by teams of more than 200 volunteer residents working in coordination with the Euclid-Market Action Team ((EMAT). EMAT is a resident-led planning group that sought broad input and support from community members for more than a year to create a vibrant, yet realistic, proposal to amend the existing city redevelopment plan for the area.
“Our once vibrant community has suffered from disinvestment since the freeways were built and segment it,” said Vernon Brinkley, president of EMAT. “In identifying solutions to this problem, we sought to devise strategies for bringing economic strength back to this area. This plan accomplishes that goal.”
Hours of conversations with residents and input from professional urban planners is reflected in the proposed redevelopment plan for the area bordered by Highway 94, Interstate 805, Division Street and 61st St. Lincoln Park, Valencia Park, Chollas View and Emerald Hills residents and business owners will have opportunities to review the plan over the next three months. It will then be submitted to City Council for approval.
“Most of the time, residents have no input on the kinds of housing, businesses and services that come into their neighborhoods and affect their daily lives,” Brinkley said. “In fact, inner-city residents are often displaced when well-intentioned redevelopment efforts ultimately price them out of the market. Ownership of ideas gives residents a voice in shaping and improving their communities, and that is what led to the formation of EMAT. By seeking resident input on what this community should look like, we are able to design a redevelopment plan that brings in necessary goods and services without driving out the residents who need them.”
Highlights of the EMAT plan include the creation of village and neighborhood centers, which combine housing, retail, jobs, and other services in well-planned, visible, and accessible areas.
Village centers, proposed for the Euclid Avenue/Market Street intersection, maximize the use of space by taking advantage of multi-level, mixed-use buildings. Retail and office space occupies the first floor, while housing is located on upper floors. The ready access of trolley and bus stops, bike and pedestrian trails, and well-maintained roads make the village centers an effective use of space in this area.
Neighborhood centers are similar to village centers, but on a smaller scale. They offer a combination of living, shopping, eating and gathering spaces that meet the daily needs of residents. EMAT’s plan proposes neighborhood centers at the intersections of 47th St. and Market St., Euclid Ave. and Imperial Ave., Euclid Ave. and Logan St., and Euclid Ave. and Division st.
Other properties in the plan are targeted for multi-family housing, manufacturing and business parks, school expansion, preservation of existing open space, the creation of pocket parks, and the addition of gateways and pedestrian linkages.
The plan is the result of a year-long planning process. EMAT introduced the community to the process at a kick-off meeting on August 2, 2001, to outline the process. It was followed by 23 planning circle meetings, in which residents discussed and identified the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the community. Participants brought in photos and examples of what they would and wouldn’t like to see in the community.
From those planning circles came a planning framework, which was used in coordination with charettes, or group exercises, which incorporated community input with the assistance of urban planning consultants to create the final plan.
The first group to see the plan will be the 200 volunteers responsible for contributing their time and input to its creation. “We realize the importance of gaining community support before we bring our proposal to City Council,” said Brinkley. “We will host a series of meetings with organizations, individuals and community leaders to discuss our proposal. Our goal is to gather 5,000 signatures in support of the plan by mid-December.”
EMAT’s work to create a redevelopment proposal was supported by the Jacobs Center for NonProfit Innovation, a neighborhood-strengthening and community-building organization that partners with local residents to create stronger, more connected communities through community involvement and participation. The Jacobs Center explores and implements new ways to strengthen under-invested neighborhoods through entrepreneurial projects, hands-on learning relationships, development of action plans and the creative investment of resources.