Saggy Mid-City to Get Repair, Economy Boost

Times Staff Writer

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a series of ordinances to implement the Mid-City Community Plan, a sweeping blueprint for economic revitalization and improvement of city services in some of San Diego’s oldest residential and commercial neighborhoods.

Like other inner-city neighborhoods, the Mid-City is experiencing a steady population increase, creating a housing demand that has encouraged developers to tear down single-family homes to make way for new apartment and condominium complexes. Some Mid-City residents have complained that the growth is unchecked and that there are inadequate parks, crowded schools, deteriorating businesses and overtaxed municipal services such as roads and sewers.

“City services really are not adequately meeting its needs--we have an ancient infrastructure there, and the schools are badly overcrowded,” Councilwoman Gloria McColl said two weeks ago at a public hearing on the ordinances. “There are serious deficiencies with the parks, and commercial centers are deteriorating.”

To slow the growth, the Mid-City plan was approved by the council a year ago after intense public debate. The plan encompasses the area bounded by Interstate 805 on the west; the City of La Mesa on the east; California 94 on the south, and Fairmount Avenue, Montezuma Road, Collwood Boulevard and El Cajon Boulevard on the north. The area is home to 10% of the city’s residents, Planning Director Jack Van Cleave said in a report.


The ordinances passed Tuesday set new standards for landscaping and parking along University Avenue, Adams Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard, and offer incentives for “high-density, pedestrian-oriented” retail and commercial uses on those major thoroughfares. They also restrict future commercial development in other Mid-City neighborhoods and reduce the number of new housing units allowed in residential areas.

“The areas of most concern are the older, higher-density neighborhoods west of 54th Street, where rapid development has impacted both the public facilities and the character of the neighborhoods,” Van Cleave’s report said.

“The potential for improving the business climate could not be realized without improvements in the appearance and design of commercial establishments.”

Van Cleave’s report said it was necessary to reduce commercial zoning in large areas of the Mid-City to spur economic revitalization, because there was a glut of “underutilized” commercial land in the area.


A number of Mid-City residents opposed the plan at the council hearing, most saying the zoning changes would reduce the value of their properties. Fred Shipp, of the San Diego Board of Realtors, said some residential property values would be reduced as much as 35% because the owners would no longer be able to convert them to higher-density uses.

McColl, who represents Mid-City and spearheaded the revitalization effort, abstained from voting on the plan Tuesday because she owns property in the area. The councilwoman said it had not been determined whether it would have constituted a conflict of interest for her to vote on the ordinances, but said she was abstaining because it was “the prudent thing to do.”

City planners told the council that the Mid-City Community Plan would be a model for zoning changes to revitalize the city’s other densely populated areas.