No matter which way you’re traveling on the Bayshore Bikeway, Imperial Beach is a nice place to slow things down or grab a bite to eat before trying to tackle the rest of the 24-mile bike path that encircles San Diego Bay.
That’s the idea behind the Eco Bike Route Bikeway, which would allow cyclists on the southern tip of the Bikeway to make a detour through Imperial Beach for a close-up view of the city’s sights.
It’s a far cry from the kind of bikers the city was known for in the past.
Eco Bike Route
Entering the city at 7th Street, the Eco Bike Route Bikeway will take cyclyists straight down Palm Avenue and to the beach and Seacoast Drive.
It then travels up Imperial Beach Boulevard, past the Tijuana Estuary, hangs a right and circles behind the Seaside Point neighborhood, up Connecticut Street, and back onto 7th Street and the Bayshore Bikeway.
Plans for an Eco Bike Route have been slow to come to fruition. A bikeway looping around IB was first proposed as part of the city’s 1994 General Plan.
At a May 18 meeting where City Council was asked whether or not they want to continue with efforts to build a bikeway, Public Works Department director Hank Levien said $405,000 have been spent so far on design, environmental review, permits and other costs.
Councilmembers are concerned with additional costs to the city in current economic conditions, but will continue to look for funding and ways to keep the project moving forward.
On Aug. 5, council directed staff to add designation of bicycle lanes and sharrows (shared roadway markings) to the city’s street improvement projects.
The bike lanes would share the road with cars and would stretch the span of Seacoast Drive and go from Palm Avenue to Imperial Beach Boulevard and to 3rd Street.
See a map of the bicycle transportation plan in the attached photos.
Potential fiscal impact to the city varies greatly, from less than $5,000 to the approximate $2 million. Council further directed staff to include any Eco Bike Rroute designations in mind for future projects that fall within the project boundaries.
Palm Avenue Eco Bike Route and Calming Project
The Palm Avenue Eco Bike Route and Calming Project is the first part of the project. Part of the Eco Bike Route, it is located in the Palm Avenue right-of-way, from 3rd to 7th Street.
Designated signage and bicycle lane stripes, on street parking, are expected to provide traffic-calming measures and improve the aesthetics of landscape and streetscape to create a desirable location for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.
Having expired, City Council adopted a resolution to extend the Administrative Coastal Development Permit on June 15 for the Palm Avenue Eco-Bikeway. Though approved, cost of this project and the traffic impact coming into the city were major concerns to council.
Councilwoman Lorie Bragg, who voted no, said she has historically objected to the project.
“Based on the total cost, even with grants, based on traffic congestion and parking, there are just so many things about this project that I cannot wrap my arms around. I am just going to vote no, again,” Bragg said on Wednesday.
City Planner Jim Nakagawa said that with the new coastal permit, the city is actively seeking funding for the project through grants and San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).
An attempt to receive funding for the project that was applied for a few years ago was denied by SANDAG because the application included paying for street construction not applicable to the grant.
Mayor Jim Janney, who is a Second Vice Chair on the SANDAG Board of Directors, said the regional planning agency promised money to cities for these types of projects and a viable source of funding.
“This project, if it is going to be built, is going to be done so through grants,” Nakagawa said.
Ultimately the plan is to eliminate a lane in both directions and replace them with a Class 2 bicycle lane, landscaping and curbside parking.
“The ocean is where people want to get to,” said Councilman Ed Spriggs. He said he favored the plan and it creates the type of environment the city wants for locals and tourist. “I am wondering the traffic impact with our main street into the beach being cut down by two lanes,” he said.
Hank Levien, Public Works department director, said the city used two models to consider traffic growth. SANDAG estimates that the lane change will lead to more congestion in growth projections and may result in a downgrade in the street’s traffic grade.
Though the 2010 census found a decline in the city’s population, SANDAG predicts the city’s population will grow 22 percent between 2000 and 2030.
Levien said it is hard to take stock in this model, as it has been incorrect over the past 17 years.
“I am not sure that the growth that they are predicting will happen here,” he said.
Greg Wade, Community Development Department director, said city traffic is not something staff takes lightly. In the Environmental Impact Report that evaluated the project, the SANDAG projection of traffic is D or F by 2030.
He said many consultants use the Florida method of traffic analysis, which evaluates actual impacts on an hourly basis including a.m. and p.m. peak hours and compared to a 24-hour capacity and the city found a more appropriate method to use.
“It is represented by hour-by-hour traffic impact analysis,” Wade said. “In the Florida method if you evaluate this project there are no failing levels of traffic impact.”
Spriggs said he did not want to “beat a dead horse,” but the cost is expensive and wondered how people would get to the beach during peak periods throughout the year and still had reservations of the possible congestion problem with this project.
“Again, we are looking at our central Seacoast [Drive] area becoming more of a Mecca. That is our vision,” Spriggs said. “We are going to have shops, affordable housing units, pedestrian walkway and a community that attracts visitors. Our own population will have year round use of it. We want this to be a gem of southern California.”
City Manager Gary Brown said there is no real way to predict future traffic patterns.
He said he sees little difference in traffic congestion with this small portion of Palm Avenue. He said to look at places like Fisherman’s Landing in Point Loma.
“People want to be where there are people,” Brown said. “The traffic is horrible there, but people still manage a way to get there, because they want to. I have the same vision as everyone else here. It would be a delight to have some traffic jams here because people wanted to be here that much.”
Mayor Janney again reiterated that he believes funding is available to pay for the bike route.
“If we put ourselves in the right spot, at the right time, which we might be in the next year or two, we might get somebody else to pay for the vast majority of this project,” he said. “And I am talking about the vast majority. I am hoping that will help Imperial Beach in this project and connecting the Bayshore Bikeway down to this area.”
Bikeway Village Project
On the northern boundary of the city’s 13th Street access point to the Bayshore Bikeway, the proposed Bikeway Village project seeks to revitalize existing warehouse structures with retail, commercial and recreational facilities.
Plans include a public patio, additional parking for cars and bicycles, public restrooms, rest areas and a possible hostel to provide affordable visitor accommodations.
Negotiations have not begun for what will fill the Bikeway Village. Its commercial zoning opens it up for a possible hostel and some recommendations include a cafe, restaurant and bicycle shop. These processes will begin after environmental documentation is completed and approval by the Coastal Commission.
Portions of the project that concern the California Coastal Commission staff include possible impacts to local wetland habitat and nesting bird species, traffic, circulation and parking.
In October 2010, council directed staff to enter into a contract with RECON for environmental planning and associated rezoning of property not to exceed $125,300.
City Council and the Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency approved an increase in allocation up to $300,000 in January for the project including environmental documents and public improvements.
Part of the alternative includes the usage of “reverse diagonal” parking on the east side of 13th Street between Cypress Avenue and Calla Avenue.
Wade said traffic engineers, planning professionals and bicycle advocacy groups consider this new parking configuration to be safest for bicyclists and the learning curve to drivers is minimal. Parking signs designate and instruct drivers on use of reversed diagonal parking. Motorists have a clear and direct view of oncoming motor and bicycle traffic as opposed to backing out of a diagonal parking space.
He said this configuration works in Solana Beach and was recently implemented in La Mesa and on a recent trip he saw it in-use in the small town of Victor, Idaho.
Wade said the project site has little to no access for public parking and reverse diagonal parking increases the parking spots in the area. He said this was an important element of the project, as staff needs to complete the project description for the environmental document that council directed staff to proceed with on behalf of the applicant.
“One of the goals we are trying to achieve is a regional parking resource for the Bayshore Bikeway,” Wade said. “The dual focus of the parking is to support both the regional facility [Bikeway Village] and the bikeway. We are trying to maximize that parking and to supply and provide additional support parking for the project.”
Planning is still in the beginning processes and the applicant asked for city assistance in off-site improvements.
Wade said current fiscal estimates are more than $300,000 and looking at future parking changes in the area on parts of Florence Avenue and Cypress Avenue and the adjacent alley brings the estimated cost to off-site improvements to $1.1 million.
Total parking capacity in the area results in 105 parking spaces. Wade said the city is preparing this plan in mind with the Coastal Commission’s concerns, and this is the best avenue to provide enough parking spaces to support the Bikeway Village and the Bayshore Bikeway.
Bragg said that compared to other projects in the city, these off-site improvements are a bargain. She said she fully supports this project and the alternative parking.
“Ever since I have been in Imperial Beach we have not put barely a drop of money into anything on that side of town,” Bragg said. “I think this is an awesome project and I embrace it whole heartedly. I would like to see us think outside the box. If Victor, Idaho can do it, so can Imperial Beach.”
Janney said he is worried that the city is going overboard on what the public can afford.
“I don’t want to limit the way we can provide for this project by saying unless the public puts something in the project can’t work. And, we don’t have the funds to do it,” said Janney. “I want to make sure we are not backing ourselves into a corner here. I am worried that we are committing to something that we do not have the resources for.”
Despite the Mayor’s concerns, City Council voted unanimously for staff to move forward with the alternative plans with reverse diagonal parking.
Bayshore Bikeway Project
Councilmember Jim King said he sits on the Bayshore Bikeway Committee with SANDAG and reported that the segment between National City and San Diego is almost complete. The last remaining areas of the southern portion along the Salt Works is the challenge for completing the Bay Boulevard route from Main Street to L Street in Chula Vista.
“It is still moving forward,” he said. “There are wetlands immediately on the west side of Bay Boulevard along the Salt Works and to the north.”
King said the “last leg” from National City to downtown will take longer due to” physical constraints inherent in the lay of the land” and the multiplicity of interest in the area like the railroad, NASCO, Navy, parking, bridges, traffic, Harbor Drive, trolley tracks, Barrio-Logan Planning Community Plan, Port of San Diego and more.
“This segment will complete the majority of the bikeway,” King said. “The segment between J Street and F Street will temporarily be a long Bayshore Boulevard until the completion of the Chula Vista Bayfront development project.”
On Aug. 5, SANDAG broke ground on a new 1.8 mile portion of the Bikeway in Chula Vista from H Street to Palomar Street which is expected to cost $1.5 million. So far, 12.5 miles of the Bikeway is paved and dedicated to cyclists, SANDAG said.