Downtown roads will be converted into parks, starting with this East Village street

Network of greenways will start on 14th Street with a linear park set to replace one travel lane and a row of street parking spots


By summer, downtown denizens should notice a much-beautified version of the familiar asphalt lanes and parking spots on a portion of 14th Street in East Village. That’s because the city is getting ready to start a $1.2 million pedestrian-friendly road makeover, between G Street and Market Street, that also sacrifices some car conveniences.

Currently out for bid, the 14th Street Promenade project, as it’s called, will transform the east side of the road into a park of sorts. A row of trees, a decomposed granite path for pedestrians and additional landscaping will take the place of one travel lane (leaving two in place) and a row of street parking spots, converting a standard 14-foot sidewalk into a 30-foot urban oasis.

There will also be better lighting and, on this block, three industrial artifacts donated by the family of local businessman Bob Sinclair.

The small road-reclamation project is just a sample of what’s in store for downtown in the years to come, as envisioned by the Downtown San Diego Mobility Plan approved in 2016. The overarching strategy calls for the city to convert, as funds become available, underutilized public right of ways on six downtown streets into greenways, also known as linear parks or pedestrian promenades. The idea is to create a walker’s paradise with a system of greenways that connect people to bigger parks, the water and adjacent neighborhoods.

“It’s a very unique project, and something (we’re) looking to do throughout the city,” said Brad Richter, who is the city’s deputy director of the newly created urban division.

The project, which Richter characterized as groundbreaking, has taken more than a year to plan as the city sorted through a number of issues, including how best to relocate water and sewer lines. Its forward progress, however, sets in a motion a block-by-block conversion process that should see five of the 11 designated blocks along 14th Street — extending from City College to National Avenue — get greenways in the next few years.

The city is currently crafting the blueprint for the block between Market Street and Island Avenue, and will be relying on developers to complete similar improvements on two other blocks, Richter said. And the portion of 14th Street between F Street and G Street will get renovated in a complementary fashion as part of the pricey East Village Green park that’s anticipated to open in the summer of 2022.

The effort, which planners hope will make the neighborhood more walkable, comes at a cost to street parking, on one side of the street, that will likely aggravate some neighbors. The loss of free and low-cost spots was a hot topic prior to the approval of the mobility plan, with concerns potentially resurfacing once the changes go into effect. The city, however, maintains that over the next 10 years there will be a net increase of 200 spaces to the area once the East Village Green parking garage is complete and surface spots are reconfigured.

It’s a short-term solution to a plan whose effects won’t be fully realized for 30 years, when the entire pedestrian promenade network is in place. In addition to 14th Street, the network will include 8th Avenue, Union Street, Cedar Street, E Street and Island Avenue.

“After (the first 10 years), as additional greenways get built, there will be a decrease of overall parking,” Richter said.

The first block is slated for completion in the summer. It’s being funded through developer fees and a grant from the San Diego Association of Governments. The former downtown planning agency, Civic San Diego, is managing the project, acting as a consultant to the city.