What is the purpose of the Hillcrest Gateway Council? (HGC)

The purpose of the HGC is to give commercial property owners in downtown Hillcrest a united voice. Like many residents and business owners, we are frustrated with the diminishing vibrancy in the area. Hillcrest was once a dynamic place on the cutting edge of entertainment, architecture and cuisine but we are now seeing this forward thinking culture gravitate toward growing communities like North Park, Golden Hill and parts of downtown. We hope to make revitalization an acceptable part of our neighborhood once again.

Why does the Hillcrest Gateway Council want to create a Gateway District?

South 163 is the main entrance into Hillcrest and it leads straight into the heart of the commercial core. This is a great opportunity to make an “unforgettable first impression”. Instead, the 6th Avenue corridor falls flat. There is no street activation, attraction or obvious reason to stop until Balboa Park and by that time, you are well out of Hillcrest.

The creation of a Gateway District would make our commercial core a true destination. This area of Hillcrest should be given flexible zoning to encourage creative architecture, attractive public realm and an experience that makes visitors and locals want to spend the day “about town” shopping, eating, and enjoying our local businesses.

Why is the Hillcrest Gateway Council opposed to the proposed Historic District in Hillcrest?

We believe in preserving what is worthy, not just what is old. A blanketed historic district in the heart of Hillcrest casts too wide a net.

We want to protect our rights as property owners. The proposed Historic District and general down zoning of Hillcrest would be a catastrophic blow to property values. New and existing tenants would be bogged down and discouraged by the red tape that comes along with dealing with historically designated properties. Want to update your windows? Want to change the paint color? Want to add solar panels? Not so fast. You will need to ask for permission first and often times, it’s not given.  In addition, modifications to historic structures is a complicated process involving costly delays.

What does down zone mean?

Down zoning is the act of changing zoning to a less intensive use. For example, commercial property might be down zoned to only allow residential use and multifamily property might be down zoned to only allow single family homes.

Why is the Hillcrest Gateway Council opposed to the proposed down zoning Hillcrest?

Our current Community Plan has been in place for over 30 years. Many property owners purchased their properties with “as of right” zoning and factored future opportunity into the purchase prices they paid. Zoning is critical to property value. A down zone to the area will ensure that property values will decrease since future opportunity is significantly diminished.

Imagine buying a home with the knowledge that you can add a second story to it as your family grows. Then the City changes the zoning to forbid second stories. Suddenly, the opportunity that made your home worth the purchase has been stripped away. This is what is happening to property owners in the Uptown Gateway District and property owners across Uptown.

Would a down zone in Hillcrest be compliant with the Climate Action Plan?

No. The Uptown Gateway Council is committed to the recently passed San Diego Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP explicitly calls for increased density around transportation nodes and highlights Hillcrest as a prime location for enforcement of this policy. We believe this is an opportunity for Uptown to be a pillar of environmental responsibility instead of a noncompliant opponent.

How does the Hillcrest Gateway Council hope to improve facilities in Uptown?

For the last decade, San Diego has been digging its way out of the Great Recession and a pension crisis. During this time, facilities and infrastructure across our City suffered. Now that our City has picked itself up and dusted itself off, we are seeing attention slowly turning back to these areas of great concern.

There are members within the Hillcrest community who believe that the best way to get the City to act more quickly is to prohibit any kind of development until certain demands, like building a new park, are met. We believe ultimatums are counterproductive, especially when the very thing that is being prohibited helps to pay for the improvements being requested.

With the creation of a Gateway District, development fees created within this area could be allocated towards improvements, like a new park within Uptown, instead of going into the General Fund. Not only will it ensure that these dollars stay local but it will show the City that we are willing, as a community, to seek solutions and find common ground.

Can density reduce traffic?

Yes. Studies show that residents in compact neighborhoods with shopping, dining and amenities within walking distance rely on personal automobiles significantly less than in sprawling neighborhoods. A common misconception in Hillcrest is that it already has a lot of local amenities and a lot of people living there. This is true but there is actually very little residential density within the commercial core. Where the businesses are concentrated, there are very few residents and where there is a concentration of residents, there is much less business. While this still makes Hillcrest a wonderful place to live, it necessitates a reliance on personal vehicles that we hope to help eliminate.

By applying the zoning guidelines of a Gateway District, we can add residential density within the business core. The result will be a thriving environment for those who choose it. Public transportation, including six public bus routes, and all the amenities a resident could ask for will be within a small radius which will benefit the young, the elderly and everyone in between.

What about preserving the Hillcrest character?

The architecture in Hillcrest is eclectic. There is a healthy mix of contemporary, craftsman, Spanish, Queen Anne, Victorian and modern styles, to name a few, which add to the community’s unique identity. With so many styles to choose from, new developments can easily follow this rhythm. After all, a mismatching sock added to a drawer of mismatching socks doesn’t stand out, it fits right in.