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Debate over Convoy District bike lanes stirs up controversy

The City of San Diego's plan to install bike lanes in the Convoy District is creating controversy as hundreds of parking spaces will be lost.

SAN DIEGO — The City of San Diego's plan to install bike lanes in the Convoy District is stirring up controversy as hundreds of parking spaces will be lost.  

CBS 8 spoke with business owners who fear the loss of parking for customers. 

“You can see the number of cars parked up and down this street and how convenient it is to the businesses, both for business across the street and right here for our shopping center,” said Tom Nickel, owner of O’Brien’s Pub. 

The separated bike lanes on Convoy Street would require the removal of 300 parking spaces. 

“This impacts our families, our livelihoods, our employees, as well as our bottom line and our ability to survive,” said Nickel. 

The City of San Diego told CBS 8 that crews will begin resurfacing Convoy in May 2023, and once the overlay is finished in the spring of 2024, separated bike lanes will be installed. 

“We’re fighting a David versus Goliath battle at this point,” said Sandy Vuong Tobin, owner of Dumpling Inn Shanghai Saloon. “We’re between three freeways and a dump. People are commuting here, they’re stopping here on their way home or on their way to work. That’s our bread and butter.” 

To mitigate the loss of spaces on Convoy, the city added 171 angled spots on side streets such as Dagget Street, Vickers Street, and Opportunity Road, but it’s unclear how many of those spaces are a net gain. 

“That’s taking existing street parking and converting it to angled street parking, so there were already some spots there,” said Nickel. 

The city says the bike lanes are aligned with a community plan update approved in 2020 by the Kearny Mesa Planning Group, but that same planning group sent a letter in February opposing the removal of parking spaces on Convoy, stating, “This is a drastic change that the KMPG and countless property owners were never expecting nor in favor of…  it’s evident that the lack of parking options will negatively affect the local businesses and community members' desire to visit the Convoy District.” 

Supporters of the planned bike lanes say the Convoy District is not bike-friendly and could benefit from safe bikeways. 

“Convoy has been a really difficult and unsafe place to be someone who rides a bike or walks for a very long time,” said William Rhatigan, Advocacy Director for the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. 

“When we get some really safe bike lanes in there, it will allow people to bike or scooter or skateboard without having to drive around and find five different parking spots in an area that is always congested, no one like driving in,” said Rhatigan. “That’s going to be transformative.” 

More residential housing will be coming to the Convoy District when 531 apartments will come online in early 2025. Developer Trammell Crow is reportedly building the project on Convoy Street between Ronson Road and Raytheon Street. 

“In coming years, we’re going to have a lot of housing development in the area that’s going to bring more people on foot, more people who live nearby,” said Rhatigan. “Giving those people options that aren’t driving is essential if that area is going to have a future that isn’t just sitting in traffic all the time.” 

Meanwhile, business owners are hoping for a chance to find other solutions. 

“Unfortunately, most of us didn’t find out about the proposed bike lane until December of last year,” said Tobin. “So now most of us are scrambling to try to just put a halt, put a pause, kind of just come to the table and have a discussion about it.” 

The City of San Diego offered this statement about the project: 

“The Mayor and the City are committed to working in partnership with businesses and community members on parking management solutions identified in the parking study that was completed by the City of San Diego. The parking management solutions identified in the parking study can result in additional parking in the area in tandem with different mobility options for residents, employees and patrons to come to Convoy as envisioned in the Kearny Mesa Community Plan.” 

The city also offered this statement regarding the possibility of forming a parking district in the Convoy area: 

“The creation of a parking district will be considered by the Convoy District Partnership in the coming weeks and go to City Council in the following months. The formation of a parking district could implement additional mobility and parking management solutions identified in the parking study conducted such as wayfinding and parking directional signage, shared parking agreements with nearby businesses, and a privately operated shuttle service like Downtown's FRED which could serve as a convenient means for transporting employees from nearby major employment centers during lunch and transporting employees as well as patrons during dinner. The City is also coordinating with their three contracted scooter operators to deploy scooters and potentially bikes in this area and simultaneously installing corrals for organized device parking. These comprehensive mobility improvements and amenities solutions also came from input by residents, business owners and employees during the recent community plan update.” 

WATCH RELATED: Bike lanes on Convoy Street in San Diego will replace 300 parking spaces, receive mixed reaction 

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