The city of San Diego can do more to meet community and business goals by creating a sense of place in its individual neighborhoods, according to a new report by the regional nonprofit Circulate San Diego.
Following a study funded by the Kresge Foundation and Transportation for America, the 15-page report calls for the city to leverage creative, community-led projects to carry out goals of San Diego’s general plan, including the idea of creating a “City of Villages,” each with unique elements.
The report said residents across the city are willing to implement a vision for their own community’s placemaking, but face challenges including complex and expensive permit processes. There are also issues with inequity, as communities with more resources “have a better chance for success than others.”
Circulate San Diego also noted that funding for improvement projects is difficult to find.
“The city has tools to facilitate the process, but it requires a concerted effort to make the process more user-friendly and equitable,” said Kathleen Ferrier, the report’s author and director of Advocacy at Circulate San Diego, in a statement.
The report said San Diego has several other cities to emulate as it looks to improve placemaking, including National City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Minneapolis.
Circulate San Diego said several San Diego communities have already implemented effective sense-of-place features, including arts and cultural elements, new gathering spaces, beautification of blighted and underused properties, and enhancements to security and safety.
The authors included case studies of projects such as Linda Placita in Linda Vista, Chollas Creek Crossing in Encanto, intersection murals in Pacific Beach, and the Manzanita gathering place in City Heights.
The organization said city officials have expressed support for proposals included in the report, and the city is collaborating on improvement efforts.
“Placemaking can activate dead spaces in neighborhoods and energize communities,” said David Graham, the city’s deputy chief operating officer of neighborhood services.