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City's 'Prototype' Design for Palm Avenue Side Streets Moves Forward

The Imperial Beach City Council will be asked to approve more detailed design sketches for the 700 block of 10th Street at their meeting Wednesday.

A conceptual drawing of what 10th Street between Palm and Donax avenues may look like in the future. Credit: Nasland Engineering
A conceptual drawing of what 10th Street between Palm and Donax avenues may look like in the future. Credit: Nasland Engineering

Originally published 5:57 a.m. Dec. 16.

A single block on 10th Street called one of the worst in IB may spark change and bring more art, parking, trees and eventually businesses to streets north and south of Palm Avenue if a design concept recently approved moves forward, city staff said.

Once a plan is created for the 700 block of 10th Street it can be emulated for other streets within a block from Palm Avenue in the commercial-mixed use (C-MU1) zone, said Assistant City Manager and Community Development Department Director Greg Wade.

"It's a prototype, if you will," Wade said. "Our hope is as we move forward with a master plan and get some other visions going, and the implementation of that [master plan] with the money that we've been able to get from SANDAG, we'll get some synergy and maybe some interest in redeveloping." 

The conceptual design for the 700 block of 10th Street between Palm and Donax avenues was approved in a 4-0 vote at a Nov. 20 meeting. Councilman Ed Spriggs abstained from voting. 

City council will be asked Wednesday to approve the use of $23,000 in gas tax funds to have the drawings created. 

The push to create a standard streetscape for areas north and south of Palm Avenue comes amid recent developments for IB's commercial districts.

- Plans for Cal-American Water to move its offices to the corner of 10th Street and Palm Avenue were approved by city council last month. Every Day Furniture and Crystal Cove Cocktails, businesses at the east and west corners of 10th Street, closed in recent months. At the other end of the street, a six-unit Habitat for Humanity project is planned at the corner of 10th Street and Donax Avenue. 

- In July, SANDAG gave the city a $400,000 grant for the Palm Avenue Commercial Corridor Master Plan. The city is currently receiving proposals from companies who want to complete civil engineering drawings.

The plan calls for lanes to be taken away or narrowed, trees added and many other changes to make six-lane State Route 75 feel more like a Main Street than a state highway. Studies to prepare the master plan have taken place since 2006.

Click here to see the full plan documents. 

- Changes to Imperial Beach zoning laws were approved by a state commission in October. Portions of the changes are meant to have an impact on Palm Avenue and periphery streets between Florida Avenue and 7th Street.

"The design you see before you is a product of the Palm Avenue Master Plan. It is a concept of what was designed and developed. And the next phase is simply taking that concept and putting it into hard drawings," Wade said.

Plans to improve 10th Street have been discussed to make improvements in the past but never came to fruition, he said. The new Cal-Am Water and Habitat for Humanity projects at the north and south corners of the street reignited interest in planning for streets near Palm Avenue, said Public Works Department Director Hank Levien.

"My characterization is that that street is probably the least improved of our city streets. It's got sections of no sidewalk, sections of no curb and gutter, sections of no asphalt or parking," he said. 

City staff will now work on a cost estimate for drawings for 10th Street design and return to city council for further direction. When or how the design will be carried can be decided in the future but to keep in line with stated goals and plans, the city should "set the table," Levien said.

"I don't see staff recommending to you that we do any sort of construction at this time. It's just that when developments do occur and the two that you do now have will build to that standard," said Public Works Department Director Levien said.

The redesign suggests a mix of different kind of plants, new lighting, designs in crosswalks, changes to parking and possibly a seating area at the corner of 10th Street and Donax Avenue.

The plan was put together by Nasland Engineering and Parterre Landscape Architecture, companies that have worked with the city on design on Seacoast Drive and led a recent lighting demonstration.

"The vision that we have for 10th street is very much like the plot to the east," said Pat O'Connor with Parterre Landscape Architecture referring to 12th Street where cars park at an angle near Palm Avenue and parallel park next to residences at the other end of the street.

"We're not reinventing the wheel here. I mean there's been kind of a great model that has been installed," he said.

Some unique additions Nasland and Parterre suggest include public art, designs in crosswalks or on sidewalks, planting trees, in the center of the street to create a canopy and a seating area at the corner of 10th Street and Donax Avenue.

"You might say who's going to sit there? Well you might be surprised. Come out in the evening to meet your neighbors and sit on that corner and just to have some place to sit down," O'Connor said.

Local resident Chuck Quisenberry, the sole public speaker on the subject, said he likes parts of the idea but pleaded with councilmembers not to commit to any new ventures before a shopping center is built at 9th Street and Palm Avenue.

"Don't spend any more money on any more crazy ideas until we get 9th and Palm fixed ok? Don't do anything else weird. Don't waste any more money. Don't pay for drawings. Don't do anything else or waste any more money until we get that eyesore in the center of our city fixed," he said.

The original shopping center contract was rejected by the California Department of Finance earlier this year. City staff have worked to resolve the issues and Sudberry Development reiterated their commitment to seeing the Breakwater project go forward when a new purchase and sale agreement was approved by the city redevelopment agency successor agency in October.

Quisenberry also advised against walking on 10th Street at night.

"I've lived here 50 years. It's really not a good idea," he said.

Councilman Bobby Patton said he likes the idea of preparing the side streets for future development but that if large trees are planted that lighting and safety may become an issue.

"Because it is dark," Patton said. "I don't want to walk down that street in the middle of the night without lighting. In the future it will be a nice area."

Councilwoman Lorie Bragg, who lives a few blocks from the section of 10th Street, did not support Cal-Am Water moving to Palm Avenue but likes the idea of redesigning the street and places to sit at street corners.

"I see a lot of people in that area going to the post office, so I'm envisioning, when you said sit on the bench and get to know your neighbor, I think that's one of the things as a councilmember; it's a quality of life issue," Bragg said. "And I think this project is kind of a beginning for that neighborhood. There's really nothing like this in that section of town."

Councilman Ed Spriggs lives on Seacoast Drive and has been a vocal supporter of development on the beachfront street. 

No dollar amount has been placed on the design concept yet, Spriggs said last month, but he questioned making investments outside of "principal investment targets" the city has already identified like Seacoast Drive and near the shopping center project where the city can grow its tax base.

"This looks like a bit much," he said. "It looks like too much, too nice in a way, too much in an investment in street and trees for a commercial area that is way far away from having a lot of residential foot traffic coming up and down because the residences aren't there."

The city should focus its resources in places where it can grow its tax base, Spriggs said. The 10th Street design does not appear to be worth the time and energy necessary to create a turnaround, he said.

"I think it's a great concept but it looks like it's to me just plunked down in an area that is not really appropriate for this amount of time and energy at this point," Spriggs said. 

"For anything major to happen here it's going to require the reconstruction of a number of these buildings here and the construction of new buildings and it's not really our target area,"he said.

Public Works Department Director Hank Levien said the Nasland Engineering plan compliments what the city already has planned for the area. Some sort of plan is necessary.

"If we don't set the table for what you want to have come in there, then I think you will continue to have the level of business you have on that street and you will never encourage the development you're looking for in that area," he said.

Mayor Jim Janney said he agrees with Spriggs that the plan may seem "too extravagant" but in the past there was talk of new development two blocks west near the post office, Imperial Beach Health Center and The Scoreboard. 

"If we don't have a standard down there of what those streets should look like we're going to get that hodgepodge," Janney said. "We set the standard; they have to build to our particular standard."

What do you think of plans to redesign streets near Palm Avenue? What features would you like to see included there? Share in comments.

Libi Uremovic December 15, 2013 at 06:47 PM
'...As far as using gas tax funds for concept design, it is not only appropriate, but required ...' it is not appropriate nor required to pillage the taxpayers money every time a profiteer has another scam to sell .... if it wasn't on the budget when council passed the budget there's no money allocated for the project.... we need educational and intellectual requirements for politicians.... if they can't read a budget and don't understand finance they have no business assuming the position...
Notimeforignorance December 15, 2013 at 07:28 PM
bunch of pessimists...
Nana * 8 December 15, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Before we do anything at all we need to develop 9th and Palm!
Jon Hall December 16, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Glad to see this plan, which has been in the works for quite a few years, is finally seeing the light of day --- shame it is now too late to stop it ...
Rita Davidson December 16, 2013 at 08:47 PM
Really u want to fix one stinking block? FIX EYESORE AT PALM & NINTH!

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