Plan for Grand Avenue progresses

ESCONDIDO — The vision for Grand Avenue is coming together.

Of course, there is still concern over several aspects of the concept, but creating a more vibrant downtown is a priority for the City Council.

Julie Procopio, Escondido’s director of engineering services, received approval last week to apply for two grants to jump-start the plan.

The vision includes wider sidewalks, narrowing Grand Avenue to one lane in each direction, outdoor dining, landscaping and enhancing the downtown brand.

In addition, the proposal include diagonal parking, enhanced ambiance and it qualifies for San Diego Association of Governments funding through the TransNet tax.

In October 2017 and last month, public meetings were held to generate more ideas, while a committee was formed to collaborate with the city.

One idea to activate the outdoor space would also include rerouting buses to increase pedestrian traffic. Also included are planned roundabouts at Broadway and Maple and Kalmia streets to calm traffic.

“The committee really, strongly supported the roundabout idea,” Procopio said. “They really felt that the idea at Broadway provided a key focal point for what is our downtown.”

She said 20-foot sidewalks for pedestrians, outdoor dining and 70 parking spaces would be gained with the plan. However, Procopio stressed the idea is in the concept phase and more community input will gathered.

“We can’t build it all at once,” she said. “We would look to get their input on what it should look like and if it should be refined.”

The overall cost is estimated at $15 million. Phase I focuses on Maple Street to Broadway including bus realignment. Design and construction is projected at $2.5 million. Phase II covers the remaining sidewalk extensions and roundabout at Broadway and is projected at $2.8 million.

“What I hear from my colleagues is that it is very nice and calming,” Mayor Sam Abed said. “This is an opportunity for us to take that Smart Growth Incentive Program. Everybody should get something, but not everything. I think we can come to a beautiful project that preserves our history and also creates some vibrancy and a walkable Grand Avenue.”

The council approved an application to SANDAG for two Smart Growth Incentive Program grants before the March 15 deadline. Once plans are solidified, construction would begin in mid-2020. Procopio said if the city receives the grant, the public would still be able to comment on the plan as it is currently a concept.

Resident Sharon Sanders said a majority of those in attendance at the October meeting were in opposition to the plan. In addition, two other residents also voiced concerns the removal of Eucalyptus trees would be a negative impact.

“I recall two to three strong support voices that night,” Sanders said, “but the vast majority around me were negative. We have such a quaint and peaceful grace about Grand Avenue. If you took the trees out and widen the sidewalks, it would just be the sun. Why can’t we do one block and give it a try?”

Like Abed, the rest of the council members supported the project, although each did have their own concerns. However, each council member stressed more engagement with residents and business owners are critical in developing the best possible project.

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