Members of the Media,

As Iım sure you are well aware, the Padreıs/JMIıs new proposal for East Village Square is a hotly contested public issue.  I have not found as much detailed coverage and information on the matter as I would hope for through the media. Furthermore, there seemed to be a great deal of public outrage that was unsubstantiated with any sort of thoughtful analysis of the project.  Perhaps an examination of the complex trade-offs between the two projects would be too lengthy for most formats of printed news.  Whatever the case may be, I have prepared my own analysis, as a resident of East Village and a baseball fan, of the merits of the initial proposal versus the new proposal.

The analysis led me to a conclusion that I imagine would surprise the many members of the public eager to demonize JMI by attacking the new proposal, spurred on by the widespread culture of corporate mistrust and thus blinded to the pragmatic issues associated with the new proposal.  When the proposal is looked at holistically, i.e. considering aesthetics, neighborhood economic health, the dynamics of urban public space, and the experience of the baseball fan in and around the ballpark, it becomes imminently clear that the new proposal is far superior to the original proposal.

Stirring public ire and stoking the publicıs suspicions of corporate malfeasance and deception only stagnates the development process, creating an empty dirt lot where there could be a vibrant neighborhood. IF we choose the option that has is superior in terms of urban design, that neighborhood will hums with social and economic activity on the 81 game days each year AND on the 284 days when East Village must sustain itself, unaided by the temporary injection of 46,000 fans.  If you are going to stir up the public, at least stir them to consider the complexities of the choices in front of them, alerting them to the urban design challenge which this un-urban structure represents.  The attached letter is my attempt to do that while thoughtfully considering each of the concerns raised by the public.  If the attached single page executive summary piques your interest, please peruse the full document.  Though I anticipate it is not of a size which is suitable for publication as it stands, were I addressing purely a public audience much of it could be condensed.  This particular document was written with downtown and ballpark stakeholders, the CCDC, and the City Council in mind (though I am not so naïve to believe anything but the first page may be read by the council members).  If you have any questions or would like to offer any comments, please contact me by one of the means shown below.  Thank you for your time.


A Downtown Residentıs Analysis of the

Revised East Village Square Development Proposal.

Eli Fernald, Owner/Occupant-East Village

 

Dear CCDC Board Members, Members of the City Council, and downtown stakeholders,

       In response to the negative public comments regarding the Padresı revised development proposal for East Village Square, I decided to offer an alternate public assessment of JMIıs proposal. This assessment is based on how the new proposal affects neighborhood aesthetics and health as well as how it affects the experience of the baseball fan. On the basis of what I have found in my research and in my daily experience in East Village over the past several years, I strongly recommend that you approve the JMI proposal as it stands today, lest we create an unhealthy neighborhood which fails to integrate a massive un-urban object (i.e. the new ballpark) into the context of our downtown environment. Hereıs why:

 

§       The center field office building is not viable below 10 stories.  Losing one of the only two office buildings slated to be built downtown in the coming years would be disastrous.

o      Lack of office space harms East Village ­ we need dense development to keep the area alive during the 284 non-game days each year.

o      Office space provides year-round weekday users, which allows smaller retailers and non-sports retailers to thrive in the ballpark district and the southern Gaslamp.

o      Office workers will use the Park at the Park and activate the dormant sidewalks of East Village. If there is no one to use these public spaces during the week, they will feel much more unwelcoming than if abutted with a well-designed 10 story building

o      We must combat the growing disparity between housing and jobs downtown if we want to fulfill its promise of live/work.

§       Without live/work, transit ridership remains low and downtown residents have little time to contribute to their cityıs economic and social health.

§       Larger buildings offer aesthetic benefit to the neighborhood

o      They are scaled more appropriately to the other buildings around the ballpark.

o      When the ballparkıs massive structure is empty, they re-emphasize a populated and living entity that belongs downtown more so than an empty ballpark.

§       The taller structures do not degrade the pedestrian or park userıs experience

o      The parkıs landscape architect approves of the center field buildingıs height

§       There are many examples of successful small parks with adjacent buildings of similar or greater height than the proposed structure

o      Sun access at the park is unaffected and the park remains relatively open on 3 sides

§       The partly flattened park is a good compromise between neighborhood and ballpark use

§       The taller structures can enhance, not degrade, the baseball fanıs experience

 

I have provided this summary for those of you who have limited time to examine this issue.  I have however attached the full text of my assessment of the project for those who would like to see my claims substantiated and examined in greater depth. 

Table of Contents

 

1.0                   Introduction, Motivation, and Intent

2.0                   The Importance of Office Space

2.1                   Live/Work Where?

2.2                   Maintaining East Villageıs Pulse

3.0                   Public Criticism ­ Out in Left Field About Urban Density

4.0                   Aesthetics & Usability

4.1                   East Village Macro Level ­ Scale, Character, The Void, and Views

4.2                   On Foot Around J St.

4.3                   A Walk in the Park

4.4                   Take Me Out To TheŠŠVista Point? (title too combative??)

5.0                   Conclusions

 

1.0 Introduction, Motivation, and Intent

 

            I am deeply concerned about the quality and enmity of the public and private debate that surrounds the updated development plans for East Village Square in the ballpark district downtown. My first inkling of the publicıs lack of focus on the urban design issues associated with the development was on KPBS radioıs These Days in early February. In the call-in section of the program, callers almost universally focused on whether or not they had been misled in 1998. None of these callers seemed well versed on the actual content of the MOU nor the legal obligation implied by renderings of the park released at that time.  When public comment did turn towards issues of urban design, it focused universally on the proposalıs perceived effect on the baseball fan and mostly ignored its effects on the neighborhood. This sentiment & focus was echoed in the Ballpark public forum on March 6th.

I have no intent of discussing any issues related to the legal obligations of JMI as per the MOU, as I trust this has been adequately examined by JMIıs legal team.  More importantly, it is crucial to move beyond finger pointing to a calmer vista which allows the relative merits of the new proposal to be examined. I will not pass judgment on the sanctity of the change, and think it unfortunate that the public has done so before assessing the complex tradeoffs between the two versions of the project. I hope the stakeholders and decision-makers at CCDC and in the city council will evaluate the new proposal holistically, considering the wide-reaching effects of their decision on East Village, Downtown, and the baseball fan.  Since the residents of downtown and East Village are relatively few in number, we could easily be the group whose wants and needs go relatively unnoticed. This would be quite unfortunate, since we are the ones who must live with the ballpark district all year. In fact, the amount of time the ballpark and its surrounding area will be occupied by baseball fans each year will be below 10% in terms of raw hours.  We will be doing a great disservice to our small but rapidly growing downtown citizenry if we do not give equal weight to their welfare in the East Village Square decision-making process.  I hope to give an additional voice to that welfare.

The essential elements of my position are as follows: The new density and massing of East Village Square as proposed by JMI is a major improvement over the initial massing.  The proposed massing does not degrade the pedestrianıs experience on J street and in the surrounding blocks, nor does it make the park at the park a less pleasant, welcoming public space. The more substantial structures in the proposal offer significant aesthetic benefit to the neighborhood. The proposal is not historically insensitive, nor is it the least bit out of context & scale with the surrounding development, both present and future.

As a baseball fan and as a downtown resident indebted to the ballpark for accelerating downtownıs revitalization, I also have concern for the quality of the baseball fanıs experience.  I believe the new proposalıs detractors are misguided in stating that it degrades the fanıs experience in the ballpark. On the contrary, the feeling imbued by our beautiful new ballpark and its environs can be more potent and exciting if the ballpark feels immersed within the life and hum of the city.  With buildings of bolder scale, the visual mass of the incongruous ballpark and the city are better balanced and integrated. Furthermore, instead of admiring the intensity and vitality of our centre city from afar, important, substantial urban structures in closer proximity will help the fans feel more a part of the energy, excitement, and inspiring monumentality which make urban areas such vibrant and provocative places to live.

The objecting public, CCDC, and I do have some common ground.  We agree that issues of appropriate density, pedestrian experience, ballpark user experience, neighborhood aesthetics & history are important criteria for evaluating the proposal. However, the dialogue thus far seems to have ignored a very important topic, that being the health of the area on non game-days. If the new proposal is evaluated with this metric, its superiority is extremely clear. All the aforementioned issues deserve a place in the dialogue and in the final decision on the project.  To neglect any of them would be unjust to those who will experience the ballpark and neighborhood in the years to come and to the many who have dedicated so much energy to the project in years past. 

 

 

2.0 The Importance of Office Space

         2.1 Live/Work Where?

 

A new office building is of paramount importance to both East Village and the overall downtown area.  No new office space has been built here since 1991, and presently there is only one other viable office building in the development pipeline, Broadway 655, whose future is by no means certain. Contrast the dearth of commercial projects to the vast number of residential projects approved, pending approval, or under construction and it becomes apparent that we are steering down a path where many people live downtown, but few of them have an opportunity to work here.

In 2002, as part of the community plan update, the consulting firm Dyett & Bhatia compared figures of merit for 8 major North American waterfront downtowns, including Boston, Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, and San Francisco, as well as our own downtown San Diego.  This study, together with the other working documents produced in the plan update process shed light on the general health of downtown.  In terms of raw office space and jobs per acre, the prognosis is not good.  At just under 9 million square feet of office space, we lag behind all the surveyed downtowns by a substantial margin, though our land area is among the largest of the group.  Our nearest competitor, Portland, has almost 60% more office space, while Vancouver, Seattle, and Boston have 3,4 and 5 times as much space.  Due to our relatively large land area, we are also at the bottom of the group in terms of jobs/acre, at 52. 

Turning away from national comparisons, downtownıs dominance in the office market within the bounds of our own county is under siege. Since 1991, when the last permit was pulled for Class A office space, downtownıs share of the overall San Diego County office market has eroded from 23% in 1991 to 17.6% in 2001. Several submarkets in the county now approach 6 million square feet in size, or 2/3 of downtownıs available space.  This impending challenge does not bode well for maintaining downtownıs symbolic importance as our regionıs business center nor in the more pragmatic terms of commute reduction and sprawl control. I donıt need to remind any of you how low our countywide public transit usage percentage is, at 3.3% of all commuting trips taken.  Locating an office building near existing transit means that we can almost immediately improve transit ridership and remove cars from our clogged freeways without having to spend another dime of public funds. 

A vastly unbalanced ratio of residential units to office space in an urban area spells trouble for an urban center in several ways. It does not take full advantage of existing public transit infrastructure. A downtown resident that works far away from downtown does not contribute daily to downtownıs vitality and economic health.  It is easy for such a resident to enter their car in their buildingıs gated parking garage, drive to work in Sorrento Mesa at 7:30AM, spend money at retail businesses Sorrento Mesa during lunch and on afternoon errands, and drive back into their downtown garage at 6PM. This leaves only a few hours each evening to walk around downtown, patronize a variety of downtown businesses, get to know, appreciate, and care about its neighborhoods, and activate its sidewalks. We are incessantly promoting downtown as a live/work, 24/7 environment that is alive and bustling every day of the week.  I can say with certainty that this is not presently the case throughout downtown, nor will it be in the foreseeable future without places for a large number of residents and non-residents alike to work during the day. If residents spend most of their time during the week far away from downtown, our self-created vitality is stifled.  Our own Gaslamp Quarter is sufficient evidence for this phenomenon, as we rely on importing thousands of people from elsewhere in the county each Friday and Saturday night to energize the district, activate its sidewalks, and support its retail.  It is a sorely underused area during the workday. One need only look at how many restaurants offer lunch menus as evidence of this disuse, especially when one moves further and further away from the business districts around Broadway and B St.

I am not advocating that we add an innumerable number of office buildings on every available plot in downtown or East Village. But if we do not at least halt downtownıs slide in the office market, I believe that our city is headed in a direction it will regret.  If the center structure in East Village square is limited to less than 9 or 10 stories, it will almost certainly not be built as office space (several commercial developers that I asked confirmed this assumption).  If we unduly limit the height of the building and miss this golden opportunity for new office space in downtown, it will probably be 5 years or more before another commercial office building is built. Please do not make us wait until then to add large numbers of new jobs downtown. 

 

2.2 Maintaining a Pulse in East Village

            Within the context of East Village, the importance of an office building is even more apparent.  Anyone who has wandered east of 6th avenue by day can attest to the dearth of pedestrians, with the one exception being that in East Village one is typically outnumbered by members of the homeless population. I have nothing against these downtrodden members of our society, but one can say without much prejudice that areas where they are the principle users are not thriving examples of urban health.

What elevates the importance of the pedestrian density issue in the ballpark district is this: the ballpark occupies approximately 6 square blocks, and is likely to be active for 6-7 hours for each of the 81 home games each year.  The majority of those games happen to be evening games, beginning at 7:05PM.  For the remaining 284 full days, as well as for a large portion of the 81 home game days, those 6 blocks will have effectively zero occupants and users.  A void in population density of this size in a downtown as sparsely populated as ours(8.0 dwelling units per acre, also the lowest of the surveyed group mentioned earlier) must be counteracted by substantial, dense development. More importantly it must be counteracted with dense development that has a variety of users, which is precisely the greatest strength of the new JMI proposal.

Specifically, the office worker is an invaluable resource in the area under consideration. This area will desperately need workday users to keep ballpark district retail alive in the long period between seasons, as well as the during the week-long stints of away games during the baseball season. In addition to helping business thrive in the ballpark district, an office worker on J street can help revive daytime business in the dormant southern end of the Gaslamp. An office worker can provide the park at the park with users in the middle of the weekday, while the residents of the proposed East Village square condos help keep the park active on weekends and weekday mornings. 

One of the chief arguments made by CCDC against the current JMI proposal is that the center field building must be shortened in order to preserve the quality of the park userıs experience. I believe that a 10-11 story building behind the park does not inherently compromise the park userıs experience. Andrew Spurlock, principle of Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects, the firm responsible for the design of the park at the park, shares my opinion on this matter. I will delve into the specifics of why the park still works with an adjacent structure of this height in section 4.2.

Putting aside the opinion-heavy questions of park aesthetics for the moment, the question of park enjoyment as affected by building height can be summarized as follows:  With a 5-6 story height limit, there will not be an office component in East Village square. If this is indeed the case, we have two choices. We can have a park which is bereft of daytime users and is therefore likely to be appropriated for primary use by the local homeless population or we can have a park which is clean and energized with users throughout the day, flanked on only one side by a tall building. Lack of consistent daytime use is much more likely to make the park an unappealing place than is a 10-11 story mid-rise building which is treated with architectural sensitivity.  Again my intent is not to demonize the homeless, but simply to acknowledge that the general public does not feel comfortable using public spaces which are widely used by our indigent population.  By shortening the center field building we may indirectly cause the very problem that we were trying to avoid, albeit with the best of intentions.

 

3.0 Public Criticism - Out in Left Field About Urban Density

            Though I am aware that there is some consensus between CCDC and JMI in terms of the left and right field building, it seems as though there are large segments of the public who decry their height and the increased density that comes along with it.  I have already mentioned that substantial residential and commercial density is needed to balance the abnormally low density resulting from the 6 square blocks of the ballpark which are frequently depopulated.  I trust the public understood that when they chose to site the ballpark downtown in 1998, they were placing it in an environment that loves and craves density.

This is not to say that an arbitrarily high level of density in a city is acceptable, and to insure an area is built with appropriate intensity, CCDC regulates the amount of gross square footage allowable for each square foot of space in the buildingıs footprint.  I believe each of the newly proposed buildings meets the FAR requirement of 6.5 within the bounds of the sports and entertainment district. If the public has a complaint about the density of this area, they had best address their concerns to CCDC rather than claim JMI is trying to turn East Village into a forest of skyscrapers. Furthermore, if people are so genuinely concerned about the increased density coming to East Village, where is the outcry over upcoming projects in East Village of larger scale than those proposed by JMI? These future buildings are sited in close proximity to the ballpark and take full advantage of the available FAR in the area.  Though the East Village square buildings are closer to the ballpark by a small margin and thus require special consideration, it seems hypocritical to criticize their size as fitting poorly with the neighborhood while keeping silence on adjacent projects of greater scale. I therefore mistrust any criticism of this project that goes under the guise of concern over neighborhood density.  If one was in fact genuinely concerned about the density of the broader neighborhood, they could take comfort in the multitude of projects in the pipeline for East Village that are less than 6-7 stories and have FARs of 4.0 and lower. In short, I find little reason to believe that concerns about excessive neighborhood densities are well founded.

 

 

4.0 Aesthetics & Usability

    4.1 East Village Macro Level ­ Scale, Character, The Void, and Views

Though there is a great deal of pragmatic benefit to moving ahead with the massing proposed by JMI, the aesthetic impact of the proposed changes must be assessed to determine what does the greatest good for the neighborhood, its residents, visitors, and baseball fans alike.  In examining the effect of the buildings on the aesthetic quality of their immediate environs as well as the broader neighborhood, both bulk and character are worthy of consideration.  Good urban design dictates that no element dominates oneıs visual attention to an extent that the remainder of an area goes unnoticed and feels unimportant by comparison.  This does not imply that complete design homogeneity is a worthy goal, simply that there should be some cohesion in scale in a certain area. Judged through this lens, none of the proposed East Village square buildings is out of context with the surrounding structures.  The ballpark itself is 190ft tall(and 3 city blocks wide!), the Omni hotel and the proposal for Parkloft II dwarf all the surrounding structures at X ft and X ft, the Clarion hotel (across 7th St. from the left field building) is X ft, Parkloft I closely matches the proposed center field office building at X ft, the new main library is X ft, and several other projects in the development pipeline are of comparable height.   The old 4-5 story buildings were a poorer fit for the neighborhoodıs visual scale than those in the present proposal! 

My sole concern in regards to height is with that of the right field building, which is the building closest to the new main library.  The area to the east of the ballpark tends to be somewhat lower than that which will take shape to the north, so it makes sense to step down more in this direction. I would also like to see the dome of the main library be the tallest structure within its immediate area.  Its civic and symbolic importance is already voiced through its architectural expression, but we should allow that expression to stand elevated above its immediate neighbors.  Keeping the right field building at a level comparable to the highest flat portion of the library roof, but below the grand glass dome over the reading room would help give that structure the dignity it deserves. 

That minor objection aside, the three taller buildings improve the ballpark districtıs aesthetic in several less direct ways. Consider the scene that is presented to the East Village pedestrian for the 90% of the year that the ballpark stands unused.  The ballpark has a large opening on its northern border that reveals a large portion of its seating bowl. When the seating bowl is empty, if viewed in its totality, the ballpark gives the impression of a desolate, silent, dark void in the middle of a (hopefully) bustling neighborhood.  Would it not be better if some parts of that void were screened from view on the many days the park will lie dormant? If we want to make a rather un-urban object well integrated within the context of downtown, it seems like a good idea to reinforce the visual weight of structures that are used every day while de-emphasizing that of one that is predominantly barren.  The taller, more substantial buildings redirect the visual emphasis on these barren days back to a living, breathing part of the city.

            Another indirect aesthetic benefit regards unobstructed urban views versus those that are cropped.  Both can provoke a great deal of visual interest and can have emotional impact. However, in a scene overcrowded with too many visually interesting items, the eye does not know where to focus its attention. Though parts of the scene may be grand, their potency is muted.  When a scene has boundaries that emphasize a handful of interesting visual elements, our eye finds rest on the notable objects.  Claiming that an unobstructed view of the city is the only yardstick to measure view quality is folly indeed. View corridors into and out of the park should be preserved, but as with a good photograph, some smart cropping and framing of views can have surprisingly positive results. 

            In summary, the proposed buildings are of appropriate scale for the neighborhood and provide added two added benefits to the surrounding area. They balance and screen the massive emptiness of the park on non game days and they offer the potential for framing dramatic views into and out of the park along the lines of the street grid, which JMI has wisely re-connected at grade into the park in their latest proposal. 

As an aside, this particular change to the most recent proposal is of great practical and aesthetic significance, and it is unfortunate that the Union Tribune and the public seem to have ignored it entirely. Making these connections improves the flow of pedestrian traffic in and out of the park substantially, offers simplified access to the park at the park, and offers improved view corridors into and out of the ballpark.  On the topic of concessions, JMI further agreed to move the left field building slightly west, such that the vast majority of it sits behind the scoreboard and lighting tower, thereby leaving the left field view out of the park little changed for most seats. We will return to the issue of views out of the ballpark in section 4.4.

 

4.2 On Foot Around J St.

            Though the JMI proposal integrates well with what the neighborhood will become, it is nonetheless necessary to evaluate the quality of an individual pedestrianıs experience around the streets of the ballpark district.  The primary visual interaction we have with urban buildings from close proximity is with elements at about 40 feet and lower on the buildingıs streetwall. Therefore to the same degree that a building of moderate height can feel unwelcoming through long, blank, windowless, flat streetwall design, a tall building can feel wonderfully intriguing and human-scale through the inclusion of a variety of small-scale elements of visual interest. These elements might include ground floor retail of moderate size, artful streetscape, awnings, balconies, and other overhead architectural articulation, varied texture, color, and visual rhythm in the buildingıs façade, and innumerable other architectural devices.  Buildings of the proposed scale, which incidentally is rather small in the overall scheme of urban structures, are not anywhere near a scale that would be difficult to humanize with good streetwall and streetscape design.  

Again we find a paradox in comparing the quality of the publicıs experience in East Village Square between the two possible scenarios ­ one in which JMI is allowed to build at a height and floorplate size which makes the office building viable, and one in which height and bulk restrictions force non-office use of the center structure. As with the park-userıs experience as described in section 2.2, if we make the center building untenable as office space we may find ourselves victims of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If the office building is built, the pedestrian walks down a street humming with daytime activity in a healthy variety of retail spaces, peopled and alive with residents and office workers from the surrounding blocks. If it is not built and there are relatively few non game-day users, the pedestrian walks by retail which is closed, or worse yet vacant, or perhaps filled with nothing but major chain stores, as smaller businesses find it difficult to make it through the lean baseball off-season.  He or she cannot help but feel unwelcome in this quiet and empty urban space, irrespective of what occurs at the buildingıs top 60 feet overhead.  Without people and the chance for retail to thrive every day of the year, no amount of architectural treatment can energize a dormant street.  We must ask what will activate our streets and help us overcome the urban design challenge that a predominantly empty massive structure presents? Dense residential building, broadly varied retail which is not purely sports-oriented, nearby civic structures and public amenities, thoughtful and cohesive streetscape and streetwall design, and finally local office space of sufficient density.  With these essential ingredients we are well on our way to a district that resonates with life and activity. 

 

4.3 A Walk In the Park

Pedestrian and public experience within the park at the park is also extremely important, for it would be a shame for the only green space in East Village to be a disused and ignoble place.  I am extremely excited to have a nearby park where I can enjoy a picnic, play catch with friends, read and relax, and of course have a cheap and unique experience watching a ballgame.  I wholly agree with the East Village Associationıs position that it is advantageous to have a portion of the park be flat to accommodate more non game-day uses, but I am also happy to see that enough slope has been retained in a large portion of the park that one will be able to see onto some of the playing field.  Adding the provision that $5 tickets will get you into both the park and the standing room areas in the stadium was another welcome change announced by the Padres at the public forum.  As previously mentioned, connecting eighth and ninth avenues on grade further improves the openness of the park and its connectedness to the neighborhood.  The main point of contention between CCDC and JMI that was alluded to in a previous section pertains to the interaction of the center building with the park.  Specifically, there is concern that the building makes the park feel walled in at this height.  Though speculation on intangible matters of aesthetic is always fraught with opinion, several things can be stated for certain. 

 

§       The proposed building does not in any way limit sun access to the park.

§       The newly connected eighth and ninth avenues abut the park on its east and west borders, and the outfield abuts its southern border, so there is no substantial structure on 3 of the parkıs 4 sides to give an impression of inappropriate enclosure.

§       The parkıs designers have studied other parks of very similar format to the proposed park/structure combination and found them well used and healthy. One of the parkıs chief designers has specifically stated he has no issue with the proposed height of the center field building.

§       Without significant office space nearby, there will likely be a limited number of non-indigent weekday park users

§       Of the daylight hours that the park is expected to be open each year, 10% will likely see baseball-related use.

§       In American cities, there are many green-spaces with adjacent buildings over 10 stories in height.  Some of these feel encroached upon by the structures, some of them are all the more intriguing due to the aesthetic interaction of green space and built structure. Mid-rise massing and height do not therefore seal a parkıs fate. 

 

I can only hope that these points underscore the importance of a holistic approach in considering the parkıs usage, health, and aesthetic quality.  I cannot see a reasonable basis for evaluating the park/building interaction principally on the basis of a hunch about encroachment.

 

4.4 Take Me Out to theŠ..Vista Point?

            One of the most contentious issues concerning the new buildings involves views of downtown and the surrounding area from inside the seating bowl.  A few items on this topic are fairly clear-cut. A great majority of the 46,000 places from which one can view the ballgame are not affected at all by the height and bulk changes.  The view afforded the 4,000 people who can buy $5 tickets will be unaffected, as these people will be either in the park or in low lying areas with their backs to East Village Square. Views from the left and right field bleachers will be unaffected, as will those from all seats in what one could call the field and plaza levels (all sections in the 100ıs). Nearly all of the views in the next level up (sections 201-235) will be no more obstructed with the newly proposed buildings than they were with the 5 story buildings. If you would like to convince yourself of this, go to http://www.sdballpark.com, check out the 3D seating views from every section, and see for yourself.  Be sure to include the presence of the 11 story, full block building which is already built behind the depiction of the center field building in the virtual tour. 

The only sections that will have some portion of their city skyline view obstructed by the taller buildings will be those in the upper deck between the foul poles.  Hopefully those nearer to the foul poles will be looking in towards home plate rather than gazing in the opposite direction towards the city, so in all fairness it is really the upper deck sections lying between the two garden towers(i.e. seats behind home plate)  that have new view obstructions with the updated proposal.  Looking at this in terms of raw numbers, this area represents about X,000 of the 46,000 person capacity of the ballpark. Even if we ignore these numbers, we must remember that the foremost strength of our new ballpark is in the fanıs closeness to the game and the enrapturing views onto the playing field. Each of us who buys a ticket will do so to watch baseball, albeit in front of a dramatic backdrop. I imagine that the opponents of the new proposal share my hope and concern that this backdrop instills a sense of downtownıs grandeur energy upon the baseball fan. 

I would hate to see that feeling be degraded as a result of my advocacy, but I firmly believe that the taller buildings do not degrade the feeling the ballpark and its surroundings imbue upon the baseball fan. Being downtown is in part about being immersed in the vitality and energy created through large numbers of wildly diverse people inhabiting and using a small space, it is about the chance collisions caused by this close proximity, and it is about the beauty and boldness of the built environment.  Having a living, glowing, peopled part of downtown like as an office building in close quarters to the ballpark helps communicate the spirit of downtown rather than mute and obscure it. Though there is visual interest and power in sweeping panoramas of the B St. corridor, there is equal or greater power in bringing the elements that make B St. visually interesting nearer while leaving view corridors open up the avenues to reveal the many visual layers of downtown. If you do not allow those buildings to be built at the scale downtown needs to be alive, they will not be buildings that belong downtown therefore cannot instill itıs spirit into the ballpark user.  They will be structures which belong in a romanticized ³downtown thematic² area and we will have lost an opportunity to build an essential and integral part of downtown and East Village.

 

5.0 Conclusion

I am principally concerned with whether or not the new JMI proposal is better than the old and am unfit to analyze what was or was not fair in how we arrived here.  We are here, and we can decide either have a vacant lot sit in center field long after opening day or we can select, with appropriate speed, the option which will do the most good for the ballpark users, East Village, and downtown.  The voters were promised a beautiful ballpark and surrounding development which enhanced the baseball fanıs experience and which revitalized a blighted area of downtown. If you want to keep the faith with the voters, donıt cast aside the many merits of the new proposal.  Make the decision that fulfills that 1998 promise of an energized and economically healthy neighborhood. Make the decision that will provide the expected tax-increment financing because the neighborhood is a desirable place to live and to do business.  Make the decision that helps all of downtown stem its slide in the office market and improves utilization of our transit infrastructure. And make the decision that gives the baseball fan a sense of what is so authentic and exciting about downtown ­ immersion in its energy, not pastoral panoramas. Approve the new JMI proposal, and watch the neighborhood and the ballpark come alive.