The bridge in question, sometimes referred to as the Fenton Parkway Bridge, has gone by different names over the years, but it’s always had a singular trajectory. It would extend Fenton Parkway over the San Diego River to Camino Del Rio North, thus introducing a rare north-south roadway not subject to flooding. Today, the road abruptly ends at the Fenton Parkway trolley station, behind the IKEA-anchored Fenton Marketplace immediately adjacent to SDCCU Stadium.
A connection over the river has, however, been anticipated since the 1980s. The bridge was included in the 1985 version of Mission Valley’s community plan, evaluated in other development-specific planning efforts and assumed as a given in Sudberry Properties’ 2008 study of its expansive Civita project. It was even a near certainty in 2002 until environmentalists led a charge that saw the City Council back away from its construction.
The Fenton Parkway extension was brought back to life in the freshly adopted Mission Valley community plan, which was approved this week. It is included as just one of a handful of street improvements that will cushion the blow of 50,000 residents expected to be added the area over the next 30 years.
But SDSU, which is trying to buy and develop the land next door, does not believe it is responsible for building the city’s desired roadway. Nor does it want to pick up the tab.
“Our traffic flow works without (the bridge),” said Laura Shinn, who is spearheading SDSU’s planning efforts for a Mission Valley campus.
The university and the city are currently in negotiations around a purchase and sale agreement for 132 acres of city-owned land at the SDCCU Stadium site. The institution is simultaneously soliciting public input on a draft environmental report that studies the impacts of its Mission Valley plan. The environmental analysis also puts forward ways to absorb some of the additional traffic anticipated by the project, which includes housing, retail, hotel and office space alongside a mixed-use stadium.
SDSU has identified $21 million in on-site and off-site mitigation measures, Shinn told the city’s Land Use and Housing Committee on Wednesday. The bridge is not one of them.
“From our perspective, we just felt (the bridge) wasn’t enough of a certainty; that, even if we could (financially) contribute to it ... there’s no guarantee,” Shinn said Thursday in an interview with the Union-Tribune. The timing doesn’t work, she said, because the bridge, although it exists in concept, still needs to be studied, approved and funded by the city.
“Fenton Parkway is important for this community and for regional circulation, as we determined in the Mission Valley Community Plan update and associated environmental review,” said Christina Chadwick, a spokeswoman for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “We are currently reviewing the university’s draft environmental review and analysis to determine if we agree with San Diego State’s conclusion on this important connection.”
Scott Sherman, the San Diego councilman who represents Mission Valley, said his community needs the roadway to facilitate an essential high-water crossing, not just for commuters and event-goers, but for first responders. And he expects the university to pay for a substantial portion of the bridge.
Sherman raised the issue at the aforementioned committee meeting to make sure that the city’s negotiators grasp the significance of the Fenton connection.
A similar concern is echoed by Cary Lowe, who is a land use attorney and a board member with the civic planning group, Citizens Coordinate for Century 3.
"(The road) is literally just outside the stadium project boundary,” Lowe said. “It’s hard to believe that SDSU will truly not have any traffic impacts that could be mitigated by contributing to the Fenton Parkway extension.”
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