San Diego – The term grid, as used in this article, doesn’t refer to the electricity grid, as does the common use of the term these days. Rather it refers to the street grid. In particular, it refers to the uniform 200′ x 300′ alley-less blocks that make up downtown San Diego. In as much as this article is an exploration of pedestrian oriented deviations from the street grid, I considered entitling it “off the grid” but concluded the term was overused and had too strong a connection to the electricity grid, and thus would simply annoy those looking for articles on that topic.
Alonzo Horton, the founder of downtown San Diego in the 1870s, associated alleys with filth, crime, and debauchery, as was the case in many cities at the time. Additionally, as a developer, Horton knew that corner lots sold at a premium and by cutting down blocks to half the normal size, he had twice as many corner lots to sell. Wider streets were also in vogue, as they would be for the next 100 years. What resulted and remains today are short 200 x 300 foot alley-less blocks surrounded by wide streets on all sides. While this has preserved some views and light access, it makes for a somewhat monotonous pedestrian experience with walks too frequently interrupted by intersections, lack of variety, or lack of quiet pedestrian scale paths of travel.
This first installment of a series identifies a few pathways dedicated solely to pedestrians. The pathways selected for this first installment are those which were at-grade, i.e., neither elevated nor subterranean. Other criteria were that they had to have a Point A and Point B (not dead end or loop) and not run alongside a road open to auto traffic. If I have missed any, please feel free to bring it to my attention and I will add it to those below. However, it may be that I saved it for a future installment in this series: parks, elevated pedestrian paths, and pedestrian friendly streets.
All photos by Bill Adams