City of San Diego plans road construction in 37 urban open-space canyons

Write letters by May 11 to protect our canyons; hearing on May 26.

by Paul Blackburn, Conservation Coordinator, San Diego Sierra Club


he City of San Diego is planning to build and expand miles of roads into 37 urban open-space canyons. These projects are located throughout the City, and include canyons in Hillcrest, Old Town, North Park, Clairemont and La Jolla.

The purpose of these roads is to facilitate sewer maintenance. While sewer maintenance is important, the City's road building solution appears to be expensive engineering overkill that will likely have serious impacts on canyon habitats and natural beauty.

The City seems intent on using its existing large, diesel maintenance trucks in the canyons rather than investigating the use of smaller all-terrain vehicles or hand-carrying equipment. Our canyons deserve to be treated differently than our streets the City should value these beautiful open spaces as something more than utility corridors.

A great many people in San Diego live on and love our urban canyons. Does it really make sense to permanently destroy habitat, change canyon water flows, and spend millions of taxpayer dollars on roads that will be rarely used?


First things first


The first canyon at stake is Switzer Canyon in North Park. Switzer Canyon is located South of Redwood and East of the Balboa Park golf course and is bisected by the 30th Street causeway. The Canyon contains coastal sage scrub and wetland habitats that provide homes for a large variety of animals, birds and plants.

The city has sought to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act by issuing a draft Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for this proposed road project. This means that the city is claiming that they do not need to analyze alternatives in an Environmental Impact Report for the overall project of the 37 canyons; they intend to piecemeal and minimize the environmental review.

The MND document itself is extremely cursory and fails to adequately consider site-specific and cumulative potential impacts to water quality, soil erosion, loss of habitat, impacts on wildlife, increased access for criminals, or neighborhood and natural aesthetics. Comments on the MND are due by May 11.


Speak out


Your help is needed by May 11 to help protect 37 urban canyons from road construction. Your family, friends and neighbors can have a say in how the city treats our canyons. We need to send this message to the City: Prior to building in our canyons, show us that canyon roads are necessary and that roads are our only alternative.

Even if you don't live in North Park, please help. If the public doesn't demand that the city investigate maintenance alternatives to the proposed Switzer Canyon road, as well as demand a full environmental review, the city will proceed to put roads in many more of our remaining precious urban open spaces.

With 36 additional canyons on the block, it is possible that your neighborhood canyon is targeted for road construction; please see the project list below. (The locations are best shown by map; approximate location descriptions are included. If you would like to see a map, you are welcome to come to our visit the Sierra Club office or you can call the City Waste Water Department at (619) 533-5100 and ask for more information on projects in your neighborhood.)

Your help is needed now to tell the city: Treat our open-space canyons with care and respect!


Big picture issues: water quality and watersheds

  Many agencies, organizations and individuals are struggling to improve coastal water quality through watershed management techniques that use natural water filtration processes to reduce pollution in urban runoff. Our canyons are the hearts of our watersheds. The construction of roads in canyons will lessen the ability of our canyons to filter urban runoff. We are disappointed that the city is completely ignoring the natural values of its urban watersheds in favor of viewing canyons as utility corridors.


What you can do

 How to contact the mayor and city council

List of Canyon Road Projects


Here are three things you can do to let the folks at city hall know you care:

  1. Call or send an email or letter (phone numbers, email and street addresses follow) to the Mayor, City Council members and City Manager requesting that the City maintain its sewer system with minimum impact to urban canyon habitats and natural aesthetic resources. (If you are not sure of who your council member is, you can find out on-line at click on the elected officials tab.)
    In particular, we ask that you request that the City investigate alternative means of access to sewers that do not require the construction of permanent access roads because roads destroy natural beauty, serve to permit greater access to vandals and other criminals, are expensive to construct and maintain, destroy habitat needed for wild animals and plants, and increase the rate of polluted urban runoff and sedimentation thereby increasing pollution in our coastal waters.
  2. In addition, please request that prior to any further road construction in urban canyons, that the City prepare a full environmental impact report investigating alternative means of sewer access as well as the site-specific and cumulative impacts of the proposed roads on our urban canyons and coastal waters.
  3. Volunteer to help! If you would like to help protect your neighborhood canyon, please contact the San Diego Sierra Club and we will connect you to others in your neighborhood who share your concerns.
  4. Come to the City Natural Resources Committee Hearing on May 26th at 9:00 am. Your attendance will send a clear message to the City Council that you want the City to protect open-space canyons from unnecessary road construction.
  Paul Blackburn is Conservation Coordinator of the San Diego Sierra Club, 3820 Ray Street, San Diego, CA 92104; 619-299-1741; fax 619-299-1742; email:

City of San Diego Government Contacts

Mayor Susan Golding
(f) 619-236-7228
City Manager
Michael Uberuaga
(f) 619-236-6067 manager/form.html
District 1
Harry Mathis
(f) 236-6999
District 2
Byron Wear
(f) 236-6996
District 3
Christine Kehoe
(f) 595-1481
District 4
George Stevens
(f) 236-6529
District 5
Barbara Warden
(f) 238-0915
District 6
Valerie Stallings
(f) 236-6529
District 7
Judy McCarty
(f) 238-1360
District 8
Juan Vargas
(f) 231-7918

Canyon Road Project List

Here are the 37 projects in which the City intends to build or "improve" canyon roads. Some of these projects include both access Rd. construction and sewer line replacement, some involve only access road construction, and others are deemed access road "Improvements."

Road Construction Only
Project Approx. Road Length Location
1. Tecolote Canyon 5.9 mi.  (Lower, Middle and Upper Canyon) In Linda Vista and Claremont 
2. San Clemente Canyon 3 0.11 mi. Marion Bear Park (includes part of Rose Canyon) between I-5 and I-805 south of SR-52
3. Kearny Mesa Trunk Sewer 0.19 mi. Along Mission Center Rd. and I-805
4. East Clairemont Trunk Sewer 1.23 mi. Between Linda Vista and Genesee, southeast of the Kearny Mesa Park and Recreation Center in Chesterton
5. Upper Rose Canyon  0.70 mi. South of La Jolla Village Dr. and West of I-805; Miramar Rd.
6. Stevenson Canyon 1.19 mi. In Clairemont, between Moraga Ave. and Clairemont Dr.
7. Carroll Canyon  0.36 mi. I-805 under-crossing
8. I-805 and Mesa College 1.48 mi. Along I-805
9. Adobe Falls 0.34 mi. North of I-8 between Waring Rd. and College Ave.
10. 46th & Redwood 0.31 mi. Sumac Dr. and Megan Way, Hollywood Park
11. Chollas Parkway  0.78 mi. Euclid/Lyle and Ball Fields, along Chollas Creek northeast of intersection of I-805 and SR-94
12. Home Ave. (Ivy Street) 0.60 mi. North of SR-94, west of I-15 and south of Ivy St.
13. Imperial Ave.  0.79 mi. Martin Ave. and Gillette Street/Cemetery, through Greenwood Memorial Park
14. Market Street 0.48 mi. South of Market, north of Imperial between Euclid and 60th
15. Washington Creek area  1.95 mi. In Hillcrest (Emory, Washington Creek, Renyard), three sections, the first along Washington St. as it goes downhill toward I-5; also Mission Hills Park, southwest to I-5; also west of Reynard Way, east of Jackdaw and south of Sutter
16. Mission Gorge/Princess  1.36 mi. South of Mission Gorge Rd. and east of Princess View Dr.
17. Bounty and Waring  0.82 mi. South of Waring Rd. and north of I-8
18. Acuna Canyon 0.5 mi. South of Acuna between Limerick Ave. and Chateau Dr. in North Clairemont
Road Construction and Partial Sewer Line Replacement
Project Approx. Road Length Location
19. Switzer Canyon 0.68 mi. South of Redwood St., north of Juniper St., East of Balboa Park and west of 30th St.
20. Cather Ave.  0.20 mi. Near Rose Canyon Preserve
21. Sevan Court  0.50 mi. Between Cardinal Dr. and Meadow Lark Dr.
22. Sewer GJ 619  0.50 mi. In Old Town, north of Alameda Dr. between Sunset Dr. and San Diego Ave.
23. Sewer & Water GP 616  0.10 mi. Curlew Canyon in Hillcrest, east of Curlew Street and south of Washington Ave.
24. Redwood & 31st  0.50 mi. South of Redwood St., north of Burlingame, east of 30th St. and West of 32nd St.
25. Sewer GP 627B 0.50 mi. South of Imperial Ave., east of Euclid
Sewer Maintenance Road "Improvements"
Project Approx. Road Length Location
26 Van Nuys in La Jolla 2.0 mi. East of Rutgers Rd. on Mt. Soledad
27. Dakota in Clairemont 0.20 mi. Along Dakota Dr.
28. Gesner in Clairemont   0.20 mi. Near Iroquois Way
29. Murray Ridge 0.50 mi. In Serra Mesa, in and near Cabrillo Heights Park
30. Shawn Canyon 0.25 mi. In Serra Mesa, south of Shawn and Overton Ave.
31. Clairemont Mesa Blvd. 2.0 mi. North of Tierrasanta Ave., east of I-15 and south of Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
32. Shepard Canyon 1.5 mi. East of Santo Rd. and north of Antiqua Blvd.
33. Waring Rd. 0.25 mi. Along Navajo Rd., east of the College Ave. and Waring Rd. intersection
34. Lake Murray  0.50 mi. Near the western side of Lake Murray
35. Patrick Henry  0.20 mi. South of Navajo Rd. and west of Park Ridge
36. Dove Street   In Hillcrest, south of Washington St., near Dove St.
37. Woodman  2.0 mi. South of Skyline Dr. between Woodman and Meadowbrook Dr.