“Living In the City” is the San Diego Sun’s feature Q&A with downtown San Diego residents. It’s a way to get to know the city by meeting the people who live here. This is number 26 in an ongoing series.
Name: E. Chloé Lauer
Location: Since July 2021, the Alexan (ALX) in the southeastern corner of East Village.
Personal deets: Born in Texas and moved around a lot. Consider Mechanicsburg (PA) my primary hometown. Studied in Grand Rapids (MI) and Cambridge (MA) before moving to San Francisco and then relocating to North County San Diego.
Work deets: I’ve been an urban planner for 18 years and have had my own consultancy for three years.
Why live downtown: San Francisco taught me to love urban life. Then, the beach towns of Encinitas and Carlsbad were fun for a few years. During Covid, I luxuriated in a 2-bed, 2-bath, 2-car-garage apartment for about the cost of a studio in San Francisco. After a few beach years, I was ready to go back to the walkability of city life. I had friends at the Alexan and loved the new building and attractive amenities.
Best thing about my specific building: The Alexan’s 18th-floor pool deck has a view of downtown and the Coronado Bridge. Another wonderful thing is our building’s group chat. People are very supportive. We share useful information about our building and the community.
Worst thing about my specific building: Some pet owners don’t pick up after their dogs. We’re also located adjacent to Tailgate Park, so traffic can get really intense on Padres game days or when there is a concert at Petco Park.
Working from home: I wake up, go for a walk or workout, take a cold shower, meditate and journal, make breakfast and coffee, and start working from my sit-stand desk in my kitchen.
Best reason to live downtown: The option to be car-free. I love the days and weeks when I don’t use my car. There are so many great coffee shops, bars, and restaurants within walking, biking or transit distance. I can walk to buy groceries, get a library book or mail a package. My chiropractor and acupuncturist are within a 15-minute walk. And I walk to my Spanish 201 class at City College.
Downside to downtown: The state of our infrastructure. It’s so dark in the city because so many streetlights are out. Sometimes I don’t feel safe walking around at night. Especially when I pass buildings where folks are loitering around dark entrances. I carefully navigate each block, crossing the streets to walk on the side where I feel most safe. It’s quite the “urban dance.”
Homelessness: It affects my daily life. Some mornings, the first five people I see when I leave my home are half-naked people wandering in the middle of the street, or passed out on the sidewalk. It’s a bit of a rude awakening. The lack of public toilets and facilities for people makes our streets extremely dirty and treacherous to navigate. Some days, the trash, tent camps and struggling people all weigh on me.
Padres games: I’ve been a few times. If you are driving into the city, please be aware of pedestrians. Consider parking farther away and taking the trolley in. There are at least four trolley stations that stop within a few blocks of Petco Park.
Speaking as an urban planner… You asked. Here we go:
- I’d like there to be cycle tracks (protected bikeways) on every street.
- Parallel parking only (no diagonal or perpendicular parking).
- Two-way streets instead of roads with three lanes going one way. This is geared toward high speeds for cars, making it dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Zebra-striping at every intersection.
- Bulb-outs to reduce the distance for pedestrians to cross.
- Speed tables to keep the sidewalk level continuous and reduce car speeds.
- 50% fewer surface parking lots by 2030.
- 100% increase in non-car rideshare (from 14% to 28%) by 2030.
Walk n Roll San Diego: Last year, Manny Rodriguez and I founded Walk n Roll San Diego, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to bring attention to the pedestrian experience. Our mission is to remake our city streets into safe and inspiring places for all people, whether they walk, bike, roll or use transit. Our reels are on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter (@walknrollsd).
Connecting neighborhoods: Highways severed neighborhood connections. I serve on the San Diego Commons Board. We are advocating to “Green the Gap” and reconnect San Diego communities across Interstate-5 with public open space on top of lids (also known as caps) over the freeway. Specifically, we’d love to see lids reconnecting Balboa Park to Cortez Hill and Sherman Heights to East Village. We also support the proposed lids between Logan Heights and Barrio Logan.
Watching and streaming: Reluctantly watching The Last of Us. It’s a bit intense! Recently enjoyed Miss Scarlet and the Duke on PBS. Break Point was really good. And Old Enough, a Japanese show from the ’90s that features kids navigating their towns on foot. The Extraordinary Attorney Woo was wonderful, too. And, White Lotus Season 2.
Listening to: The Daily, Throughline, The Ezra Klein Show, Modern Love and Duolingo podcasts, to name a few.
Favorite downtown memory: Green Day and Weezer concert in 2021, and walking by and listening to Bad Bunny when he was here. I love concert days for the energy they bring to the city.
Best bar(s): Storyhouse Spirits, You & Yours, J & Tony’s and Noble Experiment.
Coffeeshop: TapShack. Get the 12-ounce Milk & Honey in the orange ceramic cup. It’s so comforting. I love the open, warehouse vibe here.
Lunch place(s): Lola 55, Sovereign Thai, Make Pizza & Salad (great gluten-free and cauliflower crust options and such great food in general).
Dinner spot(s): Callie, El Puerto Seafood by the Park, TNT Pizza (amazing gluten-free Detroit-style options), Basic Pizza (the Basic Salad is so good, too), Quiero Tacos (Seaport Village), Mr. Moto Pizza (fun flavors and also have gluten-free options). Pho Xpress on Sixth Avenue has affordable and authentic Vietnamese food.
Parking advice: Take the trolley.
If we could go back in time: Keep the incredible streetcar systems we had. Since that’s not possible, I’d restore the streetcar system (which at its peak had 165 miles of track) to supplement our trolley system.
Can’t stop urban planning: I’d also like to…
- Install bus rapid transit (BRT) routes, increase the frequency of bus routes and install bus platforms to enable near-level or level boarding.
- Differentiate between streets and roads (look up STROADS to learn more).
- Connect all segments of existing bike infrastructure and retrofit streets with protected cycle tracks.
- Install catchment basins in bulb-outs to prevent stormwater runoff.
- Beautify neighborhoods with native plantings.
- Fix the roads so they are smooth (rather than constantly patched and torn up).
- Remove at least one of the N-S roads going through Balboa Park.
- Pedestrian-ize a few blocks of core commercial streets and add a plaza in every neighborhood.
- Dismantle subsidized car storage and costly parking mandates.
Last thought: Use your feet to get around! SDSun
Want to tell your downtown San Diego “Living In The City” story? Email [email protected]
To read the entire Living In The City series, go to: Profiles.