The City of Escondido planned on renovating the downtown area, but did not manage to receive a grant from the San Diego Association of Governments. As the removal process of the trees progressed, an alternative option was implemented for the medians.
Michelle Geller, the Economic Development Manager for the City of Escondido who manages the median project, met with the Downtown Business Association (DBA) to receive input on improving their businesses and the look of the city. She said, “There is so much competition, and as a city there’s only so much that we can do for private businesses to help them be successful. At a certain point, the market dictates what’s successful and what is not. One thing that I felt that we could do is, at least, make the downtown look as good as it can.”
Geller and the DBA quickly came to a consensus about the trees in the medians: “They have these eucalyptus trees there that have been there probably for 30 years. The roots have overtaken the whole median. We couldn’t even plant anything because the dirt was like concrete,” said Geller. The DBA eventually agreed to contribute revenue for the removal of the trees. She said, “They’re fixing all the irrigation and then we’re going to plant them with colorful landscaping and trees, and it’s going to look a million times better.”
Geller involved merchants from downtown in the planning of the project. She said, “We had pretty much a group of anybody who were stakeholders or who would care represented in this group and met three times with our design consultant to give feedback to see this design happen. We felt very confident that the design reflected the input of the merchants.” The design for downtown would include a complete renovation of Grand Avenue with roundabouts on Maple St., Broadway, and Kalmia St. The roundabouts will provide safer traffic, slower flow to draw interests to the surrounding businesses and restaurants, and a unique ride through downtown Escondido. There will be an extension of the sidewalk and the road will turn into single lanes. The extension will provide for real estate for the businesses to work with. Diagonal parking will also provide more accessible parking in downtown. With all the changes, it was an important aspect to the design to preserve the historic authenticity of downtown Escondido.
Over the course of the planning and the tree removal, the City of Escondido applied for a grant from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). Geller said, “It’s this organization that basically does transportation planning in the region and they give away grants for different things. We were really hoping to get this grant to do more of a comprehensive street scape and improvement along Grand Avenue where we would take out some medians, put in roundabouts, and just do a lot more.”
They thought the changes to downtown Escondido would ultimately help the small private businesses be successful, and the merchants agreed. Unfortunately, the plans for revamping downtown will be postponed due to being denied for the grant. The city will send their application again next year to SANDAG in order to fund their operations.
In the meantime, the City of Escondido will move forward with improving the look of the medians. Crepe Myrtle trees will be placed in the medians along with other plants. Geller said, “The whole project was supposed to have taken about 8 weeks from start to finish. It sounds like the electrical and irrigation is taking a little longer than expected, but that’s what they’re doing now.” The new trees will hopefully be planted by the end of this month.