If you can't imagine what Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach might look like as a pedestrian-friendly concourse without any cars or buses, then head down to the street on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018 between 4 and 8 p.m. and take a look for yourself.
A consortium of community organizations led by Beautiful PB is rolling out the EcoDistrict Holiday Lane on Garnet Avenue, blocking motor vehicle traffic on the eight blocks from Ingraham Street to Mission Boulevard, and replacing it with holiday shopping, cafés, street performances and open spaces with seating to relax and enjoy spots where cars are usually parked.
Although a festive Yuletide occasion the day before the Holiday Parade (Dec. 15) and planned to be repeated annually, organizers are setting their sights on higher goals, hoping to spark a discussion within the community about the future of Garnet Avenue by providing an example.
"Our intentions are to connect the residential community with the business community and strengthen those relationships, and also provide the community with an opportunity to experience a car-free Garnet Avenue," said Kristen Victor, PB EcoDistrict coordinator within Beautiful PB.
"It's not a fair, in the sense there's going to be tents and booths, but it's more of what the future of Garnet could be if there weren't cars everywhere, and instead, there were café tables and integrated activities for the community."
During the event, the cross streets will also be closed up to the alleys, and storefronts along Garnet Avenue will be given 16-feet into the street to engage visitors as they see fit.
Whatever the retailers decide to do with their allotted space, students from Mission Bay High School's Eco Club are encouraging them to decorate it in the holiday spirit, said Eco Club advisor Anthony Steven Walters, a marine science and environmental science teacher. "I think the businesses understand that the Holiday Lane's free advertisement to the community for them," he added.
About 25 Eco Club students have been passing out fliers and pushing involvement in the Holiday Event to retailers as part of their community service hours required at the international baccalaureate school.
Though well-known for their environmental work, Walters noted the Eco Club students were eager to support the Holiday Lane because it was a neighborhood event.
"Over the years, seeing my students when they do stuff like this, they do develop a sense of pride, especially since it is their neighborhood," he said. "And that's important, because you're only going to protect the things you love."
A variety of special features will highlight the Holiday Lane event. The center of Garnet will be dominated by the "Mobility Lane," a 20-foot wide path down the middle of the street exclusively for bicycles, skateboards and scooters.
Entertainment from school bands to holiday carolers to street performers from studios such as Tap Fever and The Facility will be scattered throughout the festivities.
In addition, JN Financial, the major property owner on Garnet Avenue, has donated six vacant retail spaces for the event. Of the six, Victor said three will be used for local art exhibitions; and one each for children's activities, a community space for local organizations, and a Shop Local space for area artisans to show their wares.
Joe Bettles, owner of Kono's and Konito's cafés, will be serving hot chocolate at the event and donating all the proceeds to Beautiful PB.
Planning for the future
Pointing to the transformation of his native Bird Rock neighborhood with the reduction of traffic lanes and introduction of roundabouts on La Jolla Boulevard, Bettles said a similar renovation is long overdue on Garnet.
"We have so much potential to create a much more thriving business district that maybe looks more like Bird Rock," Bettles said. "It's more people-focused than car-focused ... You've got to put out this idea that Garnet could be more focused on pedestrians and bicycles and skateboards and scooters, rather than just a highway that divides PB in two."
Steve Pruett agrees, referring to Garnet Avenue as a "moat." As a member of the PB Planning Group, Pruett argues that the surveys and counts to be conducted at the Holiday Lane, will not only reveal how to improve the event, but how Garnet could better serve the community.
"Something like the Holiday Lane is one example of trying to make future visions real for people today," he said. "It will be really interesting to see how people use the space and where they spend the time. It's sort of a little interesting experiment that we're going to learn a ton from."
However, Pruett adds that the goal of the Holiday Lane is not to provide planners and investors with data to streamline their schemes, but to provoke people to participate directly in discussions about the future of Garnet Avenue in particular and Pacific Beach as a whole.
"Let's start thinking about how we might change it by design instead of just letting it change by default; change the way it's just randomly going to change" Pruett said. "That's what's happened for the last 50 years."
Even with the long-term prospects for Garnet Avenue being engendered by the Holiday Lane, Bettles believes the focus should include the short term: a new holiday event in PB to enjoy.
"Change is scary to a lot of people — especially if you've lived in a place for a long time," he said. "It's smart to introduce this idea in a very positive, friendly way. I hope people will come, and maybe they will get past their ideas of what a pedestrian-friendly business might be and just have fun."
Want to know more? Visit beautifulPB.com/EcoDistrictHolidayLane