20-story development in Bankers Hill has neighbors worried

Building could be too tall for airport landings
Posted at 8:01 AM, Feb 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-12 19:12:30-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A proposed 20-story mixed-use building in Bankers Hill has some people worried it could be too tall and may interfere with the landing path at San Diego's Lindbergh Field.

The development would be on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Olive Street, replacing a two-story apartment building.

Developers from Springline Associates and Greystar Rental Construction and Development will present their plans to the Metro San Diego Community Development Corporation at a meeting Monday night. The meeting starts at 4 p.m. and will be held at the St. Paul's Manor "Cafe Room" (328 Maple Street).

"We think (Bankers Hill) has been a model for excellent urban growth," said Leo Wilson, who sits on the Metro San Diego CDC Board.

Wilson said they want to see more development in the area, but there is concern the building may not fit the neighborhood. He's especially worried about its potential impact on small planes trying to land at Lindbergh Field.

"They fly only a couple hundred feet above the ground," he said. "In some of the taller buildings, people actually wave to the pilots."

Buildings in the area top out around 160 feet. The new development would surpass that, as plans call for it to be 225 feet tall.

Developers initially were approved in 2011 for a 159-foot building on the location. New approvals are needed for the new height.

Wilson said it may not be possible if the building sits in the Airport Overlay Zone, which restricts heights within a mile of the airport.

However, the FAA hasn't ruled on the development yet. The FAA issued a favorable determination of no hazard for a structure in this area of San Diego in 2017. 

In an email, a Lindbergh Field spokesperson told 10News that the project "would not be subject to review by the Airport Land Use Commission because it is outside of the airport's noise contours and Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan safety zone."

The building has also raised concerns from neighbors worried about congestion. It would add 204 apartment units -- 18 of which would be set aside as low-income housing. The building would also have office space and some retail.

"I would move out of here," said Leslie Forster, who lives nearby. "There would be too many people and too much traffic."

She also worries the building would cast a shadow over Balboa Park in the evening.

Some of the businesses in the area say they want more people and more traffic. Local store owners worry that people only drive through Bankers Hill when they're trying to go between Hillcrest and downtown. Adding 200 more residential units would mean more customers for small businesses like restaurants and salons.

"The plans for Bankers Hill are sophisticated," said Anna McAlister, a sales rep for Jamba Juice in the area. "They want to make it like a little Manhattan and attract more people here."

Monday's meeting is just the first step in the development, which still needs a mandatory initial review from the city. It's also subject to an approved Site Development Permit, Neighborhood Development Permit and Vesting Tentative Map.

Wilson thinks it could be at least a year before any construction begins.

"There are a lot of regulations," he said. "This could be a process that goes on for a long time."