More than a year after the mayor of San Diego launched his “Sexy Streets” road-paving initiative, city officials say about half of the 54 miles slated for improvements have been completed or are in progress.
Data that inewsource obtained shows just over 9 miles have been paved while nearly 19 miles are under some type of construction. Rancho Bernardo’s 92128 ZIP code has seen the most miles paved so far, while residents in the 92111 communities — Linda Vista, Kearny Mesa, parts of Clairemont Mesa and others — have yet to see a road completed under the proposal.
Why this matters
San Diego continues to face a growing gap in overall infrastructure funding, projected to be more than $5 billion over the next five years.
Mayor Todd Gloria touted in 2021 that the $40 million program would focus on fixing failing infrastructure in historically neglected communities, bringing “long-awaited road repairs to neighborhoods that haven’t traditionally received their fair share.”
The city determined the communities with the most need using a Climate Equity Index Report that ranked various health, environmental, housing, mobility and socioeconomic indicators. Staff also considered which roads were in the poorest conditions and had the highest traffic volumes.
But the sequence of projects has largely been decided by city contractors.
An inewsource data analysis found:
- The 92128 ZIP code, one of the city’s wealthiest, has seen nearly all of its 2.9 miles designated for repaving completed, with much of the work happening along Highland Valley Road. That’s 30% of all completed work, despite the community accounting for just 5% of the program’s total miles.
- The city’s third-poorest area is seeing progress, as well: The 92115 ZIP code, which includes the College West neighborhoods, has seen about 2.2 miles repaved — making up nearly a quarter of the completed work. The ZIP code comprises 8% of the program’s total miles slated for improvement.
- The 92111 ZIP code is the city’s eighth-poorest and has the most miles — 9.4 — designated for paving. That’s 17% of all Sexy Streets’ designated miles. Despite the city rating some roads in poor condition, no projects have been completed in the area.
David Rolland, a spokesperson for Gloria’s office, said the city’s first contractor for the program decided which projects to prioritize, and chose to start work in the northern segments and move south across the city.
Some Sexy Street segments yet to undergo construction require additional time to prepare due to extra design work, permits and coordination with other agencies, such as Caltrans, Rolland said.
“Given past neglect of our city’s infrastructure, the need for road repair in all corners of San Diego is enormous,” he said, adding that the city will learn more later this year after conducting a new citywide assessment of street conditions.
Six percent of city roads are in poor condition, according to the most recently available data. San Diego continues to face a growing gap in overall infrastructure funding, projected to be more than $5 billion over the next five years.
Rolland said that Gloria’s administration has aimed to address yearslong underinvestment, including distributing more funding from the city’s developer impact fees in underserved communities and establishing a race and equity office. The city is also proposing more than $100 million for street resurfacing in its next budget — the most it’s ever invested in any given year.
Clairemont resident Kim Springer said that commuting on roads like Convoy Street “create havoc” as drivers swerve to avoid potholes and risk collisions. The area’s 9.4 miles slated for paving under Sexy Streets, which includes portions of Convoy, are estimated to be finished toward the end of the year.
“I’m more worried about things of that (nature), just driving safety in general,” Springer said. “It’s problematic, and it’s a tough problem to solve.”
Dan Morton, an Encanto resident for more than two decades, said he and his neighbors are waiting for the city to fix Plover Street outside of his home, and have grown impatient — some residents have taken to filling potholes themselves.
“I just did taxes now, and so I’m wondering where all my money’s going,” Morton said.
The 92114 ZIP code, where Morton resides, is the tenth-poorest in the city. About 5.3 miles are expected to be repaved there under Sexy Streets, with less than a quarter of a mile completed so far.
Councilmember Kent Lee, who chairs the city’s Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told inewsource that the city is investing a “historic degree” of money into improving streets as San Diego aims to catch up on decades worth of infrastructure needs. His District 6 includes the 92111 ZIP code where no projects have started.
“We know we still need more,” Lee said.
City staff say council members have used community complaints to help guide which streets need attention. Some neighborhoods are more vocal, Lee added, while others with fewer complaints but historical underinvestment tend to face obstacles such as language barriers or a digital divide among older adults.
Lee, who represents large Asian and senior communities, said some older residents “may not be thinking about downloading an app on their phone to report street issues” — but “we don’t leave neighborhoods behind who may not have the opportunity to vocalize their needs all the time.”
Councilmember Marni von Wilpert’s District 5, home to the 92128 ZIP code, has more households with higher access to resources, but data shows the roads selected for Sexy Streets in the area were identified have “low” and “moderate” levels of access to opportunity within the Climate Equity Index.
Council staff said her office used past community input to make recommendations: Highland Valley serves in part as an evacuation route for the area during fire emergencies, and Paseo Del Verano Norte — which saw 1.5 miles repaved — had garnered a high volume of complaints from nearby residents.
Von Wilpert’s district received the least amount of total “overlay” — adding asphalt concrete over an existing road — in the city’s last budget, the council staff noted.
Heavy rainfall and colder temperatures have set back paving by about 70 days so far, but the city still expects to complete all Sexy Street projects by next year, staff told inewsource.
Correction: April 26, 2023
Six percent of the city of San Diego’s streets are rated in poor condition. An earlier version of this story misstated the amount.
Type of Content
News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.