I'm not talking about an Old Globe Shakespeare production, but the show entitled "The Bridge Over Rose Canyon or Rose Canyon Over the Bridge," a play on words, a tragedy with comic overtones for this show opening at City Hall at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 1. Better get there early for the 2 o'clock matinee because it will be S.R.O.
The cast will be the Montagues and the Capulets minus Romeo and Juliet, a divided community wearing pink and green badges to identify their allegiances to building a bridge or not building a bridge. The historical background of these two groups would belie the current rage and division. Up to now, the longtime residents have worked together instead of working against each other.
Getting Standley Park built brought East and West U.C. together when Mayor Pete Wilson ran the city in the '70s. Making certain our little hamlet had a high school kept this community focused on its common goal of putting UCHS at its site in September 1981, not an easy task. Doing battle against developers and city staffers salivating over the tax base brought to city coffers by overdeveloping North U.C. also was cause for teaming up to question the constant building in the '90s and continuing today.
It wasn't just the developers who hit and run, but it was UCSD, as revered as Romeo and Juliet's Friar Laurence, but the kind of character who never picks up the check when you go to a fancy restaurant. Certainly UCSD has produced biotech companies that flourish along Torrey Pines Road, but it also has contributed to traffic gridlock, housing nightmares and condo demands in North U.C. without having to pay a penny for the privileges as the locals do. Criticizing UCSD is like taking a shot at Friar Laurence or Mother Teresa.
Now it is neighbor-against-neighbor in a fight to the finish. For what? To me, it isn't so much about the bridge anymore, but it is the adrenaline rush in winning this after so much energy has been invested, so much cash has been raised to make public, professional PowerPoint presentations, so many years of hard work on the part of the people in charge of Friends of Rose Canyon, U.C. Connection and U.C. Golden. No backing down in this final act. Just as the prologue states in Romeo and Juliet about Verona, our own little University City fits the description:
"Two households, both alike
In fair Verona, where we lay
From ancient grudge break
to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes
civil hands unclean."
At the July 11 dress rehearsal of "The Bridge Over Rose Canyon or Rose Canyon Over The Bridge," pro and con speakers got a chance to vent, to share their perspective of the North/South Transportation Corridor options for University City. The City Council will vote on whether to move ahead with the Regents Road Bridge project or select one of the alternatives. The council will either certify or not certify the environmental impact report regarding the North/South Transportation Corridor study on Aug. 1.
The final scene of the dress rehearsal saw the U.C. Planning Group voting 10-3 to approve a motion that negated the bridge and widening Genesee Avenue. UCPG also supported a modified version of the "Environmentally Superior Alternative" in the EIR.
This Limited Roadway Changes plan would focus on targeted and cost-effective improvements to intersections along Genesee that would reduce traffic congestion without high negative impacts of the bridge or widening.
UCPG recommends not certifying the EIR because of its many major defects. However, rewriting a script up to the last moment is common in theater, and the City Hall performance may well differ from the dress rehearsal performance.
The cast will include the hundreds of folks for and against the bridge with badges and swords. (Oops, no swords will be allowed through metal detectors.) One leading player will be Councilman Scott Peters, who will take the middle of the road in praising the peasants for showing up to do their civic duty. If only Councilman Peters would take a stand one way or the other about the bridge, it would both please and anger his constituents, but it would show courage and integrity.
Will Integrity and Fairness get roles? I think not. More than likely, this play's ending has already been written despite an anticipated battle of who can bring more people, send more letters, contact more council people, when it should be about what is right and just for the community, what shows fairness and integrity.
It is a crushing blow to see friends become enemies over this issue, to hear rhetoric over common sense, to lose empathy for "the other side." In my perspective, the city's record of failing to have a sense of history, to eye the bottom line of the almighty dollar, to capitulate to the developer will be scripted on Aug. 1. The developers will play their roles off the stage, of course.
In my mind, the whole community will suffer from a bridge over Rose Canyon, the whole city will suffer from a bridge over Rose Canyon, and the developers will laugh all the way to the bank, along with the stewards of our money, our City Council representatives.
To be fair to the proponents of the bridge, good people who have borne the burden of the traffic mess, they deserve their day in court, their venting of what it would be like to see Genesee mutilated. However, they must look at the community as a whole, not as two Shakespearean fighting families. Watching the persuasive propaganda poignantly presented on the U.C. Connection Web site, you would think a bridge is the only answer to traffic reduction, fire protection and paramedic attention.
Who would deny medical patients in South U.C. the help of a paramedic? Building a bridge won't provide that. Building a fire station in South U.C. could. Who hasn't tired of traffic on Genesee at 5 p.m.? Building a bridge won't alleviate that problem but cause more congestion on Regents, north and south, as well as Governor, when it becomes a raceway for drivers rushing to La Jolla by way of the bridge or racing to 805. Building a bridge will guarantee the death of our community as we know it. Condos will rise at the Marketplace Shopping Center, a perfect setting endorsed by our mayor in his City of Villages plan. We can never unbuild a bridge.
Walk through the canyon or better yet, take a train through the canyon. A train connects us to the past, while a bridge turns our tranquil Verona into Pandora's box.