Tony Lawson, ADL Planning Associates
The City of Vista, located in North San Diego County, is about seven miles inland along State Route 78. The community has a long-standing history connected to early California Ranchos and the agricultural industry. Over the years, major highways in this area changed traffic habits and molded a new identity for Vista. The '395' became a highway in 1935. Prior to that it was State Highway 71. Since then, there have been several different alignments-the first version passed through Vista and in 1947 it was realigned again to follow the 15 between Escondido and Rainbow. Then, around 1948, Hwy Route 395 took over as the main street and the town became incredibly prosperous. Vista was even dubbed the 'avocado capital of the world' after hillsides were planted with avocados. In 1963, Vista became incorporated and developed into a vibrant multicultural city, however, the original Vista Santa Fe downtown area had lost its identity and began to struggle.
The Road to Renovation
Over the years, studies and community meetings were held to determine what to do with Vista Santa Fe and, when the redevelopment district was created in 2009, the City of Vista selected ADL Planning Associates to create and prepare a master plan.
ADL joined forces with Buccola Engineering of Oceanside, to prepare a streetscape master plan and bid-ready construction documents for the new first Phase of Paseo Santa Fe. Then worked with Dokken Engineering of San Diego on Phases two and three. Construction on the resulting three quarters of an acre streetscape-only project began in 2014 and was ultimately completed in December 2020.
The area, now known as the Paseo Santa Fe District, encompasses the South Santa Fe Avenue corridor between Vista Village Drive and Civic Center Drive. The city envisioned a mixed-use area with retail, commercial shops, restaurants, and offices topped with living spaces to revitalize this older downtown area.
The initial work was coordinated by the city's Redevelopment and Engineering Departments and was considered an aggressive revitalization approach to attract urban developers to redevelop the area. The vision was to transform this blighted, underutilized land into a premier destination-oriented, transit, and pedestrian-friendly district. Unfortunately, in 2011 Sacramento shut down the state's redevelopment agencies throughout California, leaving Vista with redevelopment plans but no funding to implement.
Still, the city and staff embraced the design concepts and, through creative problem solving, re-invented the project to enable its implementation. They focused on street improvements as a catalyst to attract private development. This process facilitated a partnership with an urban developer to introduce multi-use higher density housing with ground floor commercial along the revitalized street, near one of the city's light-rail transit stops. This public and private partnership provided a mechanism to move the project forward while public funding was scarce.
Construction soon started, and Phase I (.25 mile) was completed in April of 2016. However, while construction was moving forward, the city applied for additional funding for future Phases. Requirements with the grant lead to a consultant shift and in 2017, ADL teamed with Dokken Engineering, located in San Diego, to prepare construction documents and provide construction support services for Phases II (.20 mile) and Phase III (.30 mile).