Located just seven miles inland from the Pacific Ocean in northern San Diego County, the City of Vista has a perfect mild Mediterranean climate. Residents enjoy a wide range of year-round outdoor activities in a setting of gentle rolling hills and pleasant rural surroundings. Vista is approximately 19 square miles with a population of approximately 98,000 residents.
Vista is a mostly built out community, but with many opportunities for infill development and rehabilitation. Nonetheless, these opportunities are not what would be considered “straightforward” or “easy to tackle” due to topographical challenges, easements, substandard improvements or access, aboveground utilities and all sorts of other physical challenges. And similar to many other cities across San Diego County, Vista has experienced a large influx of residential development proposals, especially multi-family apartments and condominium projects. Over the past five years and up until now, developers have been submitting housing development proposals in response to ongoing demands for additional housing stock throughout our region.
Affordable housing – a hot topic these days – is a key component of the resurgence of Downtown Vista. Two 100% affordable apartment projects (North Santa Fe by Community Housing Works and Paseo Pointe by Affirmed Housing) were completed in 2015/2016. The introduction of these residential projects in the area have helped activate the downtown area and attract new restaurants and businesses into the area, which in turn will help attract more people wanting to visit, shop, and experience the thriving downtown area.
While housing has been a significant factor in the area’s transformation, housing is not the only focus in Vista. Over the past couple of years, Vista has been experiencing major infrastructure improvements and commercial developments in our downtown area, from new businesses to new cool and hip restaurants, to popular local breweries, all of which are completely revamping the look and feel of our downtown area and transforming it into a more vibrant commercial district. Due to its growing pedestrian friendly atmosphere, which includes public art and traffic calming measures, Vista is gaining more recognition for its planning efforts towards bringing about exciting changes to our downtown area. Older segments leading directly into the core downtown area are experiencing these changes. But these enhancements haven’t happened on their own… Planning efforts have made a huge difference! Several of the planning components merit special recognition, including the transformational Paseo Santa Fe corridor project which has served as the backbone of the Vista Downtown Specific Plan.
The Paseo Santa Fe project is a 3/4-mile corridor along South Santa Fe Avenue connecting Vista Village Drive to Civic Center Drive. This three-phased project includes streetscape improvements, which are part of a comprehensive vision outlined in the Vista Downtown Specific Plan. The vision is to shift the entire downtown area to a more walkable and pedestrian friendly environment from the existing auto-oriented four lane road.
- Phase I (0.25 miles): Phase I began in May 2014 and was completed in April 2016. The project extends from Main Street to Ocean View Drive. The entire project (all phases) along this corridor reconfigures South Santa Fe down from four lanes into two lanes. Master planned sewer, water, and storm drain facilities were completed. All overhead utilities have been placed underground and green street concept improvements were included (see Figure 1). Other upgrades included adding new wide sidewalks, streetlights, pedestrian furniture, landscaping, and informational kiosks. The City’s first roundabout was constructed at Eucalyptus Avenue and South Santa Fe Avenue, creating a three-way intersection.
- Phase II (0.20 miles): Extends from Ocean View Drive to approximately 400 feet south of Terrace Drive. This phase includes constructing all of the features provided with Phase I as well as a roundabout at Guajome Street. The design is complete, and construction is anticipated to follow in late 2017. Phases I and II and the Downtown Specific Plan were funded, in part, with SANDAG TransNet Smart Growth Incentive Program (SGIP) grants and Active Transportation Grant Program (ATGP) Exchange funds.
- Phase III (0.30 miles): Extends from 400 feet south of Terrace Drive to Civic Center Drive. This phase includes constructing the same features provided with Phase I and constructing a second roundabout at Pala Vista Drive. The design is complete and the construction of the master planned sewer, water, and storm drain including undergrounding the overhead utilities is anticipated to be constructed along with Phase II in 2017. The Green Street and complete street improvements for Phase III are currently unfunded, and City staff is researching and identifying funding mechanisms to complete this final portion in the near future.
Paseo Santa Fe is a vital component in the City’s regeneration of our downtown landscape, and a fresh and bold approach to slowing down the city’s traffic along South Santa Fe Avenue. It is definitely our strategy for attracting new businesses into this area: “If you build it, they will come” approach. The City anticipates new businesses to come and serve the new residents moving into the downtown area.
Speaking of new businesses, Vista has been very proactive in attracting several new restaurants into our downtown. Several restaurants will be opening their doors soon in Vista. Following is a rundown of some of the new exciting food establishments coming soon to Vista’s downtown:
- Raising Cane’s: A national restaurant chain specializing in chicken fingers, will be building its first San Diego drive-thru and eatery on the former Famous Dave site on Vista Village Drive, near Rosati’s Chicago Pizza. Currently undergoing project review and scheduled for public hearings in September 2017.
- Wildwood Grill: This barbecue restaurant and music venue, named after the nearby Wildwood Park, is renovating the former La Paloma Restaurant on the corner of Civic Center Drive and E. Vista Way and is expected to open in the fall of 2017.
- Swami’s Café: Swami’s family owned café is coming soon to the former El Callejon restaurant site in Vista Village.
- Dog Haus: Located in the former shoe repair shop at the corner of Indiana Avenue and Broadway, Dog Haus will serve gourmet hot dogs, handcrafted sausages, burgers and will feature a beer garden. Opening is expected in late 2017.
Other restaurants coming or recently opened in the downtown area include: Flying Pig, Belching Beaver, Miko Sushi, Panda Wok, Poki Poki, When Pigs Fly, and 508 Tavern. Summer weekends and weeknights in Downtown Vista have become popular hangouts for both residents and visitors heading downtown who want to try and experience the new food establishments, as well as the local breweries populating the area.
This summer, visitors to the historic downtown area have noticed some construction fencing around an empty three-acre lot at the corner of Vista Village Drive and South Santa Fe Avenue. A five-story mixed-use project, known as “100 Main Street”, in the heart of downtown Vista, will include retail shops, two levels of underground parking and 126 high-end apartments. The project was approved by the Planning Commission in 2016. This project will be under construction in the late fall of 2017. Visitors who previously parked on this empty lot now have access to the City’s newly constructed free public parking lot, which is located on Citrus Avenue, just a couple of blocks from the mixed-use project site. This new public parking lot is a significant addition to helping serve the parking demands of our downtown area as it continues to change and grow with new exciting businesses.
Over the past couple of years, downtown Vista has enjoyed a revitalization with new craft breweries and popular restaurants drawing customers to the district. And it is expected that the 126 new residential units and 14,500 square feet of commercial space will continue this growth trend by bringing more foot traffic to the restaurants, businesses, and shops located downtown. 100 Main Street project also coincides with the beginning of the second phase of the Paseo Santa Fe Streetscape Improvement project, helping to transform a previously blighted stretch of downtown South Santa Fe Avenue into an attractive, vibrant and pedestrian-friendly destination.
We can proudly say that the notion of live, work and play is alive and well in Vista, with more exciting changes to come in the very near future!
Paseo Pointe Project
Images along Paseo Santa Fe
100 Main Street Project
Paseo Santa Fe Gateway