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City of San Diego's Holly Drive Improvement Project: A Project for the People, With the People

What do you call a narrow street with no sidewalk, minimal lighting and years of curb and gutter neglect? If you’re the residents of San Diego’s City Council District 4, you call it a blight on the community and a horrible safety hazard. Or, for short, Holly Drive.

Running east and west in San Diego’s Lincoln Park as a gateway to historic Lincoln High School, Holly Drive was the beneficiary of the City of San Diego Capital Improvement Plan. And not a moment too soon. The degraded roadway put vehicular and pedestrian traffic at risk for years.

A closer look revealed even more problems, from ADA non-compliance to contaminated roadway runoff. On top of everything else, the street was an eyesore. 

I consider myself fortunate to have worked on the Holly Drive improvement project. This was about more than design strategies and construction techniques. This was a project about the community.  Holly Drive Before and After

Building trust

Early on, Harris partnered with San Diego City staff to pinpoint the biggest issues affecting the community and the solutions to each challenge, including how we could lessen our own impact. Then came meeting time.

We held public outreach meetings to talk about our proposed improvements. There’s a big difference between imposing your solutions on people and reaching mutual consensus. We vetted all of the project elements together with the community members and project stakeholders. 

Throughout the entire process, the design team maintained transparency. People knew what we were doing and when. We gave them details on how we would implement our improvements and how our work would affect their daily lives. This is a textbook example of how to build trust—and it’s critical to project success.

Taking ownership

The community rewarded our openness with incredibly strong support. That pushed us even harder to deliver the best possible results. Everyone shared a sense of ownership, all because of active communication and a spirit of partnership.

We worked with the City to maintain the project schedule and $2,075,000 budget, we were able to widen the streets and sidewalks, install street lights and safety enhancements, add essential ADA-compliant upgrades, enhance the fencing and landscaping, and working with the Faith Chapel and City leaders to design onsite improvements that enhanced safety for parishioners walking from the right-of-way. The safety and beautification of Holly Drive made this street a new and deeply appreciated source of pride for the community.

All of us working on the job were reminded of why we work in this industry in the first place: to make a difference.

Since we’re all about community, join ours and share your thoughts. How do you rally communities around your work?



Carlos Mendoza, PE

With more than 20 years of engineering experience with water and wastewater, stormwater, transportation and flood control projects, Carlos is a recognized leader in his field. He has worked on transportation projects like Holly Drive, pipelines, pump stations, roads, maritime construction, utility master plans, water meter management programs, stormwater BMPs and flood control studies for numerous California communities—especially in San Diego County. As a member of ASCE Pipeline and APWA, Carlos stays involved. He’s also a past chair of the ASCE Pipeline and Environmental Group.

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