National City is a surprising No. 1, but the city is taking bold steps to remake itself — and that could have significant economic and quality of life benefits.
People walk in National City. For a city that is the densest in the County, with 6,400 people per square mile, that may not seem a great surprise. After all, parking is limited, there are few vacant lots and the city continues to approve high-rise apartments. But a decade ago, no one would have imagined National City winning an award for being a walkable city.
“We realize that we didn’t have the best reputation for awhile,” said Ron Morrison, mayor and long-time resident of National City. “But by making the city more accessible, we have turned it into a town with family atmosphere.”
WalkSanDiego recently named National City the county’s most walkable community. The local non-profit organization, which is committed to making neighborhoods more walkable, recently reported the results of an extensive study of 18 cities in the San Diego region. Its final product, The Regional Walk Scorecard, rates each city in three major categories — a city’s policies and implementation; the percent of residents who commute by transit or walking and the pedestrian collision rate; and the walkability of streets as measured by volunteers.
“Walkability has economic, health, environmental and social implications,” said Jim Stone, executive director of WalkSanDiego. “From the social standpoint, the kind of social network that really builds community is face-to-face contact with people and a lot of that has gone by the wayside because we spend so much time indoors or in cars.”
Walkability is a buzzword that has received more play in recent years, as city planners, environmentalists and community leaders look for ways to make older neighborhoods more vibrant. It has become one of the key goals for sustainable urban design. And real estate brokers have begun to tout a home’s walk score, in addition to local schools and other amenities.
The Brookings Institute found that walkable neighborhoods perform better economically. Home prices are as much as 22 percent higher, rents are 17 percent greater and office rent is 20 percent higher. In short, people prefer walkable neighborhoods and that eventually increases values. It also lowers the cost of transportation for residents.