San Diego, like many other towns, is often dominated by the business community. As the Voice of San Diego recently reported, these business groups arguably dominated the policy agenda in 2014.
Although some businesses offer their support, either through discounts for cyclists or voicing support at community planning group meetings, the business community is often silent when it comes to urbanism and walking and biking. But does it have to be this way?
When Modern Times Beer was first starting up, founder Jacob McKean wrote a blog post entitled "Transforming San Diego." McKean said:
Modern Times exists to make extraordinary beer. But it’s also an actor in the life of this city. It has a responsibility to shape its own environment, to constructively engage with the city upon which it relies. One of the ways it will do that is by helping to transform San Diego into a better, more livable place.
To be fair, since that time, Modern Times has embraced that goal, making huge donations to BikeSD, hosting cycling events, and just all around being awesome. But, in some ways, simply supporting non-profits might not be the best way to leverage the powers inherent in a business.
For whatever reason, businesses, posing as "job-creators," have an outsized influence in this city. BikeSD might not be able to get a meeting with the Mayor at any time, but I bet you Jerry Sanders can. Too often, non-profits are viewed as hippy treehuggers and easily dismissed. So perhaps businesses like Modern Times need to start flexing their "job creator" muscles. Imagine a band of businesses forming the "Better Biking Business Association" or some other goofy name. These would be businesses that are committed to supporting urbanism in San Diego, just as McKean pledged. Most likely, these are the hottest businesses in San Diego: breweries and coffee shops, hot restaurants, etc. Not only would the City want to listen, but other businesses would be eager to be associated with them.
These business leaders could lobby the city to support urbanism and complain about the lost jobs that will result if San Diego doesn't become more bike/walk friendly. They could pledge to not move into any new locations that do not meet certain criteria: proximity to transit and bike lanes, bike racks, improved crosswalks, etc. They could create something akin to LEED certification, which they could stamp on new developments and developers could brag about being "BBBA Certified"! Developers are eager to greenwash their developments to cater to so-called millennials, but someone needs to keep these developers in check.
Maybe Modern Times is standing alone out there, and there aren't enough businesses that are sold on "transforming San Diego." But I think there may be more than we realize and it's time for them to end their silence.