Elements of Urbanism: Coronado, CA

October 19, 2011 22 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Ever imagine what 3rd Street, through our beach communities, could resemble if developed to be more pedestrian-scale? San Diego County's Orange Avenue (Downtown Coronado) could serve as a great visual example.

About Coronado

Coronado, also known as Coronado Island, is an affluent resort city located in San Diego County, California, 5.2 miles from downtown San Diego. Its population was 24,697 at the 2010 census, up from 24,100 at the 2000 census. U.S. News and World Report lists Coronado as one of the most expensive places to reside in the United States. Coronado lies on a peninsula connected to the mainland by a 10-mile isthmus called the Silver Strand (locally, The Strand.) Locals sometimes call Coronado The Island or Coronado Island, and they denote the core living and business area as The Village. In 2011, Stephen Leatherman (Dr. Beach) ranked Coronado Beach as the second best beach in the United States.

Coronado is Spanish for "the crowned one," and thus it is nicknamed The Crown City. There have been three ships of the United States Navy named after the city, including USS Coronado (LCS-4).

Orange Avenue's Pedestrian-Scale Atmosphere

Coronado's Orange Avenue serves this Pacific Coast city in a similar fashion to the role 3rd Street (SR A1A) plays in the Jacksonville Beaches. Similar to 3rd Street, this commercial spine is also four lanes with a median and parallel parking.  However, the major difference comes in the form of zoning.  Along Orange Avenue, buildings are designed to come to the street edge as opposed to being separated from the street with surface parking lots.  This little touch creates a linear spine of walkable urbanity in this city of 26,000 residents.

Orange Avenue (State Highway 75) terminates into a park overlooking the San Diego Bay and downtown San Diego.

Downtown Coronado's Orange Ave is a village-like, slow-paced, area with mainly local, mom-and-pop stores, just a few blocks from Coronado City Beach. Downtown Coronado runs along Orange Ave on the west side of Coronado. The city discourages chain stores. Many of the buildings are old and quaint, adding to the village atmosphere. At night, store roofs light up with white rooftop lights. Orange Ave is great for strolling and enjoying the sights.Driving can get congested at times along the narrow, windy road. At the south end of the shopping district is the Del Coronado Hotel, and just beyond that, The Silver Strand.
Many boutique stores, jewelry stores, and so forth, cater to visitors with upscale merchandise, while "regular" stores and offices round out the shopping district. Downtown also has a good selection of restaurants.

Downtown has a beautiful, grassy median. Differently themed gardens are located in different areas of the median. Each garden is funded by private donors and the design is approved by MainStreet’s Design Committee and the City Council.

Coronado is home to the famous Hotel del Coronado, built in 1888 and long considered one of the world's top resorts. It is listed as a National Historic Landmark and appeared in films such as Some Like It Hot and The Stunt Man. It was the setting of the Dashboard Confessional song Stolen. The historic hotel has had many notable American guests, including Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Willie Mays, Magic Johnson, and Muhammad Ali. Many presidents have also visited, including William Howard Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush.

"The Del" was supposedly also the inspiration for the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. (However, other sources say Oz was inspired by the "White City" of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.) Author L. Frank Baum would have been able to see the hotel from his front porch overlooking Star Park. Baum designed the crown chandeliers in the hotel's dining room. Because of the reported association with Oz, Coronado is often associated with the color green and is sometimes referred to as "The Emerald City". The colors of Coronado High are green and white; the Coronado city flag is a tricolor of green-white-green with a crown in the middle; and a local surf/skate shop is named Emerald City. The hotel is said to be haunted, with room 3372 being visited by the ghost of Kate Morgan.

A Lesson For Jacksonville

3rd Street in Jacksonville Beach.

San Diego County's Orange Avenue and Duval's 3rd Street (A1A) serve the same role for their communities.  However, one is pedestrian-scaled and the other is designed for automobiles.  Needless to say, the pedestrian-friendly corridor has become a gathering place for all modes of mobility while the automobile-oriented highway severs the communities it serves.  The lesson for Jacksonville's beaches is a simple one.  Think pedestrian-scale when it comes to deciding land use policies and accommodating the automobile into the urban landscape.

3rd Street in Jacksonville Beach.

Article by Ennis Davis.