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New Wayfinding System Eases Navigation Of Downtown San Diego On Foot Or Bike

San Diego

Downtown San Diego’s $1.9M Wayfinding Project, started in 2000, is finally complete.

Civic San Diego wrapped up the project started by the former Centre City Development Corp. Civic San Diego is a city-operated nonprofit that has undertaken completion of the former redevelopment agency’s projects and other economic development projects and initiatives within San Diego’s urban neighborhoods.

Bisnow caught up with Civic San Diego’s public works principal engineer Daniel Kay to learn how visitors and residents alike can benefit from the new signage program. Previously wayfinding signage was geared exclusively to motorists and only included 10 destinations, Daniel tells us, but this project created a new wayfinding system that makes it easier to navigate Downtown and its diverse neighborhoods, whether traveling by car, bike or on foot.

Above is the Wayfinding construction team, snapped under the first wayfinding sign erected near Petco Park: Martin Flores, director of Urban Planning & Design at Rick Engineers (design consultant); Vinne Aguelo, project manager, and Byron Wade, president/CEO at Project Professionals Corp (construction); Paul Lopez and Henry Saavedra of Sign Industries (contractors); and Daniel Kay.


The new system includes more than 200 new signs, which direct visitors and residents to a variety of locations and points of interest. It also includes directional compasses embedded in pavement; kiosks with printed maps that highlight tourist and historic attractions, educational facilities, museums, parks and civic buildings; Downtown Gateway (pictured); and destination signs.

Below is Downtown resident Sarah Czarnecki using the map at a Little Italy kiosk.


Daniel says he was tasked with getting signage out on the streets when he joined Civic San Diego’s public works department in 2012. This included preparing construction contract documents to secure bids for construction, as well as managing the entire construction phase through completion.

A partnership of Rick Engineering and Pennsylvania-based Merje Environment Graphic Design was awarded the design contract through a public bidding process, while Sign Industries Inc won the bid for construction of signs, compasses and kiosks. The design is the result of multiple public meetings and nearly 50 interviews with stakeholders, which resulted in a “look and feel that would be timeless for at least 20 to 30 years,” Daniel says.


Civic San Diego president Reese A. Jarrett, a former developer, says, “Downtown has a wealth of history, attractions and businesses, and with our wayfinding project now complete, everyone, whether they’re walking, biking or driving can enjoy mobility with ease.” Pictured is a pedestrian sign in the Gaslamp Quarter.


The project was funded primarily with reinvestment of Downtown Community Parking District revenue streams and a $335k grant from the San Diego Association of Governments. The city has established agreements with the Downtown San Diego Partnership, Little Italy Association and San Diego Unified Port District to maintain signage in areas under their control. Pictured is the Marina Kiosk.


Pictured is an East Village directional compass near Petco Park.

Downtown San Diego now has about 35,000 residents and more than 34 million visitors annually who spend about $9.9B. This translates to a $16B impact on the local economy, according to the San Diego Visitors & Convention Bureau. The tourism industry also employs 181,000 San Diegans and generates $704.6M annually in state and local tax revenue.