The Uptown Planners Community Planning Group holds their annual board member vote this Tuesday at the Joyce Beers center in Hillcrest, with seven seats set to be filled. If you’re a resident of Uptown, please consider voting for Michael Brennan and Kyle Heiskala. They will provide a fresh outlook and much-needed millennial representation on the board – more on that below.

While Kensington is unfortunately not a part of Uptown, we spend a lot of time in Uptown’s neighborhoods, and are interested in seeing their turnaround of the past few decades continue. These are increasingly vibrant places, with many new establishments opening, new mixed-use projects planned and transit options like the Rapid 215 bus being added. With regard to the city’s housing crisis, they are also ideal places to increase density given their locations close to downtown and current/potential public transit infrastructure.

When I started this blog ten years ago, I was aware of community planning groups (CPGs) but not their role, which is to advise the city on planning and land use-related items. Yet they also create community plans (which they are in the process of updating now). Many of these community plans are 30-40 years old, but when a project is planned that is inconsistent with these outdated, cars-first plans, the CPG will use its weight as community representative to pressure the city to prevent the change. One example is the College Area Community Planning Group’s threat to sue over a bike lane and widened sidewalks near SDSU – because they feel it will prevent their plan’s goal of widening College Avenue to 6 lanes:

The revised proposal would also be inconsistent with the College Area Community Plan, which calls for the eventual widening of College Avenue to three lanes in each direction. SDSU’s proposed changes would preclude this future widening. The board expressed serious concern about the proposal, and is exploring its legal options.

Sure enough, after pressure from this CPG, councilmember Marti Emerald, head of the city’s “Livable Neighborhoods” committee, wrote a letter to the mayor asking that the bike lane and widened sidewalk be removed. Never mind that actually widening College to 6 lanes would require the teardown and reconstruction of several SDSU buildings and a trolley electrical substation (at the cost of several hundreds of millions of dollars), or that it would make the road even more unsafe for pedestrians and people on bikes.

If community planning groups are truly representative of our communities, and are now planning them for the next 30-40 years, why are they largely made up of older residents who mostly oppose any changes to their neighborhoods? While there are exceptions to this, particularly in North Park and downtown, my experience has been that these groups are often comprised of NIMBY-type folks who are primarily concerned with parking and traffic issues. As a result, their decisions – opposing increased density, bike lanes, and affordable housing – negatively impact the younger San Diegans who might live in the neighborhoods these folks are “planning”.

The Uptown Community Planning Group is chaired by Leo Wilson, who is currently suing the city to remove bike lanes on 4th and 5th Avenues in Bankers Hill and Hillcrest. Jim Mellos, another Uptown board member, represents Wilson in the lawsuit. Wilson has called a special meeting on March 24th to discuss the SANDAG bike lane project in Uptown, yet currently this only appears on the “Keep University Ave Open” Facebook page, set up by a small group opposed to making Mission Hills streets safer for people on bikes. The meeting is not on the Uptown Planners web page, the city planning groups web page, and SANDAG has not been notified of it. Is Wilson working behind the scenes with this group, and if so, how then is Uptown Planners truly representative of the community?

San Diego is the least affordable city to live in in the nation and faces a housing (affordability) crisis. Hillcrest is an ideal location to add housing given its proximity to downtown and public transit. Yet Wilson opposes any growth in Hillcrest, railing against “straight white bigots” who “need to move downtown” because they advocate for badly-needed new housing in Hillcrest (my husband and I just celebrated 15 years together). While its growth has been stopped, Hillcrest has become more dependent on residents outside the neighborhood to support its businesses – just as those other neighborhoods increased their own dining and bar options. This decreased the need to go to Hillcrest, and Hillcrest’s business community has declined over recent years as a result.

While Wilson is termed out this year, his influence will carry on via the various board members he has recruited. Thomas Fox, a member of Wilson’s Metro CDC organization suing the city, is rumored to be the next chairperson. Candidate Jay Newington (see below) is co-founder of Metro CDC and advocated for the outdated idea of removing parking meters from Bankers Hill. Like Wilson, he also supported the Jacobs Bypass Bridge for Balboa Park, which would have permanently damaged the park and brought more cars into its core (most of Bankers Hill rightly opposed this project). Candidate Chris Cole is a member of the Western Slopes Community Association, another Leo Wilson-associated organization.

Wilson is an effective organizer and turns out a large number of voters each year who vote in his candidates. But it’s clear his influence on Uptown Planners, including this orchestrated maneuver that re-instated him as chair two years ago, makes it far from a representative organization.

Among the other candidates is Jennifer Pesqueira (running for re-election), owner of El Indio in Middletown, who said that “not one parking space” should be removed from her public street for the safety of people on bikes. Apparently she has declared ownership of this public resource, despite her private parking lot across the street.

Nancy Moors and her partner run the HillQuest website and while I support their historical preservation efforts on behalf of SOHO, they advocate for reducing density and a 30 foot height limit for Hillcrest. This would make it much more difficult for younger San Diegans to live in this urban neighborhood, and would only make our housing crisis worse. They represent established residents of Uptown who have secured a home in a prime urban neighborhood of the city, and now have closed the door behind them to new residents – because of parking and traffic concerns. These are suburban neighborhood convenience issues applied to an urban setting.

Mat Wahlstrom has called safe bike lanes for people on bikes “social engineering”, and also stated that only rich white people ride bikes, during an Uptown Planners meeting in 2013.

While it’s nearly guaranteed that Wilson’s candidates will win, I’m asking that if you live in Uptown and care about its future – particularly Hillcrest’s – please vote on Tuesday. There are nine candidates for the seven slots. Michael Brennan is a Hillcrest business owner, member of the Hillcrest Business Association, and former Uptown Community Parking District (Hillcrest) board member who approaches issues with the needs of all residents in mind – and a much cooler head than me. Kyle Heiskala also lives in Hillcrest and secured highly-reduced transit passes for UCSD students via an overwhelming “yes” referendum vote – after our “sustainable” university slashed transit subsidies and now plans to build more parking garages.

In simple terms, Brennan and Heiskala represent the future of Uptown. Wilson’s candidates represent the past. The first example of this will occur immediately after the vote, when the city presents its Climate Action Plan to the board. The plan seeks to increase bike mode share to 18% in Uptown by 2030. Yet much of the current Uptown Planners board opposes the infrastructure to make this happen – if they’re not actively suing to stop it.

Uptown Planning Board Candidates, 2015:

1. Michael Brennan (Hillcrest)

2. Chris Cole (Middletown/Mission Hills)

3. Neil Ferrier (Hillcrest/ University Heights)

4. Kyle Heiskala (Hillcrest)

5. Nancy Moor (Bankers Hill/Park West)

6. Jay Newington (Bankers Hill/Park West)

7. Jennifer Pesqueira (Five Points/Middletown)

8. Ken Tablang (Mission Hills)

9. Mat Wahlstrom (Hillcrest)

2 Responses to vote tuesday for uptown planners board


Fernando Bosco

March 10th, 2015 at 6:24 pm

I think your characterization of CPGs in San Diego is quite accurate (unfortunately). I also really appreciate your paragraph about College Ave and the uncritical and careless position of councilwoman Emerald. As a resident of her district and of the College area and a faculty member at SDSU, I was shocked when I read about Emerald’s letter and the NIMBY position of the El Cerrito Community Council and other neighborhood groups that support the outdated community plan that calls for the unfeasible expansion of College Avenue to six lanes. I hope that the mayor, SDSU, other neighbors and organizations speak out about this. College is extremely dangerous for SDSU students and bikers in general as it is. The area is finally getting more interesting with new restaurants and shops, more people biking and walking and the fact that this is what comes out from the CPG and our city representative is simply unbelievable.


paul jamason

March 11th, 2015 at 8:36 pm

Thanks for your comment Fernando. I agree that the area is improving and it would be a perfect place to implement some complete streets/placemaking concepts – including bike lanes and wider sidewalks.

Why do outdated 30-year old community plans, many of which ignore safety for pedestrians and people on bikes, still determine our public spaces?

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saiko sushi

23 Feb

Saiko Sushi is another new addition to the burgeoning restaurant scene in North Park. We’re fans of the more casual Riki Sushi around the corner on 30th but it’s often either full or a wall of sound in there. There’s more outdoor seating at Saiko too:


The interior features this large mural but is otherwise mostly sports a clean and sleek look:



Bonus points for a good local craft beer selection and a wide range of sakes (I went with the former – old habits die hard). And the grilled eggplant and cucumber was a unique, excellent appetizer. It’s great to have another sushi spot in North Park, especially since Saiko’s concept and design differs from the more economical approach at Riki and North Park Sushi. Now if we could just get a sushi spot in Kensington… (or are we?).

A few changes are coming to Adams Ave in Normal Heights, including Burnside, a deli from the Sycamore Den folks a few doors down:


We hadn’t eaten at the Greek spot it’s going into in years, and Sycamore Den sure looks cool inside, so we’re looking forward to it. Can’t say the I Heart 92116 Facebook page agrees with that sentiment however:

Alexander Fazekas-Paul: Let’s hope the new place isn’t an overpriced hipster joint. As much as I like to see Adams Ave. blossom, I fear a lot of ill effects and end up being overcrowded like North Park has become.

Kevin Byington: Sorry, not excited for this place. It will be over priced and only bring more douchbaggary to our neighborhood. I want the old Ab-Normal Heights back.

Further west on Adams, near Sabuku Sushi, window signage for Hawthorne Coffee is up:


And east of 35th, signage for craft beer and taco spot El Tacon has been up for a while in the former Villa Del Mar location:


Last Tuesday evening saw gridlock downtown with the closure of 5th for the Mardi Gras celebration. For me it was the perfect opportunity to use my DecoBike membership after disembarking from the 150 bus from UCSD. After some trouble with the courthouse station on Broadway, I walked to the station just west of Horton Plaza, undocked and glided past the stuck drivers on 1st Ave. Meanwhile Jay parked in Golden Hill (there was little street parking downtown due to the festival) and grabbed his bike from near the police headquarters. We met in front of Petco Park, docked there and walked to nearby Table No 10 to celebrate our 15 years together. This photo doesn’t to justice to the interior; check our their website for a much more impressive shot.


I don’t usually order steak but their Steak Frites with Onions plate was cooked to medium-rare perfection. The charred octopus was a favorite too. With excellent service and food Table 10 is a significant upgrade over the former establishment at this location.

In Hillcrest, Pakistani/Indian restaurant House of Khan has opened in the former Mama Testa space on University… Local Habit on 5th is doing a reboot and will feature a new patio, rollup doors and a liquor license… Rip Current Brewing turned out to be a pleasant surprise over a couple of recent visits. I really how open it is to the street – you basically feel like you’re outside as the afternoon sun hits you. And the food from the Sublime folks in back, especially their fries, is better than you’d expect from a tasting room. I didn’t know much about Rip Current but after tasting their popular Lupulin Lust IPA, I can see why they’re popular up in north County. In fact all of their beers I’ve tried have been solid… If you’re in a healthier mood, Smooth Operator has opened next door with juices and smoothies.

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decobike launches

16 Feb

- Representatives from The City Heights Community Development Corporation, Wakefield Housing & Development Corporation, St Paul’s PACE, and Studio E Architects presented preliminary information about the Talmadge Gateway Project at last week’s Kensington/Talmadge Community Planning Group Meeting (image from SD Uptown News/Studio E):

The mixed-use senior housing project is proposed for the northwest corner of El Cajon and Euclid and would re-use or replace the building housing Til Two Club. Given the recent positive changes on this stretch of El Cajon Boulevard, including the new YMCA (where KenTal CPG meetings are now held), new rapid bus line and the potential for bike lanes, this development could be another big positive boost. It was encouraging to hear that many in attendance agreed with the project’s potential.

Unfortunately, the first question from the planning board wasn’t about the project’s amenities or planned tenant mix, but rather parking, which was deemed insufficient despite this being a reduced-mobility senior housing project. Other board members voiced concerns over parking in front of Talmadge residences, traffic and crime. Board chair David Moty voiced support for putting the project’s retail at the north end of the project, away from El Cajon Boulevard, because this commercial center is out of the “safety zone” for Talmadge residents. It was another reminder of the gulf that exists between the wealthier, older and largely white neighborhoods of San Diego and the more racially and economically diverse areas that represent the future demographics of our city. Personally I’m excited that this project could be the first of many mixed-use retail and housing projects along eastern ECB given its proximity to transit. It’s baffling to see such poor land use on so much of ECB – empty parking lots, single story buildings and used car dealerships – when the city faces such big housing affordability challenges.

– The Foundation For Form folks (You Got Mail, You Are Here) have purchased the building housing the Revivals thrift store on eastern University in Hillcrest. I never realized just how big this parcel is:

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 12.43.04 AM

Given this news, I need to make a correction to an earlier post that identified the Baras Thrift Store site nearby as having development planned (oops). Interestingly, there’s an empty lot behind Revivals’ ample rear parking lot that appears to contain a couple of boats. San Diego is the least affordable city in the country due to its housing crisis, there’s been hardly any residential construction in Hillcrest for years – and yet there are still empty lots in the neighborhood housing old boats? Regardless, if their previous mixed-use projects are any indication, the Foundation for Form architects/developers will bring an innovative design and residential focus to this potential Hillcrest development.

Also coming up in Hillcrest: The Great Hillcrest Spring Clean, which takes place at 8AM on Saturday 2/28:

As always we will provide our colorful HTC Clean T.E.A.M (together everyone achieves more) t-shirts until they run out. If you have one from past Clean T.E.A.M events please wear it. Supplies will be provided.

Two starting points so you can join the neighborhood you want to help in:

(1) Hillcrest Shell, corner of Washington and fifth. Meet at 8:00am for directions. Will clean parts of the Medical District and Hillcrest Core.

(2) Heat Bar and Grill, at Park Ave and Essex St. Meet at 8:00am for directions to clean East Hillcrest.

“TALKING TRASH” happy hour will follow at Hillcrest Brewing Company (1458 University Avenue) sometime between noon and 1pm.

THE GREAT HILLCREST SPRING CLEAN is sponsored by the Hillcrest History Guild, the Hillcrest Business Association, the Hillcrest Town Council and the UCSD Medical Center Hillcrest.

– Waterfront Park has been a big success, but ever try to walk from there to the bay front across Harbor and Ash? What better place to put a high-speed turn ramp (instead of a standard 90 degree right turn) than between our pedestrian-heavy bay front and new family-friendly park. I crossed it recently and the pedestrians had absolutely no idea if they had right-of-way, because there is no visible crosswalk signal. And bonus points if you’re in a wheelchair, because this intersection isn’t ADA-compliant. John Anderson documents this intersection, with photos, in his excellent post, “Pedestrians as Safety Hazards”. Fortunately this and two other intersections on Harbor will receive pedestrian improvements shortly (h/t to Tyler).

– San Diego has been named the least affordable city in the U.S. due to its high housing costs. Voice of San Diego recently did a story on the city’s housing crisis, soliciting suggestions on how to tackle problem; increasing inventory via density was a recurring theme. So it was interesting to see that many metropolitan statistical areas that are have fewer people (and are more affordable) built significantly more multi-family housing in 2014 than San Diego. The metros are Charlotte, Denver, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Portland, and Tampa. By comparison, Seattle, whose metro population is just a bit larger than San Diego, issued three times as many of these permits. And with support from a majority of Seattle residents, the city is repurposing storage of private vehicles on public streets with bus-only lanes, bike lanes and micro-parks. Buses can move far more people than single-occupancy vehicles, so why not give them priority? Meanwhile in San Diego, businesses along El Cajon boulevard fought the removal of any street parking for the Rapid bus there, which must share a lane with solo drivers. As a result, the “Rapid” bus runs no faster than the prior bus service there.

– Bankers Hill Community Group meets tonight to discuss a Complete Streets approach to the SANDAG bike lanes proposed for 4th and 5th Avenues, while voting on a “Petition for a safer Sixth Avenue to be presented to Uptown Planners for their approval and to submit the petition to the City of San Diego to study traffic calming on Sixth Avenue”. Recall that Uptown Planners Chair Leo Wilson “strongly opposes” a road diet that would increase pedestrian safety on 6th Ave, because fast auto flow is more important. He’s also filed a lawsuit to remove the city-installed buffered bike lanes on 4th and 5th… Recent news that the city’s parking districts have $18 million in unspent funds has prompted a call for ideas on how to spend the money, and whether the funds should continue to be restricted to parking-related items only. February 27th is the deadline to get your suggestions in for 1) the Fiscal Year 2016 Parking District budgets (contact Uptown or Downton parking districts) and to 2) Todd Gloria’s office for changing how meter funds can be spent.

– DecoBike is up an running, so we put our memberships to use last weekend and rode around downtown’s dense station network. Apart from some challenges with undocking the bikes, the system and bikes are easy to use, and we fielded lots of questions from people asking about the program and its cost. As someone who’s had a bike stolen, it’s a great feeling to walk away from your bike and not worry about it.

We started off at the new Meshuggah Shack at the forthcoming Quartyard in East Village:


…ate some really good sandwiches at Rare Form near the ballpark:


…noted the construction at the bay front Marriott that includes the new pedestrian path to the harbor (here’s a rendering):


…and grabbed beers from the new Bottlecraft location – they’ve moved up India to just across the street from Ballast Point in Little Italy:




Then we finished up back at one of the stations with ample docks next to Petco Park. These should come in very handy this season, especially considering all the off-season moves the Padres made to improve the team.


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care about south park

30 Jan
targetExpressI wrote about the controversy over the TargetExpress coming to the former Gala Foods location in South Park recently and received the following response from Sabrina DiMinico, head of Care About South Park (CASP), a community group that opposes the store:

Hi Paul, just want to clear up a few things since 99% of what you “reported” in your blog is inaccurate. I have been open about my identity as a founder of Care About South Park since we issued our first press release on November 11th requesting transparency from Todd Gloria about the South Park TargetExpress project. Mark Arabo is not a spokesperson for Care About South Park. He is the President and CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association. We are aligned in our opposition to a TargetExpress coming into South Park but we are independent organizations. Care About South Park is speaking out on behalf of the many people in the community who oppose the TargetExpress due to the negative impact it will have on our neighborhood and Mark is speaking out on behalf of his members, whose independent businesses in and around South Park will be negatively impacted by a corporate chain.
Not that it’s at all relevant, but you have not identified my current employer accurately. I won’t bother to correct you, because as a homeowner in South Park, I’m entitled to want to protect the neighborhood in which I live regardless of where I work. The one thing you did copy and paste correctly was the “gem” about me shopping at Target but not wanting one in my neighborhood. Let me explain the logic behind that. Mission Valley and Sports Arena are both well-established commercial areas that are densely populated with corporate chains. When purchasing a home in San Diego, I specifically chose not to buy in these areas because I personally don’t want to live in a dense commercial zone. And that’s not a slight against people who do. We all have preferences and choices. And if the residents of Mission Valley or Sports Arena wanted to oppose yet another chain opening in their neighborhood, I would support them and certainly wouldn’t expect them to give up their fight so I could personally shop at said chain. Again, everyone has a right to protect the neighborhood in which they live. The TargetExpress will only be 18,000 sq feet whereas the average full sized Target is over 100,000 sq feet. South Park residents will still have to drive to Mission Valley and Sports Arena to get things that the TargetExpress won’t carry. I, and many of my neighbors, on the other hand will never shop at another Target store again if TargetExpress comes into South Park.
What our neighborhood wants and needs is a grocery store and there was and is one who is interested that would be a perfect for us. However, we have been lied to by Mr. Hirmez, who stood up in front of members of the community at the Greater Golden Hill Planning Committee meeting on October 8th and told us that he wanted to retire and Target was his only option because no other grocery stores wanted the space or could afford the improvements needed to the building. So if you want to add some new and interesting information to your blog, perhaps you should research that story and report back with some facts that have actually been corroborated beyond a simple Google search.

I appreciate Sabrina taking the time to respond to my post and would like to address some of the points she made:

1) “I have been open about my identity as a founder of Care About South Park since we issued our first press release on November 11th requesting transparency from Todd Gloria about the South Park TargetExpress project”.

When I heard about Care About South Park, I went to their website, which to this day still doesn’t identify anyone associated with the group. I wasn’t aware of any press release. It’s hypocritical for a group to demand “full transparency and accountability” from Target (who have met with Todd Gloria’s office and have addressed community concerns over products/services offered) while not even saying who makes up said group on their site. Why not list the organizers – is it just Ms. DiMinico? – or the hundreds of people and businesses who have signed their petition?

2) “Independent businesses in and around South Park will be negatively impacted by a corporate chain.”

Most of the independent businesses in South Park don’t carry the same items as a TargetExpress (TE), but rather niche items, like unique clothes and funky gifts. Grant’s Market probably has the most goods overlap, but it also has a very popular deli. Their Yelp page mostly features reviews of the deli’s food offerings, not their grocery items.

I do agree that big box stores like Walmart have an extremely negative impact on main street businesses. They even leave inner-suburb stores vacant to reduce competition as they follow the sprawl. But TargetExpress isn’t a big-box store that you drive to in the exurbs – it’s an oversized drugstore on main street. It will complement and strengthen the surrounding business community instead of drawing shoppers down to Mission Valley. Their Minneapolis location is part of a new 300-unit mixed use development. In fact, the TE small-store concept is in response to the trend of younger people moving to urban neighborhoods so residents can be closer to the store instead of driving 15 minutes away – which Ms. DiMinico would force South Park residents to continue doing.

3) “I don’t want to live in a dense commercial zone”.

And you won’t after TargetExpress opens either – South Park will still be the same, just with a TargetExpress instead of a failing grocery store. Also, I’m guessing most residents of the Sports Arena commercial zone didn’t willingly choose to live there, as Ms. DiMinico implies. They live there because its scattered apartment housing among the meth-making hotels is what they can afford. I’m sure they’d love to live in South Park, but those residents largely oppose any new housing – including a project that was planned for this same Gala Foods site.

4) “And if the residents of Mission Valley or Sports Arena wanted to oppose yet another chain opening in their neighborhood, I would support them”.

Somehow I don’t see CASP folks standing on Sports Arena Drive with a “No More Chains!” sign when the next Jamba Juice opens there. Statements like these are a stretch (to say the least) and are a cover for the ugly motives involved: liberal NIMBYism, snobbery and elitism. And to suggest that Mission Valley residents are cool with all of South Park driving in to pollute and congest their neighborhoods, simply because they already had commercial areas, is condescending.

5) “South Park residents will still have to drive to Mission Valley and Sports Arena to get things that the TargetExpress won’t carry“.

Probably true, but they’ll certainly be making those trips less often since TargetExpress will carry many of the items they do need. Yet for Ms. DiMinico, not one drive out of South Park can be sacrificed because her corporate-free neighborhood lifestyle requires every one of these wasteful trips. Does she gas-up at the dreaded corporate 7-Eleven next door to Gala Foods for those Mission Valley Target runs?

6) “What our neighborhood wants and needs is a grocery store and there was and is one who is interested that would be a perfect for us“.

Claiming to represent an entire neighborhood is certainly bold, but there are plenty of residents who want a drugstore too – which is what TargetExpress (TE) basically is. And why not just tell us who this perfect grocery store is? Is it national chain Trader Joe’s? National chain Whole Foods? Because I think residents would be just fine with these stores, despite having the same corporate classification as Target.

If South Park residents oppose a private property owner leasing out to the business of his choice, then offer to purchase the property from the owner. Or don’t support the business, and it will go away. While I completely support their right to protest (I’ve done the same with Urban Mo’s planned demolition of housing they own for a parking lot), thinking they control whom private property owners rent to is delusional.

If I lived in South Park, Target wouldn’t be my first choice for this location for a number of reasons. Their labor practices are Walmart-like, they gave money to an anti-gay organization, and they tried to lay off all their Canadian workers with no severance pay. And I agree with CASP’s complaint that money spent there leaves the community in greater numbers than at local merchants.  But TE will provide essential household goods to South Park that are unavailable there now.

It’s 2015 – why are we still labeling our neighborhoods as residential vs “commercially dense”? Mix these uses in urban neighborhoods like South Park, which are well-served by alternative transit options, and you’ll end up with a lot less vehicle miles travelled. Opposing TE because they’re a corporation is mostly an excuse for the real reasons: competition concerns from rival markets, traffic, and complete disregard for other communities.

4 Responses to care about south park


Steven Johnson

February 6th, 2015 at 10:38 am

I’m in South Park weekly, to use the dog park, shop and grab food. I am excited that a Target Express is moving into the neighborhood. I’ve talked with numerous residents in the area and contrary to what is suggested by Care About South Park, there is support for the store. If people are not happy about it, don’t shop there. If that occurs in large numbers, the Target Express will not survive in that location. Let the “market” decide if this is a store that residents and visitors to this neighborhood want to patronize.


Paul Jamason

February 6th, 2015 at 11:53 pm

Thanks for your comment Steven. I agree that the market should decide. It’s disturbing that CASP feels they get to decide whom landowners can and can’t rent to, and that they speak for the entire community.

If Target was leveling the building and nearby residences to build a mega-building and parking lot, I would definitely oppose it. Instead, they’re keeping the existing building, and even looking to replace some of the excess parking capacity with more retail.


Don Lexan

March 10th, 2015 at 8:52 am

I would like to know the names of the “20 small business members in the South Park area” that Mark Arabo claims to represent in his anti-Target activity?

The members of South Park Business Group have not issued a single objection to Target. The Hirmez family has a solid 20-year lease contract with Target that will not likely be broken, so I don’t understand exactly what Arabo intends to accomplish with his grandstanding in our neighborhood. He does not live here (he lives in East county, as do the Hirmez’s) , nor does the high school girl, Star Attisha, Arabo has hired to “market” him.

Attisha, a high school junior who lives in North County, is a family member of Saad Attisha (Venture Petroleum and over 65 gas/convenience stores). Arabo and many other NMA members have a long history of violations relating to selling cigarettes/alcohol to minors, tax evasion, or fighting minimum wage laws and any kind of health/safety regulations. This does not exactly fit South Park’s political leanings or demographics.

I assume Arabo and Attisha have cultivated DiMinico to create a “neighborhood” alliance, but there is nothing real about their neighborhood connection. Everyone I know in South Park is looking forward to the TargetExpress. It’s the next best thing to a grocery store.


paul jamason

March 11th, 2015 at 11:46 pm

Hi Don, thanks for your comment, you raise a good question. I didn’t know the SPBG had decided not to take a position on the TargetExpress, that’s a good sign.

That’s also good information about Arabo and Attisha. Wasn’t aware of their minimum wage increase opposition, yikes. I only know Arabo from his leadership fighting the plastic bag ban, but as an environmentalist that sure made me wary of him.

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mr robinson

25 Jan

The Jonathan Segal project at Robinson and Park has a name (Mr. Robinson) and a sign showing what it will look like when it’s complete:


The rendering reminds me a bit of Segal’s project on India Street in Little Italy.  Mr. Robinson is among the first residential projects in Hillcrest since 2008, which also happens to coincide with the introduction of the Interim Height Ordinance there.  This project isn’t affected by the IHO due to its location on Park, and it should exceed the IHO’s 65 foot height limit given that the rendering shows 7 stories on one side.  Because discretionary review by the community is not required, Segal chose not to present the project to the neighborhood, and I don’t blame him.  His son Mathew explained last fall that community planning group meetings are largely attended by residents who oppose any development because of parking impacts.  And sure enough, that’s exactly what a Hillcrest resident says in this clip about the project: no one else should be allowed to live in Hillcrest because parking. Remember, this is the first sizable mixed-use project in Hillcrest in 6 years, so there’s been hardly any new housing since then.

I’ve had some interesting exchanges with folks on the Hillcrest Business Improvement Association Facebook page (not the official HBA page) about the housing issue.  First, they say no new housing should be built because it won’t be affordable.  If you suggest reducing minimum parking requirements to reduce cost, they say parking is more important than housing. Mr. Robinson had to dig out expensive underground parking to meet the city’s minimum parking requirements, despite five bus lines (including the new Rapid 235215 to downtown) nearby, and a DecoBike station across the street.  These costs are part of what makes the units so unaffordable.  And yet it’s still not enough parking to appease residents. Perhaps they should read this.

Another Facebook freakout ensued over the sale of the Baras thrift store on University at Normal:

The sale of the building led to speculation of residential development at the site, which resulted in some saying that “there is no demand for housing in San Diego”.  Tell that to the 46,000 families on the rent voucher list in San Diego. An estimated 64,000 affordable units are required in the county.  And if there’s no demand for housing, why do rents continue to increase?  More astounding was the Hillcrest/San Francisco resident who blamed the high cost of housing in SF solely on tech jobs, and denied the city’s “pathological culture of NIMBYism” even exists.  This person would rather San Francisco and San Diego return to high unemployment that damages lives and families than provide needed housing.

These are real people who want to decide the future of Uptown.  They’ve declared that they got there first, their parking is more important than housing for others, and they’re fighting like hell to keep anyone else out.  Can you blame developers for ignoring them whenever possible?

- I’ve been pretty critical of the downward economic slide in Hillcrest (and the fact that some residents want fewer businesses and jobs in the neighborhood), but there’s been some positive signs recently.  Lemonade, an upscale cafeteria concept, is expanding from LA into the former Amici’s Pizza location on 5th Avenue.  Despite this being a main commercial location in Hillcrest, some criticized it as an “awful location” with “terrible parking”.  Yet there are two parking garages on this block, and multiple parking lots within a few blocks.  Toward the east end of University, a new Irish Coffee and beer spot, Oscar Wilde’s, has opened in the former Gossip Grill space.  On 5th, an inviting artisan market, Back to Basics, is open:


The market features locally-grown produce from a farm near Ramona, imported goods from Spain, and soups, salads and paella to go.  Nearby, La Marque has been serving up Moto Roasters coffee since November.

In Bankers Hill, several new mixed-use projects are on the way, including Orchid-award winning architect Lloyd Russel’s 4th Avenue Lofts.  The article also mentions this project set for 5th and Palm, where Extraordinary Desserts is currently located:

74,000-square-foot Fifth and Palm will combine a 145-unit multifamily market-rate rental building with a 66-unit extended-stay hotel component. The two towers will be a maximum 150 feet tall, with 37 spaces in three levels of underground parking.
While we’re in Bankers Hill, kudos to Todd Gloria for standing firm on bike lanes there.  Several residents who attended his Climate Action Plan presentation to the Bankers Hill Residents Group criticized the lanes and road diet, but in the end the Group wrote a letter of support for the plan.  I think it’s great that Todd is taking the lead on explaining the Plan to our communities, especially since it could result in significant transit mode share changes.   On a related note, this article talks about how road speeds are still set with only cars in mind, using the 50-year old 85th percentile standard, and how this can directly result in the deaths of pedestrians and people on bikes.

Bourbon Street and Lei Lounge have closed and will re-open as a new, non-gay concept by one of the owners of Waypoint in North Park:


While the usual suspects in our gay community blamed the lack of parking for the closure, there are plenty of successful spots along this strip of University Heights (Plumeria, Small Bar, Lestat’s) regardless of the parking situation. I think it has more to do with the changes both in the neighborhood and in our culture.  We have gay friends in University Heights, but they’re in their 50’s and don’t go clubbing.  The demographics of any new people who can afford to move there are likely much different than the primarily gay and lesbian residents who turned the neighborhood around two decades ago.  It seems a gay club doesn’t really reflect the direction of the community anymore.  And on a larger scale, gays and lesbians are no longer limited to just gay establishments as discrimination decreases.  Finally, many gayborhoods are simply being priced out of existence as housing and commercial rents increase, and older residents largely oppose any new inventory of either.

Down Park, we made it to S&M Sausage and Meat, drawn in by the sleek bar and CityBeat’s wing week:


Pork wings in a root beer balsamic were as delicious as they sound, as was my vegan Italian sausage (I’ve forgotten the ingredients) and Jay’s cajun chicken sausage.  The restaurant was very busy, much more so than we can remember at Gulf Coast Grill.  It also felt like they knew what they were doing – ideas like putting in our order out front, then using signage on our table to let the server know if we needed anything, worked well.  The owners’ considerable experience with their Slater’s 50/50 establishments showed.

Another place with prior restaurant experience that’s new to the area is Swamis in North Park:


From the efficient ordering process, to the huge variety of coffees, to my dairy-free pancakes (yes!) it all just seemed to work.  And I’ll never get tired of indoor/outdoor spaces like these as we enjoyed yet another 75 degree January weekend day.  Another one in this category is the new Streetcar on 30th which I mentioned in an earlier post, but this time I’ve included a picture of the cool interior:


A lack of outdoor seating was one of the reasons cited for the recent closure of Alchemy in South Park, as the patio fills nightly across the street at Buona Forchetta, and Hamilton’s expands next door.  Alchemy will be replaced by a vegan restaurant from the brains behind the LOVELIKEBEER events, (with help from the Craft & Commerce folks) and add patios… According to the North Park Facebook page, San Diego Soup Shoppe on El Cajon will be getting two new neighbors: a second Cafe Madeline (first location is in South Park) and a beer/burger place, The Barn… And last but not least, Good Life Eatery has moved into the former 30th Street Cafe on 30th in North Park.

Preservation alert: the owners of the church next door to the Irving Gill-built chapel on 30th in North Park are offering $10K to anyone who will move the structure.  Contact me for more information (thanks to John Anderson for the photo):

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 12.29.09 PM

Here’s some photos of the new Pan Bon Italian market/restaurant in Little Italy, which looks (and tasted) great but still needs to work out a few kinks regarding their confusing ordering flow:

IMG_5536 IMG_5541 IMG_5531 IMG_5535

While I’m on Little Italy, I was asked to give a shout out to the Happenstance co-workspace there, near the new Bird Rock Coffee Roasters… Finally, the YMCA on El Cajon Boulevard had its grand opening today.  I can’t express how thrilled I am to have a 10-minute walk to an outdoor pool I can swim in on warm winter days like yesterday (these pictures are from last weekend however):


Another thing I like: they have a front door that faces the sidewalk:


YMCA’s Mission Valley and Kearny Mesa locations have zero interaction with their streets, so this is a great change.  Now if the CVS down the street could just follow suit; their street-facing door has long been sealed off (likely due to theft), forcing pedestrians to enter via the parking lot.



5 Responses to mr robinson



January 26th, 2015 at 6:13 am

Great update (as usual). As a Bankers Hill resident, it is exciting to see things happening in my sleepy neighborhood. I’ve been to Back to Roots and it is a fantastic little shop. Very friendly owners and a great addition to the neighborhood. I’m hoping the new apartment building on Thorn @ fifth will have some ground level retail…ideally a pub.

On a walkabout yesterday I saw some staff from the new bike share program in front of one of the racks (University in front of Five Guys). They were passing out info so I assume we may see bikes in these monstrous racks in the near future. While I love the idea of a bike share, I do have some concerns about some of their locations. Some have been placed directly on busy sidewalks and I imagine once the bikes are installed, the sidewalks will be narrowed by a good amount.
Like you, I am disturbed by the decline in Hillcrest. The restaurant turnover is never ending. The Harvey Milk’s signs have been removed from the building …have you heard any more news about what is going in there?


paul jamason

January 26th, 2015 at 11:44 am

Thanks for your comment Mike and I appreciate the compliment! Yes the Back to Roots owner I spoke with (a woman) was very friendly and explained what their concept was. Really hoping they do well there.

I agree that the sidewalk locations for DecoBike stations can narrow them. However any loss of parking was a no-go for Uptown business owners and residents, so I’m not sure where else they could go.

Haven’t heard anything about Harvey Milk’s – last I read, its silent investor, Phil Pace (Phil’s BBQ) was going to open a non-Phil’s BBQ establishment there.


Jesse Mellon

January 26th, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Fantastic, thorough updates as always. Any idea what’s slated commercially for Mr. Robinson? I’ve heard something about a restaurant and a coffee shop…


Steven Johnson

January 27th, 2015 at 4:40 pm

always love your posts


Steven Johnson

January 27th, 2015 at 4:40 pm

always love your posts

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