What’s Rising in City Heights

What’s Rising in City Heights

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

The Copley Family YMCA will move from its 29,000-square-foot facility on Landis Street to a 53,000-square-foot facility on El Cajon Boulevard.

Former Mayor Bob Filner’s more wholesome legacy – shifting the focus from downtown development to the city’s deteriorating neighborhoods – has already bled into the race to replace him. Nathan Fletcher told Voice of San Diego last week he’ll continue the conversation Filner started about bringing infrastructure and services into neighborhoods.

His campaign trail, then, will surely pass through City Heights.

The community has been muscling its way toward a renaissance, beginning with a 1994 Price Charities investment that brought a grocery store into the neighborhood. But crammed city blocks and cinched revenue streams can turn modern-day efforts to add parks and fire stations there into sagas.

Some play out in the public eye – like last year’s punchy campaign for a skate park – while others stretch out over time, retold to each new neighbor, reporter or politician.

Below are the CliffsNotes for some of those sagas. Filner turned the pages on some. Fletcher and his contenders might want to brush up on the others.


View What’s Rising in City Heights in a larger map

What’s Going Up

Ocean Discovery Institute Living Lab
Location: 4255 Thorn St.
Estimated Completion Date: TBD

The Ocean Discovery Institute Living Lab project has approval from City Council and substantial funding from the state and CivicSD to build an 8,000-square-foot facility at the entrance to Manzanita Canyon. The project aims to improve environmental literacy among City Heights youth, who live along urban canyons that often introduce street debris and pollution into the watershed and, ultimately, the ocean.

Charles L. Lewis III Memorial Park
Location: 
Home Avenue between 46th Street and Euclid Avenue
Estimated Completion Date:
 June 2014

Filner allocated full funding to the Charles L. Lewis III Memorial Park this year after about a decade of limbo. Limited funding and reviews concerning a nearby police firing range held the process up. But the project, named after a District 4 councilman who died in 2004, is finally moving along. It will eventually add nearly two acres of parkland to the community, which is short about 100 acres of usable open space.

Mid-City Rapid
Location: El Cajon Boulevard
Estimated Completion Date: Summer 2014

Trolley tracks used to run east-west through City Heights during the early 1900s. SANDAG’s 2050 Regional Transportation Plan says that could happen again in some 20 years. But first come the buses. Mid-City Rapid is a bus route from San Diego State University to downtown via El Cajon and Park boulevards. It will feature special, and in some places, separated, bus lanes and sidewalk improvements along the way. The regional plan suggests those lanes could eventually be converted to tracks.

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Copley-Price Family YMCA
Location: Fairmount Avenue South and El Cajon Boulevard
Estimated Completion Date: Fall 2014

The Copley Family YMCA will move from its 29,000-square-foot facility on Landis Street to a 53,000-square-foot facility on El Cajon Boulevard. It will have indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness center, soccer arena, gymnasium, picnic area and preschool.

Price Charities donated the land, which used to be the Pearson Ford car lot. When Price announced it would develop – or find developers for – the parcel, residents in City Heights and those in the more affluent Talmadge neighborhood to the north offered competing visions: a skate park and affordable housing or a farmers market-style grocery store like Windmill Farms. The new YMCA was announced with little fanfare.

Centerline Stations
Location: Interstate 15 at El Cajon Boulevard and University Avenue
Estimated Completion Date: May 2015

City Heights has waited nearly 30 years for Centerline. The project is a compromise between residents and Caltrans, which bisected their neighborhood with Interstate 15. When completed, transits riders will be able to take elevators to buses waiting on the freeway at El Cajon Boulevard and University Avenue. The idea is to speed up travel from City Heights to jobs centers.

Wightman Street Neighborhood Park
Location: 5024 Wightman Street
Estimated Completion Date: July 2015
This project was delayed because of lawsuits concerned with its potential impacts on Chollas Creek. The lawsuits have since been resolved, but they caused the project to miss its deadline to utilize state grant money. The city’s parks department is now seeking new funding sources. When complete, the park will feature basketball courts, picnic tables and a playground.

Station 17
Location: Orange and Chamoune avenues
Estimated Completion Date: October 2015

The city plans to demolish and rebuild City Heights’ fire station for about $12 million. Crews will work out of a temporary station during construction.

Central Avenue Mini Park and Skate Plaza
Location: Central Avenue between Dwight and Landis streets
Estimated Completion Date: November 2015

The Central Avenue Mini Park helps solve a common problem in the city’s older neighborhoods. They’re out of compliance with parks-per-capita requirements, but also out of space. The project will fill an awkward 28,000-square-foot parcel along the freeway. It also begins to solve another problem: the community’s desire for a skate park. Youth proposed adding a small skate plaza to the project. The city found state grant money to fund it, and neighborhood teens are now in the process of designing its ramps and rails.

What’s on the Ground Floor

Home Avenue Fire Station
Location: Fairmount and Home avenues
Estimated Completion Date: TBD

The City Council voted to prioritize five new fire stations in 2011, including one on Home Avenue. The additions could decrease Fire-Rescue response times, potentially saving lives. But the city hasn’t spent a dime on them.

After a Voice of San Diego report on the city’s slow response times, Councilwoman Marti Emerald promised to put the station and others at the front of the line next year and in subsequent years.

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

City Heights skater Phuc Nguyen

City Heights Skate Park
Location: Landis and 38th streets
Estimated Completion Date: TBD

Filner and Emerald promised City Heights youth they’d get the skate park they began aggressively campaigning for last year. Before he left office, Filner was working with Emerald to pencil a deal to lease a city-owned lot near the Copley Family YMCA for a skate park. The community would likely be responsible for fundraising to build the facility.

East Pearson Ford Lot
Location: Fairmount Avenue North and El Cajon Boulevard
Estimated Completion Date: TBD

Price Charities also owns the lot directly east of the new Copley YMCA site. No deal has been struck – and might not be for months or years – but Price is actively pursuing companies and developers that can put forward visions for the land. The nonprofit was in talks with a grocery store chain, but they fell through.

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Megan Burks

Megan Burks

Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her directly at meburks@kpbs.org or 619.550.5665.

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2 comments
Fred Schnaubelt
Fred Schnaubelt

Civic (government) projects are fine but they do not revitalize neighborhoods and usually don't act as a catalyst. Little known is that government planning and zoning over time creates slums. Communities either grow or die. They need new blood constantly. In theory, maintaining a community's character sounds great, until it's too late and age deterioration sets in. Just think of East Village downtown 30 years ago when residential hi-rises were not allowed and most people dared not go south of Market St. after dark.

Fred Schnaubelt
Fred Schnaubelt subscriber

Civic (government) projects are fine but they do not revitalize neighborhoods and usually don't act as a catalyst. Little known is that government planning and zoning over time creates slums. Communities either grow or die. They need new blood constantly. In theory, maintaining a community's character sounds great, until it's too late and age deterioration sets in. Just think of East Village downtown 30 years ago when residential hi-rises were not allowed and most people dared not go south of Market St. after dark.