I received a thought-provoking letter from reader Barbara Graham, a Grant Hill resident. She chimed in about my story on the calls to have Barrio Logan activist Rachael Ortiz removed from the stakeholder committee updating the neighborhood’s community plan.

I can well understand Ms. Ortiz’ concern about the neighborhoods of Barrio Logan. Grant Hill is just north of Imperial and Commercial streets. Like Barrio Logan, it is a mix of homes and businesses.

I have seen fires in the wrecking yards, and one gasoline explosion that rattled my windows.

Fumes from various industries amongst the homes would waft toxic gases throughout the neighborhood, making it smell like a meth lab.

The neighborhood is largely Latino, and many people work to keep their houses and yards attractive, which makes the industrial blight even more glaring.

When it rains, there is nothing to stop toxic runoff from flowing into the streets; runoff from auto junkyards, recycling lots, and industrial poisons. This is a hazard for the residents who live there. This “patchwork” neighborhood plan was a bad one to begin with.

Regarding gentrification, all one need do is look at the area to realize it could have an attraction for developers of luxury accommodations. Proximity to downtown, views of the bridge and the bay in some cases, and easy access to most major freeways are desirable features.

So the dilemma as I see it involves the removal of industrial businesses in the Barrio Logan neighborhood, as well as proposed usage of the properties they vacate, together with a desire by the locals to maintain the character of their neighborhood.

Yes, a lot of Barrio Logan is lower income, with small, older houses. Yes, the neighborhood is predominantly Latino and African American. Some of the best little restaurants in San Diego are down there.

I believe this “racial issue” is merely a smokescreen thrown up by people who have an interest in redeveloping this desirable area of San Diego.

Observing that upscale development and gentrification will impact ethnic neighborhoods is not racist. The fact is, what demographic group is likely to move into gentrified, overpriced properties? Hint: they burn if left out in the sun too long.

It stands to reason that this “stakeholder committee” would want to oust Ortiz. However, she, too has a stake in that community. The voice she brings is not the voice of developers, industry and commercial business. Her voice is the voice of the “little people” who have to pay taxes, and yet have their voices repeatedly ignored by city planners who have other interests in mind.

I think it is time the city planners start listening to the residents of Barrio Logan. What are their wishes? Which direction would they like their neighborhood community to go? That area has been abused for too long. The sort of “city planning” that has run rampant there would never be tolerated in Clairemont, La Jolla, Hillcrest.

This should be the rule of thumb; if you can’t do it in middle income white neighborhoods, don’t do it in Barrio Logan. They do want to maintain the ethnic character of their community. Establishing little conclaves of yuppies who don’t mingle and don’t participate in community issues or activities would not contribute to the ambiance of Barrio Logan. It could be seen as analogous to the American walled off communities in Saudi Arabia where there is little mingling or effort to understand other cultures. While my Latino neighbors are welcoming and friendly, such compounds would not be well received.

Incidentally, I don’t see bike lanes as the intrusion of gentrification that Ortiz does. There are a lot of people riding bicycles in my neighborhood; from kids to adults who actually use them for transportation. Since there are no bike lanes, everyone rides in the street. It isn’t safe, particularly for inexperienced youngsters. I have to disagree with Ms. Ortiz on this one. Bike lanes benefit communities. It doesn’t mean there will be a sudden influx of spandex wearing, skinny tire import riding yuppies! It means a safer environment for residents.


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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