San Diego is a big place.

It sounds like an unsurprising truth. It becomes much truer when you’re tasked with covering its neighborhoods, as I was this spring. Bad news for my car. But there’s good news: there are stories everywhere, if you look for them. Over the second half of 2009 I’ve traversed the county to find them, and have stumbled across fascinating places, issues and people along the way.

In 2010, I’ll keep stumbling into San Diego’s overlooked corners, but will also be building on what I’ve learned to ask broader questions of some specific places teeming with stories.

Keep an eye out for:

A focus on City Heights and southeastern San Diego: I’ve been spending lots of time there, as you may have noticed. City Heights remains one of the hubs of immigrant and refugee resettlement in San Diego. Southeastern San Diego has undergone a dramatic demographic shift in the last two decades.

Large and small organizations, well-funded and grassroots, are pouring time and money in to revitalize both communities, two of the city’s poorest but also most diverse. Expect coverage of day-to-day issues facing residents and groups there. How are they challenging assumptions and what are their visions for the future? Have efforts at development been successful? What do residents think?

A focus on people: Profiles of people open windows not only into individual lives, but also into places, histories, and the local human experience. Some are prominent residents, and others live in the shadows. I’ll be scouring San Diego for compelling people like City Heights gardener Luigi Cannoni, who I wrote about a couple of months ago. Also expect regular obituaries like the several I’ve written about some colorful San Diego characters and the important or unnoticed contributions they made on the local scene.

Borders: My beat wouldn’t exist without them. They define neighborhoods. THE border is quite literally a social and economic gateway to our city and country, so what’s happening down there? I haven’t spent as much time there as I had hoped to this year, but expect to see more from South County as I start exploring and nipping away at stories unique to San Diego because we exist on an edge.

These are just some of my main focuses. I’ll still be looking for the stories that are important in your community. I can’t be everywhere, so I’ll continue looking forward to your tips about issues deserving attention in your neighborhood. Keep in touch with me via e-mail at or through Twitter,

Here are a few of my favorite stories from this year:

Breaking Through the Border Fence, by Hand: This was event coverage of sign language across the U.S.-Mexico border, but I tried to tell a broader story about how a group of people, confronted with a new barrier to something as natural as human communication, took advantage of it to send a powerful message.

The Shelf Is Empty if You’re Looking for a Supermarket Here: This story highlighted the challenges that face people who want to shop for groceries in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

As Barrio Logan Plans its Future, a Tenuous Peace Is Broken: The fallout over the controversial remarks of a long-time Barrio Logan activist let me dive into some fascinating neighborhood-level politics, laden with histories of activism, resentment, and tenuous co-existence as residents try to hash out the Barrio’s next community plan.

He’s Given a House a Second Hope: Luigi Cannoni channeled the effects of bipolarism and a difficult breakup to create a masterpiece of a garden at a run-down City Heights cottage.

In the Dark About SDG&E’s Shutoff Plan: I set out to do a story on what East County residents opined about SDG&E’s proposed shutoff plan (their voices were noticeably absent in local press coverage of the proposal).

I arrived in eastern El Cajon and the first home I approached happened to double as an end-of-life care facility whose residents require round-the-clock access to oxygen machines and other electronic equipment. Its owner had never even heard of the proposed plan. I got back to the office, called every similar East County facility I could identify, and noticed a troubling pattern.

A Temple Adapts with the Times: A favorite because I saw the Chinese Friendship Association while driving by, got out of my car to see what it was, and discovered a story about an ethnic community in transition.


Dagny Salas

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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