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For the passive pedestrian, a vacant lot may be little more than an eyesore — a parcel of dusty, weeded, property value-chomping blight. But for a neighborhoods reporter, it’s like a gift on Christmas morning, wrapped up neatly in a chain link fence.
Vacant lots tell you much about a neighborhood. Start looking into the history of a vacant lot, and you’ll learn where a neighborhood’s been, where it’s going, about power struggles and competing visions for a community’s future. San Diego has its share of vacant lots, and I’ve written about several of them.
But I was surprised to read a story in the New York Times this weekend about a vacant lot in downtown Boston, once the site of a popular department now sitting idle, to the chagrin of residents.
What caught my eye was a short paragraph offering a little national context:
Other cities, including San Diego and San Francisco, have so many empty lots that officials have discussed filling them with temporary tree farms, parks or public art.
I’ve certainly noticed San Diego’s vacant lots, but I’m usually on the lookout for them. But I wouldn’t have guessed that San Diego had gained national prominence as a city plagued by them. The story’s got me wondering, then, how that happened.
San Diego’s no post-industrial wasteland like Detroit, where nature is reclaiming former manufacturing plants and artists are turning blighted vacant property into art.
I’d like your thoughts on San Diego’s reputation as a vacant lot haven. Is it justified? Is there a vacant lot in your neighborhood with an interesting story? Let me know.