A few months ago, a chartered bus full of local advocates, planners, policy wonks and government representatives took a whirlwind tour of two working class San Diego communities — Colina Park in City Heights and Greater Logan Heights, east of downtown.

Patrick Reardon, a former Chicago Tribune reporter, was contracted by the nonprofit leading the tour to report on a neighborhood improvement program the group is leading in those two communities.

We’ve examined that effort by the nonprofit, the Local Initiatives Support Corp., in both communities and detailed the challenges it faces in convincing residents to participate in its improvement programs.

Now Reardon has, too. He put together this series of reports, which focuses on a theme that’s pervasive in low-income neighborhoods across San Diego: How do you organize residents who have never been actively engaged in their communities? How do you assuage rifts and disagreements between competing interests? How do you gain the confidence of activists skeptical of outsiders?

There are no easy answers, Reardon found. Many residents have seen the neighborhood improvement initiative as just the latest attempt by a well-intentioned nonprofit in a line of many that have arrived in their communities trying to answer those questions.

“We get organizations all the time coming here. We call them grant-sucking agencies,” one resident told Reardon.

That’s an attitude the Local Initiatives Support Corp. has repeatedly encountered in its work. The group’s been trying to organize residents and groups there for more than two years, but the challenges have been formidable. In his series, Reardon reports on those hurdles and the goals the group hopes to accomplish.

Two neighborhoods, just four miles apart in the vast sprawl of San Diego’s ravines and canyons, are walking two different paths toward community improvement.
Greater Logan Heights, a largely Latino neighborhood that was once mostly African-American, is methodically bringing together community groups that have never much worked together before. Colina Park, a polyglot of immigrants and refugees where language barriers and distrust run high, is finding ways to communicate and build a culture of activism.

Please contact Adrian Florido directly at adrian.florido@voiceofsandiego.org or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adrianflorido.

Adrian Florido

Adrian Florido is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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