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Brooks Huffman was not pleased. Every year during the holiday season, he would drive along Interstate 805 and notice the holiday lights strung along the freeway’s overpasses. They lit up bridges from Adams Avenue all the way to City Heights, lending an aura of enchantment to the evening commute through Mid-City. But the lights stopped short of southeastern San Diego’s neighborhoods.

“For the longest time, they stopped on the bridges three or four bridges short of this area,” said his wife, Bobbye Huffman. She has run Huffman’s Bar-B-Q in Lincoln Park since her husband died in 2000.

Those lights to the north weren’t paid for by the city. They were the work of Mid-City community and business groups that wanted to lure drivers off the freeway to see the improvements along their neighborhoods’ commercial corridors.

But when they were first strung in the late 1980s, Huffman wasn’t happy that the bridges over Chollas View and Lincoln Park stayed dark. So he called his councilman.

“He got on the phone and called George Stevens’ office every day,” his wife said. “He’d say, ‘Why don’t we have those lights? Where are those lights?’ And they’d answer the phone and say, ‘We hear you, Brooks.’”

Imperial Avenue, where Huffman’s Bar-B-Q has stood since 1967, was already on the decline. Its businesses were struggling to survive as the neighborhood contended with poverty and crime. What a great idea, Huffman thought: holiday lights to make the neighborhood feel more inviting.

It took a while. But Stevens’ office, working with community groups, was finally able to arrange for lights to be strung along southeastern San Diego’s overpasses, too, Bobbye Huffman said. Brooks Huffman was proud when he saw them light up for the first time.

“Every year when the lights come up, we always get a chuckle,” Huffman said.

And now every year, Bobbye Huffman and her family have occasion to remember her husband’s efforts to help southeastern San Diego’s businesses. The strip mall on Imperial Avenue where their barbecue shop still stands now bears his name: Brooks Huffman Plaza.

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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