When I arrived this morning at the Starbucks on Euclid Avenue in San Diego’s Fourth City Council District, the coffee shop was living up to its reputation as the de facto gathering spot for the community.

Recently resigned City Councilman Tony Young was there, enjoying a cup before he headed to his new job as head of the local Red Cross. So was Renee Novo, marketing director for the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, a major nonprofit and developer in the community. Stacy Butler, who holds a weekly rally against violence in the district, was around, too.

Over the next week or so, I plan to write about issues involving all three folks as part of our coverage of special election to replace Young. I’m spending time in the city’s southeastern neighborhoods to learn what’s important to residents in advance of the March 26 vote.

I started the day with a couple hours at the Starbucks, which anchors Market Creek Plaza, a Jacobs’ project. A few people stopped by to chat. Their No. 1 issue? Jobs and economic development.

Ellen Ewings-Nash, a recently retired human resources worker at San Diego State University and UC-San Diego, grew up in the district and said the community needs more quality services.

“I have had to commute out of my district for school,” Ewings-Nash said. “I have had to commute out of the district to work. I’ve had to send my kids outside of the district to school. I have had to shop outside of the district. The only thing that’s in my district is my church.”

A study by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. backs up Ewings-Nash’s observations. District residents spent $1.6 billion on groceries, restaurants, apparel, electronics, home improvement and other retail items in 2005. But less than half of that money was spent within the district. The study concluded that residents would buy more in the community if they had more places to go.

One restaurant that hopes to fill that gap is Felix’s BBQ With Soul, which opened in Market Creek Plaza last August. I ate lunch there. Karen McCree, Felix’s manager, said that the community members thank them for being around. They also like the food.

“People come in and say, ‘Who you got cookin’ back there, my grandmama?’” McCree said.

Cornbread, McCree said, is the restaurant’s signature. Ribs are a top seller, too. I had BBQ rib tips lunch special, which came with French fries and coleslaw. The barbecue sauce tasted sweet and the ribs cut easily off the bone.

There wasn’t a huge lunchtime crowd, but McCree said the restaurant does its best business with its Sunday buffet. She said it’s best to come early.

“Once church is out, forget about it,” McCree said. “Well don’t forget about it, but you’ll have to wait.”

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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