The words still sting two decades later: “Why would anyone want to live here?” David Alvarez, then a 13-year-old kid in the Barrio Logan neighborhood, was embarrassed by the comment from a kid in a school bus that had stopped near his home.

Alvarez, barely a teenager, would soon become a community activist. “His message is simple: He’s lived the problems he wants to fix,” says the first of a series of three mini-profiles that we’ll be publishing as the mayoral election looms.

This story focuses on the challenges of Alvarez’s upbringing, the early years of his activism and his early connections with big shots in the local political world.

A Paucity of Parks?

Alvarez’s focus on improving neighborhoods like the one where he grew up includes a plea for more park space. After all, he said at a recent debate, 85 percent of the communities in the city don’t have enough park space.

It might surprise people who live in places like North Park — whose neighborhood even has park in its name and is just steps from Balboa Park — to learn their community is technically park-deficient, according to the city survey where Alvarez drew the statistic from.

As Lisa Halverstadt explains in a Fact Check, “San Diego’s best-known parks, including Balboa Park and Mission Trails, aren’t considered in those statistics. Canyons and other outdoor areas that remain undeveloped also aren’t included.”

The Day in the Mayoral Campaign

• CityBeat digs into a topic that hasn’t gotten much attention — Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s work as a public relations guy. He’s remembered as a “a handsome, affable, ambitious employee.” One former colleague says he’s the “photographic negative opposite” of ex-Mayor Bob Filner.

• Denny Knox, executive director of the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association, supports Faulconer in a new VOSD commentary, saying he’s “very knowledgeable and in tune with Ocean Beach.”

County’s Domestic Violence Funding Woes

An audit suggested last year that the county has a problem making sure that people convicted of domestic violence pay a kind of fine that supports survivors of domestic violence. Our reporting discovers that the county has only fixed part of the problem. One major hitch: It can’t figure out the percentage of money owed that it’s been able to collect.

Behind a Planning Group’s Success

In a Q-and-A interview, we hear from Laura Garrett, the chair of downtown’s planning group, who talks about how she and her colleagues have been able to forge respectful relationships with developers while representing the community.

“We have members with backgrounds in real estate, architecture, construction, government and planning — I actually think that’s a good thing … I also think it’s a good thing that we’re balanced out with folks from other fields: retailers, restaurateurs, clergy, medical professionals, entrepreneurs … What we have in common is an interest in our neighborhood and in urban living.”

Inmates Continue to Die in Local Jails

Earlier this year, CityBeat published an extraordinary series of stories exposing the unusually high number of deaths — especially suicides — in local jails over the last several years. In a follow up to “60 Dead Inmates,” CityBeat reports 10 people have died in custody this year, “matching the 10-deaths-per-year average that pushed the county to the top of the list for 2007 through 2012.”

Odd Story of Weapon Discharge Emerges at College

Two things are clear: The police chief of Chula Vista’s Southwestern Community College recently fired his weapon in the locker room at the police headquarters, and he’s now on leave, the U-T reports. It’s said to have been an accident.

Here’s where things get fuzzy.

Someone went to the hospital … but wasn’t injured. An outside law firm is investigating and “appropriate personnel action” will be taken … but it’s not clear what. The campus will put new safety measures into effect … but it’s not saying what they are.

Quick News Hits

The partial renovation of Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama has drawn raves from visitors who appreciate the tables and chairs and the freedom from dodging cars in the plaza’s parking lots. But the loss of those spaces has spelled trouble for disabled visitors who must now park further away to visit places like the art museum and the Timken museum.

Some help is finally on the way: The city’s going to spend $150,000 to improve the Alcazar parking lot to make it more friendly to the disabled and create parking spaces for them, City News Service reports.

• KPBS examines how schools are adjusting to new English and math standards that focus less on memorizing facts and spitting them out on command.

• The ex-mayor’s guilty pleas are an unhappy reminder of the bummer of a summer that our fair city endured. Need a pick-me-up? Check out this post on Reddit titled “Things you all take for granted way too much; from the perspective of a New Yorker.”

The visitor lists things we should appreciate, from the ease of getting around by car to the weather and personal safety. He adds: “People are nice. I mean, it really IS a huge difference … the way I felt like I was treated by complete strangers made a huge difference in the enjoyment of my vacation. From people in retail stores/restaurants, to people in the street or on the beach. I felt respected and valued, rather than another number in the way.”

Take-home message: We’re nice. Are you listening, Santa?

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and vice president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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