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There are 57 million square miles of land on earth, including the 4,206 square miles of San Diego County. Even as our population grows, spaces in the midst of our concrete jungle lay strangely fallow. This is an occasional series to explore those mysteriously unused or seemingly untended bits of land.

Where’s that lot? It’s in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego. It’s on the corner of First Avenue and Robinson Avenue.

What's That Lot by Ry Rivard

Who owns that lot? The Mary L Castagnola Trust, according to city records, though Sterling Investments Management Corporation is the developer.

How’s that lot used? Right now, it’s just sitting there – but that’s not what’s so strange. That would be the signs. A handful of readers asked about the blank, white signboards sitting side-by-side, running diagonally across the plot.

Readers wondered what they meant. Were they an art project? Something else?

The third-of-an-acre spot has been unused for several years but nothing happens there.

“It’s being held for future development,” said Wesley Snapp, of Sterling, the developer.

The white boards – which he called a “fence,” though it’s not clear what they are keeping out – are “just there.”

He didn’t answer any more questions.

The lot is zoned so that a 50-foot building could go there and more than 20 units. The empty lot’s assessed value is $114,000, which meant its tax bill last year was about $1,400.

For how long it will sit is unclear.

Stephanie Thompson, a curious reader and Hillcrest resident, volunteered to do something with the white boards in the meantime.

“If the plan is to leave them up indefinitely, I’d volunteer to curate a rotating exhibit on them of art submitted by local artists,” she said.

Right now, a chain link fence blocks passersby from going onto the property. A few men took a break and ate lunch up against the fence and beneath a tree the other day. Behind them, grass and tiny plants tried to break through the empty, brown yard.

Do you pass a lot or a building all the time that you’re curious about? Who owns it? What’s it zoned for? What are the plans? We might be able to help. Send a note to

Ry Rivard

Ry Rivard was formerly a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about water and power.

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