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Amid reports of crackdowns on urban art galleries after the deadly Ghost Ship fire in Oakland last year, the San Diego community must come together and send a message to local leaders that urban art is vital to the identity and success of our city.

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To make sustainable advances for the urban art community here, we need to draw from other cities and support local organizations that are already making positive strides.

Santa Cruz has created 100 affordable housing units with The Tannery Arts Center, a project that took nearly 12 years to actualize.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has announced a gutsy executive measure to ensure safety in the city’s unregulated DIY venues, while also protecting their residents from eviction.

And in the epicenter of underground DIY venues, Berlin, Germany, has Club Commission, an organization that has worked to build bridges between urban art communities and city officials to create a healthy synergy when it comes to safety, urban planning and sustainable growth. That group is celebrating its 15th anniversary and involves over 150 active members in the city.

Locally, Greg Strangman and his Community@ projects offer affordable housing where lots of San Diego artists live, and Space 4 Art is working to build permanent affordable live/work space for artists, but I don’t see much of anything being done by county and city leaders to address the issue.

When it comes to affordable housing in San Diego, local artists need all the support and attention they can get. Rent is high and it keeps getting higher. The connections to gentrification and displacement in the urban art community are evident, and it will take political leadership to ensure growth in the city doesn’t completely price out the artists and art spaces that help give San Diego its character.

Justin Navalle is a Normal Heights resident, co-founder of underground artist collective The Deep End, co-founder of West Coast Weekender Festival & Conference and director at Quartyard in East Village. Navalle’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.


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