Freeps in the News: Jim Bliesner, Barbara Zaragoza, Jeeni Criscenzo

bliesner plaque

By Anna Daniels

San Diego Free Press contributors are a diverse and talented group of individuals. It will be a busy weekend for three of them with the unveiling of Jim Bliesner‘s sculpture Cultural Fusion, Casa Familiar’s Abrazo Award for Barbara Zaragoza and An Evening of Provocative Poetry with Jeeni Criscenzo. These events follow upon last week’s screening of SDFP video- journalist Horacio Jones‘ short film “Wingin’ It” at the 48 Hour Film Project in San Diego.   [Read more…]

Humble Heart Thrift Store: Thrift, Coffee, Love

humble heart 2

By Avital Aboody

The Humble Heart Thrift Store will be celebrating its 5th birthday on August 10, 2015. Five years ago, Michael Modrow Jr. was laid off from his job as a manager at Midas where he had worked for seven years. To get by, he started doing yard sales at his home, selling off a handful of personal things that he had collected over the years. Mike is an active member of his church. Upon hearing about Mike’s situation, the church offered to give Mike permission to sell the variety of donated items that weren’t a good fit for distribution to the homeless, such as furniture.   [Read more…]

Where there’s Smoke, Is there a Fire Sale? How San Diego Sells Our Surplus Properties

Fire sale 2

When citizen input is eliminated, are the “real” customers brokers and developers?

Best keep a look out the backdoor. The City is apparently in a mood to sell land. How much and to whom and when is not too clear, but they are already making lists and lining up brokers. A few citizens were on hand for a presentation to the June 10 meeting of the City Council Smart Growth and Land Use Committee on “Potential Sale of 14 Surplus Properties owned by the City of San Diego”.

The “For Information Only” power point was entitled “Excess Property Sales for Action Before City Council in 2015”. There were actually 16 on one list for “Excess Sales Using Brokers” and another 11 on a list titled “Exclusively Negotiated/Direct Sales”. And then there was another “Direct Sale” listed all by itself for the Villa Montezuma historical museum building. So maybe it was 28 excess properties. And every Council District has at least one listing on one or the other of the lists.
  [Read more…]

A Community Champion Enters D9 Council Race

Georgette Gomez amongst her supporters in City Heights.

Progressive activist Georgette Gómez announces run for public office

By Brent E. Beltrán

On Tuesday morning, surrounded by her partner, family and supporters in City Heights, community activist Georgette Gómez declared her intent to run for City Council in District 9. A resident of City Heights’ Azalea Park, Ms. Gómez wants to be a champion for all D9 residents.

“I believe that we need elected officials who not only listen to our communities when they organize but someone who can actively and proactively serve us,” says Gómez.   [Read more…]

Public Scrutiny Turns Civic San Diego Board Testy and Defensive

civicsd board meeting

Civic’s Community Benefit Policy enactment a study in #democracyfail

By Anna Daniels

The Civic San Diego Board of Directors and President Reese Jarrett scored a victory at their April 29 board meeting. Civic San Diego, which describes itself as a “city-owned non-profit that is the entrepreneurial development partner for targeted urban neighborhoods” approved its own Community Benefit Policy with one dissenting vote after two hours of board discussion and public testimony. The one dissenting vote was cast by Dr. Murtaza Baxamusa, who described the policy as “toothless, meaningless and unenforceable…It is the job of the City Council to tell us what to do … this is 1,300 words, non-enforceable and not approved by the City Council. ”

The Civic San Diego Board determined in the meeting that they could set their own policy without City Council review but would provide it to Councilmember Myrtle Cole’s Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

While the board vote was a victory for the policy’s passage, it was apparent that some board members were surprised– and clearly resentful–that Civic San Diego has had to fight so hard to avoid City Council oversight and that it has been subjected to so much public criticism.   [Read more…]

The 40th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon: How San Diego Brought the Vietnam War Home

…and City Heights became a refugee resettlement center

By Anna Daniels

The two forces that have indisputably shaped City Height’s trajectory since the 1960s are the adoption of the Mid-City Plan in 1965 and the fall of Saigon in 1975. The Mid-City Plan, with its emphasis on increased density as the way to support business, shaped the built environment that you see today. The fall of Saigon and the subsequent establishment of San Diego and City Heights as a refugee resettlement center forever changed the social environment. City Heights continues to exist as a refugee resettlement center, becoming a sometimes permanent and sometimes temporary home for displaced people from all over the world. But first, it was Vietnamese refugees.   [Read more…]

Civic San Diego Public Records Request Filled with Redactions and Few Revelations

An open letter to the Civic San Diego Board of Directors about New Market Tax Credit application

By Anna Daniels

What’s going on at Civic San Diego, the non-profit entity that has become the new model for redevelopment? On April 10, a legal complaint was filed by the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and Dr. Murtaza Baxamusa, a CivicSD Boardmember. It was made available in its entirety at the San Diego Free Press.

On April 16 the Voice of San Diego published an opinion piece “Time to Shine a Harsh Spotlight on Civic San Diego” by former City Councilmember and current open government advocate Donna Frye. Frye refers in her article to the under- reported resignations of Cynthia Morgan, Civic’s Treasurer and CFO/COO Andrew Phillips. “I’m not sure what prompted the resignations of Phillips and Morgan, but it can’t be a good sign. It will be interesting to see who the mayor appoints, and the City Council confirms, to fill the vacancy left by Morgan, and who the new CFO/COO will be and how quickly that happens.”

On April 10 I sent an email to Jeff Gattas, chairman of the board of CivicSD, detailing my own concerns about the information that I had received from a public records request.   [Read more…]

SDFP Is Going All in for $15 Today!

By Staff

SDFP editor Doug Porter will be spending the day at the locations listed below. He’ll be tweeting throughout the day, so check our twitter feed. Doug’s column The Starting Line will return tomorrow with lots of news and analysis of today’s events.

Here’s the list of times and locations for protests on Wednesday:

7 am – Fast Food Worker Strike: 2345 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA
8:30 am – Fast Food Worker Strike: 2829 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA
11 am – Security Officer Event:750 B Street San Diego, CA
Noon – State Workers Event: 1350 Front St, San Diego, CA
1:30pm – City Heights Rising Event: 3795 Fairmount Ave, San Diego, CA
3:30 pm – Home Care Worker Rally: San Diego State University 5500 Campanile Drive San Diego, CA (Between the music building and open air theatre)
4:30 pm– The Big Event: San Diego State University Scripps Cottage Lawn near Hepner Hall 5500 Campanile Dr, San Diego, CA   [Read more…]

Civic San Diego and the One Minute Citizen

Notes from the March 18 Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee

By Anna Daniels

At 4:45 pm on March 18, Marti Emerald, City Councilmember and Chair of the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee (PS&LN) announced that there were still 62 speaker slips remaining on the topic of community benefits. The agenda item with the most speakers had been switched to the last one that would be heard that day. Emerald courteously asked the citizens remaining in the room to limit their testimony to one minute and to please not repeat what had already been said. The committee would lose its quorum at 5:30.

Why had so many people shown up at 1:30 earlier that day, packing the committee room and overflowing into an adjacent room? Why were they willing to wait three hours to provide one minute of public testimony about Civic San Diego (CivicSD), the public non-profit development agency owned by the City of San Diego?   [Read more…]

Civic San Diego and Its Stakeholders

By Anna Daniels

Who are Civic San Diego’s stakeholders? Who are the people and institutions who have the most to benefit from their success? And who has the most to lose if they are not successful? The answer depends upon whom you are talking to—CivicSD and its surrogates; City of San Diego elected representatives; or community residents and resident based organizations.

Community residents and community based organizations from areas of the city which have been designated by CivicSD as their immediate focus for economic revitalization have been particularly vocal on this matter, but they are hardly the only ones.

Community voices have been articulating the need for an enforceable city policy regarding the kinds of community benefits that must be generated in tandem with CivicSD’s economic development projects, as well as additional City of San Diego oversight of development activities. They have called for more transparency and accountability in CivicSD’s operation.

In short, those communities which are already fully aware of the economic and social problems that they face, are asking to be recognized as stakeholders and to be given the participatory power to shape the development process.   [Read more…]

Pushback on Civic San Diego Accountability: Here Comes the “Uncertainty” Ploy

By Doug Porter

A showdown is in the works over community input on plans by Civic San Diego to absorb neighborhoods beyond downtown for permitting and planning development projects. For the moment we’re talking about Encanto and City Heights. I doubt it will stop there.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has introduced legislation to clarify the ability of non-profit groups like Civic San Diego to perform permitting work for local governments, as it’s uncertain what legal authority in California law the organization has to approve building projects on behalf of the City of San Diego after redevelopment’s demise. Specifically AB504 calls for the City Council to have final say on projects.

The “uncertainty” defense is being rolled out on behalf of Civic San Diego (and the developers who love it) by former Mayor and Chamber of commerce CEO Jerry Sanders, along with Kris Michell, president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership by way of a commentary published earlier today by Voice of San Diego. Used with great success in previous campaigns to pull the wool over the eyes of San Diegans, this sort of effort is supposed to instill fear the local economy will be damaged if (fill-in-the-blank) happens.   [Read more…]

The Morphing of Civic San Diego and the Need for City Council Oversight

Preparing for the March 18 Public Safety and Livable Neighborhood Committee meeting

By Anna Daniels

This past October, Reese Jarrett, newly hired President of Civic San Diego (CivicSD), appeared before the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhood Committee of the San Diego City Council. The committee chairwoman, District 9 council member Marti Emerald, directed a number of pointed questions toward CivicSD staff, followed by additional questions from District 4 council member Myrtle Cole.

Councilmember Emerald provided a brief description of CivicSD as a city owned non-profit established in June of 2012 to continue the city’s economic revitalization efforts. CivicSD already had a contract with the city, the redevelopment Successor Agency, to handle the administrative duties associated with the winding down of redevelopment projects.

Now there were updated CivicSD bylaws and another contract with the city which transferred the ongoing functions of CCDC and SEDC to CivicSD. Those same bylaws also broadened the scope of CivicSD activities and guaranteed its ongoing existence as the city’s development mechanism. Yet there was little fanfare or public discussion about how economic development and revitalization efforts should continue in the city after the end of redevelopment.   [Read more…]

Community Blight or Benefit : Thoughts On the Civic San Diego Roadshow

By Jay Powell

Over the holidays, as I happened to be exploring the East Mesa of Balboa Park, I was surprised by a new feature on the horizon a few points west of due south. It seemed that a very tall structure had just popped out of the ground in the vicinity of the East Village neighborhood of downtown. I came to learn shortly thereafter that this could easily be only the beginning of a wall of tall buildings rising up from East Village in front of the southern vista of the Coronado Bay Bridge and the Coronado Islands as viewed from vantage points such as “Inspiration Point “ in Balboa Park.

While the latter point is a somewhat neglected part of the park, the view still managed to inspire me to find out how this structure was able to pop up in that picture.

At a “Community Benefits Consensus Project” workshop a few weeks later in January Civic San Diego presented storyboards of some projects that they thought best exemplified how a development can provide “community benefits.” The board that caught my attention featured “The Pinnacle,”a 480 foot tall luxury condominium project at the corner of 15th and Island Avenue. So now the beast had a name and a story.   [Read more…]

The People’s Brief: Your Chance to Support Marriage Equality at the Supreme Court    

By Doug Porter

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the coming weeks for a crucial marriage equality case, and is expected to resolve the issue of national marriage equality once and for all in a ruling this summer.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the United States has crafted a unique opportunity for proponents to sign on to an amici curiae brief in support of the petitioners.

Roberta Kaplan, the civil rights attorney who won a landmark Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor striking down Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, is the author and lead counsel on the brief.   [Read more…]

Civic San Diego and Community Benefits Agreements: The Need for Project Specific Focus

By Jim Bliesner

The United Food and Commercial Workers (Local 135) are picketing the El Super store in the City Heights Retail Village for a decent wage, health benefits and healthy working conditions. El Super just opened the store in late 2014 with a commitment to hire local City Heights residents.

Pickets allege “there are more people from Tijuana employed than from City Heights”. The Coalition for a Better El Super folks are distributing flyers illustrating 341 health code violations in various El Super stores throughout Southern California—things like “flies in the meat department” and “droppings from what appears to be a cat in the warehouse beverage storage cage”.

They both are asking customers to “Boycott El Super”. Mickey Kasparian, the head of UFCW says it is not unusual to find expired products in almost all El Super stores in So California. They have been picketing for three weeks.   [Read more…]

Policing the Police: San Diego’s Problems

By Doug Porter

As police departments nationwide are facing increasing scrutiny, local law enforcement agencies are finding themselves under the spotlight.

A news story based on internal documents obtained by the local NBC affiliate on use of force reveals the San Diego Police Department documented 16,238 incidents in which an officer used force in 2014.

A report in Voice of San Diego calls points out what I think are questionable “crime prevention” practices by the County Sheriffs Department at the Lemon Grove trolley station.

And then there’s the promise of a soon-to-be-released report from the Police Executive Research Forum under contract by the US Justice Department on SDPD practices instituted in the wake of several years of scandals and lawsuits regarding sexual misconduct.   [Read more…]

Video of Nov. 25 City Heights Rally to Demand Justice for Michael Brown

By Anna Prouty

On Tuesday, hundreds of activists in San Diego rallied in City Heights to demand justice for Michael Brown and all victims of police brutality and institutionalized racism. The rally started at the City Heights Performance Annex and continued in a march down University Avenue.

Protesters marched down the south-bound I-15 ramp where they were blocked by police before turning back and taking the freeway from the north-bound entrance. Hundreds stood on the freeway and blocked traffic for over twenty minutes.
  [Read more…]

After the Wars, City Heights

By Anna Daniels

Why does City Heights physically look the way it does and why does it have such distinctive demographics? The case can be made that City Heights has been shaped both by design–the adoption of the Mid-City Plan in 1965– and by happenstance in the form of the fall of Saigon one decade later.

The Mid-City Plan provided a blueprint of sorts for stimulating business and commercial growth that is reflected in the built environment.  The fall of Saigon and the subsequent resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees in City Heights also became a blueprint of sorts for influencing the ever changing demographics of the individuals who would move within the built environment.   [Read more…]

SDFP Street Beat: Sherman Heights Streets, SDG&E’s High Pressure Gas Lines in the Mid-City, Artificial Turf in Pacific Beach Schools

By Staff

The San Diego Free Press receives emails about quality of life issues from residents across the city and county. These issues receive little if any media coverage and inadequate attention from policy makers and enforcement agencies.  We have decided to provide a civic forum for those issues in our weekly Street Beat column.

Sherman Heights Street Conditions

Sherman Heights resident Remy Bermúdez sent the following email to Councilman Alvarez, Mayor Faulkner and Council President Gloria:   [Read more…]

La Maestra Foundation’s Free Youth Program in City Heights Turns Skateboarding Stigma into Positive Impact on Community

By Brent Jensen & Kiran Mehta / AjA Project Inter+Sections

On Saturday afternoons at Skate 4185!, a free youth program at the City Heights La Maestra Foundation on Fairmount Ave, kids utilize their skateboarding prowess while participating in trash cleanups. The community-based Skate 4185! program gives local youth the opportunity to explore their interests, express their individuality and leave a positive impact on the community.

Youth from the City Heights area meet at 12 pm every Saturday at the main building of the La Maestra Foundation, located at 4185 Fairmount Ave, to fill trash bags with the litter that persistently occupies the streets of their neighborhoods.

The old Foundation building was transformed from residential housing to a community center ten years ago. Smiles, positivity and a sense of family resonate through activities at the Foundation such as cooking, gardening and hanging out with peers.

Matt Eaton, Youth Programs Coordinator for the La Maestra Foundation and lead instructor of Skate 4185!, focuses on keeping youth safe, positive and on task. Eaton accompanies his students on their skating excursions and provides encouragement and positive feedback for their dedication and community service – which despite the rubber gloves and dutiful cause, always resembles play.   [Read more…]

The Bahati Mamas : Seeds for Change

Chasing Freedom and Opportunity

By Binti Musa / AjA Blog

The Bahati Mamas are a group of five Somali Bantu women living in City Heights who started their own farming business. The women are Somali Bantu Refugees who were forced to leave their home in 2004 to seek refuge in the United States because of the civil war in Somalia.

The Somali Bantu refugees had to leave everything they knew. As part of their resettlement, the International Recuse Committee (IRC) helped the refugee families find jobs, learn English and help their children get an education. The refugees faced many challenges while learning American customs; one of these challenges was finding good, quality, organic produce for the families in their community. This served as an impetus for people of the Somali Bantu community to begin efforts to farm like they did in their old home.

  [Read more…]

For the Mid-City Community: Three Decades of Broken Promises

By Sam Ollinger  /

In late 1972, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) released a report detailing the impact that would result after the construction of I-15 (from I-805 to I-8, approximately 3 miles) through the heart of Mid-City, specifically the neighborhood of City Heights:

The project is in an urban area. Potential impacts are mainly on people, air quality and noise. Another issue is the use of land from the area known as Park de la Cruz.

The selected freeway design will displace about 650 apartment units or homes [Ed. note: displacing 2,000 people plus about 63 commercial units affecting 110 jobs and $1.5 million in annual taxable retail]. The impact of displacement is borne by the people in the path of the freeway. For some, moving will mean a disruption of life patterns. Others would have been moving away. For many, the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 will bring economic benefits as high as $15,000 for moving costs, replacement housing payments and interest differential payments.

  [Read more…]

Ghosts of City Heights Past: Chaos, Wonder, and Love

By Jim Miller

In my first novel, Drift, there is a passage where the main character, Joe, is driving through City Heights pondering the poetry of the streets.

He notes the “funky majesty” of a store front church sandwiched between a pharmacy and a liquor store and revels in the cacophony of signs in Vietnamese, Spanish, English, and more while he loses himself in the street life passing by as “everything bled together seamlessly in the twilight and became part of the mystic fabric of impending night.”

Joe’s musings mix with music on the radio as he contemplates the “blue feeling” of minimarts to jazz and rolls by massage parlors, 99-cent stores, and the Tower Bar. When I read this passage back in 2007, I had the pleasure of being accompanied by Gilbert Castellanos on trumpet and his melancholy solo lent the perfect air of blues dignity to the piece. It was, of course, a love song to my old neighborhood and the present hard-edged marvel that is City Heights.   [Read more…]

Floyd Morrow, Eternal Optimist in Paradise

By Mic Porte

Floyd Morrow is an ex-Marine sergeant who served in combat in the Korean War and later earned a law degree at the University of Texas. He has been a career attorney and longtime citizen activist, both in and out of the San Diego political scene since 1952. He currently leads a philosopher’s round table every Wednesday in the Linda Vista Village community room. The roundtable is a potluck and it’s a potlatch, a native people’s word that means everybody contributes.

“Everybody contributes” would be one of the tenants of Floyd Morrow’s philosophy of life, as well as “positivism,” his personal contribution to a round-the-table query of everybody’ s favorite “isms” which included “prism, hedonism, favoritism, romanticism, mechanism and fiesty-ism. ” We laughed that capitalism, socialism, and communism didn’t make the cut. We shared a moment of silence for the great Pete Seeger, who just died, at 92, a heroic voice of many generations, but only a moment of silence as there were many talkers at this council of scholars.”   [Read more…]