By David Alvarez
District 8 City Council Representative
The community of Barrio Logan, of which I grew up in, is one of the oldest and most culturally-rich urban neighborhoods in San Diego. From historic beginnings to the vibrant mix of uses and people who reside and work in Barrio Logan, the neighborhood has played a vital role in the City’s development. The Barrio Logan community is a living example of the change and evolution that have continuously shaped the area’s cultural heritage, development patterns, economic opportunities, and social fabric.
Barrio Logan has a long history as a working-class waterfront community. Its early days as a base of homes and businesses for primarily Mexican immigrant workers helped shape the community into an important working waterfront neighborhood. As the community built up around maritime uses, such as tuna canning, military industries, and the Navy, the influx of Mexican migrant workers created a dominant presence in Barrio Logan in the 1910s and 1920s.
Many industries relied on the laborers that settled in Barrio Logan and set up neighborhood shops and services. The growth of the shipbuilding industry and Naval operations, rezoning of the neighborhood to include heavy industrial and commercial uses, and the growth in the construction industry changed the character of Barrio Logan during and after World War II.
The construction of Interstate 5 and the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge (State Route 75) in the 1960s fragmented the community into smaller areas that were cut off from each other.
These events, together with other impacts on the social and physical well-being of the residents, culminated with a neighborhood revolt that shaped the creation of Chicano Park during the early 1970s. With its collection of maritime industrial uses, small-scale residential, local retail, and community facilities, Barrio Logan’s particular existing land use mix is unique.
However, it is the distribution and pattern of these existing land uses that distinguish Barrio Logan and define its distinctive character.
The rezoning of the majority of Barrio Logan to industrial zones in the 1960s attempted to simplify the land use pattern of the neighborhood by removing the residential uses through regulatory means. However, while some properties transitioned into industrial uses, many of the residential uses that pre-dated the rezone remained, and commercial and community amenities developed to serve the residential population.
While there are conflicts between industrial and residential uses, the mixed pattern of land uses serves as a defining element of the neighborhood. Barrio Logan is primarily a neighborhood with uses mixed side-by-side that provides interest, variety, and identity to the area.
Additionally, the Barrio Logan waterfront remains part of the city’s core industrial area and contains a significant amount of the city’s remaining industrial land. Since the 1880s, the waterfront has played an important and dynamic role within the city’s economy and land use system, providing critical land for new and changing maritime and naval industries, and is the last area of the city still suited for this purpose.
Barrio Logan has recently experienced rapid growth and new development throughout the community.
The blocks along Cesar Chavez Parkway generate well over one hundred thousand square feet of new retail buildings with the recent opening of the long awaited Mercado del Barrio project, along with the 91 unit Estrella del Mercado apartments. This growth is matched by the development of the properties along Main, National and Logan, as well as new housing, offices, Mercado Gonzalez Northgate (the first supermarket to this area in over 20 years) — all this has brought tremendous change and life to this area. Additionally, SD Community College District is building a new campus to accommodate 3,800 students.
Barrio Logan, with its arts, new residents and growing pride, will have also have a new landmark to rally around next year: an 80-foot wide community sign. It is a unique cultural entrance” to the neighborhood and will be a source of pride for the community for many years to come.
As many know, this community is most famous for the dozens of murals gracing what would otherwise be ugly concrete columns holding up Interstate 5 and the Coronado Bridge through Chicano Park. Artists in the 1970s used the columns as canvases to create vivid images of Chicano culture, including the Virgin of Guadalupe, artist Frida Kahlo, toiling farm workers and Mexican Revolutionaries.
Chicano Park is now internationally famous as one of the largest collections of outdoor murals in the world and is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Even more art is showcased in former factories that are being turned into modern studios over the past several years.
The addition of the San Diego Public Market, with its farm vendors, market tours, food demonstrations, and public events, adds to the thriving center of community activity in Barrio Logan
I am proud to still reside in this vibrant and culturally rich community and am excited for the positive changes to come!