What could have been an ugly structure will now become an important part of the community
By Brent E. Beltrán
This week photo murals depicting late labor leader Cesar Chavez have gone up on a new parking structure in Barrio Logan. The structure, located on the corner of Cesar Chavez Parkway and National Avenue, will be fitted with eight different photo murals “reflecting and honoring the life and work” of the United Farmworker co-founder.
Carlos LeGerrette, activist, photographer and originator of the Cesar Chavez Service Clubs, was instrumental in making the photo murals a reality through his historic and extensive photo collection of Cesar Chavez and the UFW.
“We worked with LeGerrette and other community members through a series of collaborative meetings to determine which images of Cesar Chavez should be displayed on the facility,” said Rudy Kastelic, Interim President at San Diego Continuing Education. “We have been serving the Barrio Logan community since the 70s and we’ve had ‘good neighbor’ relationships with Barrio Station, Cesar Chavez Service Clubs and other organizations in the community that we wanted to include in our building process.”
What could have been an ugly parking structure near Barrio Logan’s beautiful Chicano Park will now become an important part of the community by keeping the work and memory of Cesar Chavez alive for future generations of barrio residents.
The four-level parking garage has space for 320 cars and will serve the soon-to-be completed Cesar E. Chavez Continuing Education Center. The new education center is being built two blocks away on the corner of Main St and Chavez Parkway. The new campus will open in September bringing hundreds of mostly working class students into Barrio Logan. The official dedication will take place on October 28.
The new $50 million campus will feature over 67,000 square feet of space and will house 22 classrooms for vocational training, English as a Second Language (ESL), Adult Basic Education (ABE), General Education Diploma (GED), preparation classes, Business Information Technology (BIT), Parent Education and Emeritus (age 55+) programs. It will also include a multi-purpose room and administrative offices and provide space for a Small Business Incubator. The building will also have 149 underground parking spaces to go along with the parking structure.
The $7.5 million parking structure also includes 4,000 square feet of rooftop-level solar panels. The campus and parking structure are funded through Proposition S and N funds.
The building of the campus and parking structure are great additions to the neighborhood. Education is key to bringing a community like Barrio Logan out of poverty. This new campus will provide an avenue for many residents in the greater Logan Heights area to acquire the skills necessary to get better paying jobs. Thankfully those behind the project were also mindful enough to include almost 500 parking spaces in a community desperately in need of them.
With the completion of the new campus months away the struggle begins over who or what organization will take over the current Cesar Chavez Continuing Education Center located adjacent to Chicano Park.
The former Chicano Federation building was promised by the City to be returned to the community if the education center were to leave the space. But like all promises made by the City we must use every tool we have to make sure they don’t renege.
In my opinion, the best use for the space would be for a Chicano Park museum and cultural center. Let’s make that happen.