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Developing the Boulevard: What the Candidates for District 9 Say

By Megan Burks

Last week, we asked the candidates for City Council District 9 how they would ensure development keeps pace in City Heights despite the end of redevelopment agencies. This time, we wanted to know what kinds of development should be prioritized, especially along El Cajon Boulevard.

The boulevard has been undergoing a steady rebranding in recent years as its business association tries to shake memories of rampant prostitution and harness the growth and renewal of mid-city business and entertainment districts. In City Heights, the association has worked to call attention to the boulevard’s unique Vietnamese markets and restaurants.

But developing the boulevard gets trickier the farther east you move. North Park and University Heights, which share El Cajon Boulevard west of Interstate 805, are both appealing to young families and renters attracted to the bustle and amenities of these gentrifying neighborhoods.

But in City Heights, El Cajon Boulevard becomes the line drawn between two radically different communities. To the north are Kensington and Talmadge, where the median household income is $40,000 and homes range in price from $300,000 to $1 million. To the south is City Heights, where the median household income is less than $24,000 and the average home costs $96,000.

The neighborhoods’ differences took center stage last year when they squared off over the redevelopment of the old Pearson Ford lot at Fairmount Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard. Residents to the north said they wanted a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods to go in–many warning against ethnic markets, cash-checking services and affordable housing–while residents to the south wanted low-income housing and outdoor recreation space. In the end, neither are getting exactly what they want; a new YMCA facility is planned for the lot.

But the tension remains and could inform how some vote in the upcoming election. Debate over the lot bled into discussions about redistricting, with some Talmadge leaders seeing their inclusion in the new ninth district as an opportunity to influence development of the boulevard.

One–arguably two–of their own is running for the District 9 seat. Mateo Camarillo lives in Kensington. Marti Emerald lives in the College Area, which borders Talmadge and is situated north of the boulevard near San Diego State University.

So this week we asked them: Community members from City Heights, Kensington and Talmadge all have interests in how El Cajon Boulevard is developed. What kinds of projects and services should be added to the boulevard? How would you decide which projects to approve and allocate funding to?

Camarillo and Greenlining Institute General Counsel Bob Gnaizda | Credit: Camarillo

Mateo Camarillo
Businessman and activist
The centerpiece to new development on El Cajon Boulevard is centered on the former Pearson Ford property. This property is large enough to accommodate an array of diverse businesses and non-profit corporations to add to what currently exists in District 9 (Price Charities, La Maestra, SDSU, CDC, etc.). The initial group to be heard is the Kensington-Talmadge Planning Group, the entity sanctioned by the City Planning process to advise the City.

As a City Council Representative, I would listen to all community groups, especially the community planning group that is elected to advice the City on the current and future needs of D9 for community development that provides goods and services to communities.

Bottom line, an intelligent property owner will listen to the needs and desires of local residents and community leaders and respect such advice in the ultimate decisions. Issues such a big box retailer that may significantly impact existing small businesses are factors to consider. Government funding such as Block Grant, existing Redevelopment funds, etc., should be based on how a project meets the needs of all D9 residents.

En Español: El enfoque del nuevo desarollo urbano  en el boulevard El Cajon esta centrado en la propiedad  que era anteriormente  Pearson Ford.  Esta propiedad es suficientemente grande para poder situar una diversidad de negocios y corporaciones sin lucro para agregar a lo que existe acualmente en el distrito nueve (por ejemplo: Price Charities, La Maestra, SDSU, etc.). El primer grupo que va comentar sobre las comunidades diversas en San Diego es el grupo de desarollo urbano Kensington-Talmadge – una entidad que es apollada por el Desarollo Urbano de la Ciudad que es parte de el proceso que aconseja la ciudad.

Si yo fuera su representante del consejo de la ciudad yo estuviera dispuesto ha escuchar todos los grupos de la communidad – especialmente el grupo de desarollo urbano que es elejido para dar consejo a la ciudad sobre las necesidades actuales y futuras de la ciudad dentro nuestro distrito nueve.

A final de cuentas un propetario inteligente esta dispuesto ha escuchar que son las necesidades y deseos de los residents y los lideres comunitarios y al ultimo respetar sus decisiones. Algunos factores que se tienen que considerer es como las super-Empresas multi-globales van a impactar las empresas pequeñas.  Financia del gobierno haci como “Block Grants”, fondos para el desarollo urbano, etc. deben ser basados en como ese proyecto satisface las necisidades de todos los residentes de distrito nueve (D9).

Marti Emerald | Credit: Abigail Santos

Marti Emerald
District 7 Councilwoman
El Cajon Boulevard or the “Boulevard” has always been the main artery through the heart of San Diego and the connector to new beginnings and neighborhoods east of the city center. Historic photos have recorded the many times that properties north and south of the Boulevard have been redeveloped over the last 100 years to accommodate a growing city, a changing world and immigrant refugees starting in the 1940’s and continuing today. The ever changing needs of these diverse populations have always been a factor in determining what the Boulevard looks and feels like.

My style and mission as a Councilmember is to: “Empower constituents to improve their quality of life, economy and neighborhoods through the effective use of a responsive, transparent and trustworthy city government.” I will be looking for the collaboration of the whole community in storefront improvements and developing higher density housing along the Boulevard while protecting the integrity of our single family neighborhoods. Given the demise of our redevelopment project areas and the associated property tax funding, I will be reaching out to the business and property owners to develop programs that encourage privately funded revitalization.

The future of El Cajon Boulevard and any new development will be driven by the needs and desires of the residents and businesses affected and accomplished with advice and consent of their respective advisory groups. I will be an advocate in support of the community in bringing City and private resources to the Boulevard.

En Español: El Cajon Boulevard, o el “Boulevard,” siempre ha sido el arteria principal que anda por el corazón de San Diego y el conexión entre el centro y los nuevos comienzos en los barrios al este del centro. Fotos históricas han documentado las varias incidencias en el siglo pasado en que propiedades a lo largo de El Cajon Boulevard fue reconvertidos para acomodar una ciudad creciente, un mundo cambiante y la llegada de refugiados inmigrantes que sigue hoy. Las necesidades siempre cambiantes de estas poblaciones diversas siempre han sido un factor para determinar como el bulevar parece y se siente.

Mi estilo y meta como un concejala es, “Empoderar a los votantes para mejorar su calidad de vida, su economía, y su barrios a través del uso efectivo de un gobierno municipal receptivo, transparente, y de confianza.” Espero que todo el comunidad colabore conmigo en mejorar vitrinas y el desarrollo de viviendas de mayor densidad a lo largo del bulevar mientras protege la integridad de nuestros barrios de viviendas de única familia. Habida cuenta de la desaparición de nuestras áreas de reurbanización y sus ingresos fiscales asociados, colaboraré con los empresarios y dueños para desarrollar programas que fomentan revitalización financiado por el sector privado.

El futuro de El Cajon Boulevard y cualquier nuevo desarrollo de propiedad será impulsado por las necesidades y deseos de los residentes y negocios afectados, y realizado con el asesoramiento y consentimiento de sus grupos consultivos respectivos. Seré una defensora de la comunidad, trayendo recursos municipales y privados al El Cajon Boulevard.

Miss our previous Q&As with the candidates? Find out what they have to say about sustaining urban renewalengaging the community’s Latino population and building trust between police and immigrants

 

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