And the community may grow even more; looming on the horizon is a housing project called Adobe Falls, which San Diego State University wants to build for graduate students and faculty. The project, to be completed in stages, was originally proposed as a 540-unit complex at the end of Adobe Falls Road, which winds down the hill in the western section of Del Cerro, across College Avenue from the Highlands.
The Adobe Falls project became a topic of debate, with the Del Cerro Action Council leading a campaign, called Save Del Cerro, against it.
"Del Cerro's principal concerns arise from the fact that the only ingress and egress for the large Adobe Falls Apartment/Townhome complex will run through the Del Cerro community," reads the Save Del Cerro website. "This will add thousands of cars every day on quiet, winding residential streets (some of which are currently cul-de-sacs) and which can only enter the community by passing between two elementary schools."
The support for Save Del Cerro is considerable, including several state senators and assemblymembers. In October 2005, the Del Cerro Action Council, Alvarado Hospital, and the City of San Diego each filed lawsuits, later consolidated, against the California State University trustees under the California Environmental Quality Act.
There have been some victories. In September 2006, after a California Supreme Court decision on a case concerning a different campus, the university decided to decertify its Adobe Falls environmental impact report. In addition, the Del Cerro Action Council has had its attorneys' fees covered in full. But this fight is far from over. The Save Del Cerro website reports that SDSU has put forth a new master plan and environmental impact report, proposing 48 units to be accessed from Mill Peak Road, up the hill, and 124 units to be built at the end of Adobe Falls Road, or a greater number if an alternative road can be developed.
While residents may suffer as a result of Adobe Falls development, local businesses will likely see a rise in consumer traffic. Van Arsdall, as both a resident and a business owner, sees both sides.
"As someone who lives on Del Cerro Boulevard, I'm not really thrilled about the San Diego State project going in, because it means more cars going down my street," he says. "However, as a business owner, I've got to say that it's a nice prospect having somebody come in here that would be new to the community. It's going to be condo-style living, and the new residents might utilize my shop, so I try to put a good spin on it as well."
Impending Adobe Falls condos aside, Del Cerro remains a small community, family-oriented and safe. The Chevron gas station, on the corner of College and Del Cerro Boulevard, has been passed from father to son to grandson. Del Cerro Liquor and Robert's Coiffures of Del Cerro have been in the area for decades. Other businesses have not lasted so long. Before the popular Windmill Farms, there had been a slew of failed grocery stores.
"There have been so many businesses that come and go, come and go, come and go," says Baton, who rattles off a list of what has passed through: a five-anddime, a video store, a jeweler, a bank, and a TV repair shop.
But one landmark has outlasted them all; this is Del Cerro Park and, with it, the Del Cerro pool. Hidden behind a thicket of cacti, the private four-acre park stretches down a small hill to a couple of tennis courts, shaded cabanas, and the pool.
The pool is one of the oldest structures in Del Cerro. The land was given to the community by one of the early developers in the late '50s under the condition that it would be returned if Del Cerro residents could not raise the money to build the pool. Everyone swung into action. Dose, who has been the manager of the pool for the past ten years, remembers when it was still in its planning stages. "A group of men went door-to-door and asked people if they would be willing to donate, I believe it was $250 then, which was a lot more money than it is today," she says, "and that's the way it began."
For the next 23 years, everything went well until, in the early '80s, the pool came under fire.
"In 1983, we received a letter that this property was no longer ours and that we had so long to leave," Dose recalls.
It happened like this, says Dose: when the developer who had initially given the community the land decided to retire, he donated the pool site to a Jewish Community Center in the area. The center rapidly informed the pool caretakers, Del Cerro Park's board of directors, that they had very little time to pack their things and leave: the land had been sold.
It was then that Dose and the board took charge.
"I was involved with them in going to see one of their very prominent real estate attorneys about the problem," she says. "He informed us that we might as well forget it. We didn't stand a chance here."
Dose and her posse were not about to give up, and they hired a lawyer and filed suit.
"We went to court," says Dose. "We had an older judge that reviewed all this information, and he said, 'I'm not going to make a decision right now. I want to take time to do this. It will take me some time.' After six months, the decision was made by him that [the Del Cerro community] had worked very hard to establish this, and he felt there was something illegal that had been done." She smiles.
"So the property is now ours."
Del Cerro Park boasts 250 member families, most from Del Cerro but some from surrounding communities.
As the Del Cerro community formed in the late '50s, so did the Del Cerro Community Association. "The community association was formed just because in new communities, there are lots of needs in the community," says Baton, who is president of the Del Cerro Park board. "Everyone's interested in the community, so it was just essentially a group of people that formed an association for the betterment of the community, and I would say virtually everybody in the community probably belonged in the initial stages."