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“I vowed long ago never to move east of route 805!” my friend C.C. admonished me when I told him I was looking for an apartment in an affordable area. My first choice was North Park, where I had lived for some time; but with the advent of the endless Great Recession (read “Depression,” though no politician will go near that one), North Park has become less than affordable to those making under $50,000 a year. Somewhat more affordable is what certain oleaginous realtors are calling East North Park, which is, in fact, City Heights. C.H. is a historically high-crime area in San Diego. I once joined a police officer on a ride-along some years ago, when they still did that, and my experience seemed to bear that out — with the exception of 7-Eleven parking lots, where squad cars would congregate over coffee and donuts. In such places I found very little evidence of crime.

Still, not one to be swayed by opinion or possibly prejudice, I looked into the area between, say, 32nd Street and the City Heights Transit Center. Rents seemed indeed cheaper, and the old Huffman apartments seemed a tad more funky than they might have a few blocks west. The area, and I’m not sure exactly why, seemed to remind me of the neighborhood I lived in in Brooklyn for two years, when my then-wife and I were struggling new parents. Likely it had to do with the ubiquity of families; that is to say, kids. I imagined it could get a bit noisy at inconvenient times. And it had an impressive number of collarless cats. A few pit bulls promised a kind of cacophonous symphony between 2 and 4 a.m. This, by the way, proved correct, but then I experienced the same thing during a yearlong residential stint in La Jolla years ago.

Adults who are quick to say, “I just love children!” are, I think, being disingenuous. I used to be guilty of that similar misspeaking until I was forced (after an encounter with a sadistic brat named Brian, who terrorized my son and his friends) to amend my generosity to, “I tend to like most kids, just not all of them. I like more kids than adults, though.”

At any rate, I did cruise 36th, 37th, and 38th streets between University and El Cajon with an eye toward little SpongeBob T-shirts or Barbie sun suits or clothing bulges hiding small-caliber handguns. I turned up nothing, leading me to the conclusion that it was the parents who might be armed.

Another observation was the frequency and demeanor of the cops cruising by in their “shops,” or squad cars. In the three days of my perusing the neighborhood, I saw the police stop no one at all, and no reason why they should have. I saw no crimes in progress, suspicious activity (whatever that may be), and no cause to drive by at anything other than a sensible speed, as if their eyes were open, their minds relaxed but attentive. One might say, maybe a little fancifully, that the officers seemed to generate something of a philosophical aura. Poised, one might say, but hardly provocative — again, in my opinion.

Clicking on “Inside San Diego/City Heights,” I found an interesting bit on that page. Chamber of commerce promotional, maybe, but fairly accurate. There is also quite a bit about the diversity of restaurants in the area, and while the majority seem Mexican, by no means is that the only fare one will find.

The web page reads, in part, “The area now known as City Heights goes all the way back to the 1880s, when land speculators purchased land east of the city proper as railroad expansion brought anticipation for population expansion. It used to be referred to as East San Diego, and in fact, East San Diego was its own city until it was annexed by San Diego in 1923. City Heights is one of the more densely populated areas with residents of a lower income. For years it was plagued by high crime, but recent years has seen a resurgence, with lower crime and new businesses.

“Probably more than any other area of San Diego County, City Heights is a true melting pot of different ethnic groups. From Hispanic to African-American to Ethiopian to Vietnamese to Cambodian, City Heights is a community of immigrants trying to carve out a life in this city. Housing in this neighborhood is more affordable relative to the rest of the city, although it is dense with a mixture of small cottages and aging apartments.”

The fact is, I’ve put down a deposit on a place

in — and I’m getting used to saying this — East North Park. If my son approves, and no reason I can see why not, it is his as well. Been a long time coming.

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Comments

Frederick Simson Oct. 13, 2011 @ 8:56 a.m.

East North Park indeed! I guess all of our "Neighborhood Association" efforts in the 1990's went to waste. City Heights is a large area that has smaller neighborhoods within it. Between 805 and 15 are two such 'hoods with OFFICIAL names. "Corridor" is the area you perused, North of University Avenue. South of University Avenue is "Cherokee Point" where I have owned my home since the last recession (1990 to 1995) and pre-freeway construction on the 15 briefly brought home prices within reach of the average Joe.

It is the Post Office we have to thank for the Realtors' marketing ploy. The Zip Code boundary between 92104 (North Park) and 92105 (City Heights) is the alley between Cherokee Avenue and 37th Street, cutting these 'hoods again from North to South. Check your new Zip Code; if you are East of Cherokee Avenue your aim just missed your target and your 92105 excludes you from claiming the coveted "North Park" real estate ruse.

Speaking of Park-ing... (lame segue) GOOD LUCK! I like to tell my friends that the overtime I am required to contribute to my prize (A Job!) has forced me to park in the next zip code... Ha Ha Ha

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peace2011 Oct. 15, 2011 @ 8:17 p.m.

Mr. Brizzolara, I found the article refreshing. I came from City Heights and currently live in New York. I see similarities between City Heights and various parts of New York such as the ethnic diversity. City Heights is going through a "resurgence" and I hope your article encourages people to step into City Heights and see what a gem it is.

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SurfPuppy619 Oct. 16, 2011 @ 4:38 p.m.

Have owned a little condo I bought in City Heights back at the end of the 1995 recession, right across from Wilson Middle School....... Like City Heights a lot.

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nan shartel Oct. 16, 2011 @ 8:26 p.m.

my great niece and her beau and French Bull dog live in City Height near the park...they love it and when visiting i do 2

my Da lived in Mission Hills and Hillcrest 4 many years after he and my mum were divorced so i like that whole area

i lived in South Park 4 quite a while and grew up just off Euclid in ESD in High School (Hoover)

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RealtorROY Oct. 28, 2011 @ 8:06 p.m.

Interesting post about City Heights .

Here are a few good things readers may be interested in when thinking about renting or buying in the City Heights - "East North Park Area"

This is not JUST an advetisement for real estate, take a look at this video all about City heights & how owning may cost less than BUYING when you view the mortgage payment vs rent you may be paying . If these properties were in North Park just over the 805 you can easily add an extra $100,000 to $200,000 to purchase Price Remodeled in 2011 - Example 1 http://youtu.be/9nyDFhXSYOs

Example 2 http://youtu.be/1wPDyIZRpOo

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Jay Allen Sanford Oct. 29, 2011 @ 7:04 a.m.

I spent nearly a decade living on 37th Street, half of it a block south of University and the other half a block south of El Cajon Blvd.

Other than the occasional hooker parade on El Cajon, the only crime-related problem I ever saw or had was when a guy picked a fight with me at a long-gone video arcade next to the old Academy Theater - been awhile, but I enjoyed the easy access to so many eateries, diverse grocery stores (many ethnic), and enough dollar stores to keep me in leftover casino quarters the whole time I lived there -

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