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“Varrio Sí. Yonkes No!”

I’d always thought the sign in Chicano Park, painted on one of the legs of the Coronado Bridge, meant “Barrio, yes. Yankees, no!” A nod to the fight in the 1970s to save the land under the bridge for a park. The state reneged on its promise to dedicate it as parkland and was about to hand it over to the CHP to build a patrol station on. I figured the slogan was painted in a time of anger.

I was right, but for the wrong reason. It turns out “Yonkes” — in Chicano Spanish — means “junkyard.” Victor Ochoa and four other artists painted the sign, and the mural below it, in 1977, to protest the 48 junkyards that had invaded the residential neighborhood.

After 25 years in this city, I should be ashamed at knowing next to nothing about the barrio and for missing out on all its life. Two days after meeting Tennessee — and finally inspecting those wonderful two-story-high, Mexican-themed murals on the new apartment buildings along and near National — I’m on my way to meet Georgette Gómez.

We get together at Ryan Bros., the coffee-roasting establishment on Main. It’s in another rejuvenated brick building, this one the former home of Chuey’s famous bar and restaurant. Ryan Bros. may be recent non-Hispanic intruders, but they’ve turned this spacious two-level brick interior into one of the social and business gathering spots of the barrio, well accepted by the community. We sit in a sunny, sunken corner area, drinking coffee. We even spot Nick Inzunza, the onetime city councilmember, working two tables away on some plans with a group of ladies.

“ ‘Varrio Sí. Yonkes No!’ was a protest against all of the junkyards and dumping the city allowed to fill up the barrio,” says Gómez.

Gómez is a director of the Environmental Health Coalition’s Toxic Free Neighborhoods campaign. She says that for years the City has treated Barrio Logan as its most convenient dumping ground. The car junkyard scandal was typical. “Without consulting the people of the barrio, the city switched zoning for the area to mixed-use, which meant junkyards, small factories emitting often toxic fumes, and auto-wreckers could move right in amongst the residents’ homes. That’s what that sign is about.”

She mentions other insults, like the fact that the neighborhood was first sliced by the 5 freeway, then diced by the approaches to the Coronado Bridge, which ripped through the heart of the community. The pollution continues, she says, quoting EHC figures, with over five tons (11,000 pounds) per year of toxic-air contaminants currently emitted near Barrio Logan homes and school. This includes more than 100 pounds of heavy metals. The fumes from one factory, Master Plating, set amongst houses with families and kids, expelled hexavalent chromium — a lethal carcinogen — until it closed in 2002. The neighborhood’s “respiratory hazard index” is 100–200 times above health standards, according to the EPA. Child asthma rates are more than twice the national average. The barrio also suffers over 600 pounds of solids raining onto the community from the diesel emissions of hundreds of trucks hauling cargo from the port and from the 300,000 cars that pass through each day. Not to mention diesel exhaust drifting in 24/7 from the funnels of cargo and cruise ships docked directly upwind.

Over its 100-year history, Barrio Logan hasn’t had the economic clout, or, perhaps, the confidence and experience in dealing with bureaucracies to fight back effectively. This is a town of 4000 souls, mostly (84 percent) Hispanic, earning a median household income of around $24,000, half the San Diego median of $49,000, according to SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments), quoting 2006 census figures. Gómez says that, since the protests that erupted 40 years ago, forcing the city and state to cede the land for Chicano Park, Barrio Loganites have developed a more robust resistance to the city’s whims. The Chicano Federation, Barrio Station, which concentrates on improving barrio children’s lives, and Gómez’s Environmental Health Coalition, are now demanding equal treatment. “We have the oldest un-updated community plan in San Diego,” she says. “The barrio hasn’t had an updated plan since 1972.”

It was the Master Plating issue that galvanized parents and civic groups. “The day we closed that factory, we celebrated,” Gómez says. “The whole community celebrated. It was almost like Chicano Park.” It was as joyful as when, in 1997, they stopped the Port of San Diego from spray-fumigating visiting ships’ cargos with deadly methyl bromide.

The city told civic activists it had no money for a planning update. Instead, in January 2007, they persuaded Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) to ante up $1.5 million to create a blueprint for an update, with input from residents as well as stakeholder groups. “It all depends, this time, on the voice of the people,” Gómez says. “Industry is certainly pushing because Barrio Logan is in a unique place, near the port and downtown. We are going to have to be strong.” EHC’s idea is to relocate industry to the southern end of the barrio, downwind, and make the northern end completely residential.

It doesn’t stop there. Gómez and other leaders — such as María Martínez, a barrio resident and activist who’s also with us at Ryan Bros. this morning — say they know the fight is going to get harder, that developers are champing at the bit.

“Other [developer] folks talk about housing,” says Gómez, “but they feel [the barrio] has enough affordable housing, so they want now to build market-[rate] housing, expand East Village for higher-income [residents]. And that’s when the displacement starts occurring.”

They’ll face pushback, says Martínez. “We want to make sure that the housing coming in is for the residents, that it’s affordable for people earning less than $40,000 a year. We’re ready to fight this battle. Since the ’70s, we have been a strong, fighting community. This is just another chapter in the movement that started with Chicano Park. Now we’re looking more holistically, not just issue by issue.”

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brownfist Sept. 30, 2009 @ 7:53 p.m.


No mention of Voz Alta.... You got to be kidding me:(


rickeysays Sept. 30, 2009 @ 4:41 p.m.

Should have broken this up into a few installments. Tooooo long.


SDaniels Oct. 1, 2009 @ 3:04 a.m.

rickeysays, you've got to be kidding. Goes down like buttah! This is a great paragraph:

"Dave and Tennessee and I stand in the dark on National Avenue, by 16th Street, right where the barrio begins. The rosy clouds that were hanging over the trolley clock tower and Petco Park have been swallowed up by the night. All you see of the homeless people across the road are silhouettes moving around inside bivouacs, flashlights turned orange and blue by the tent fabrics. The laughs and rebel calls and arguments of dusk have subsided."


whyigotahaveid Oct. 3, 2009 @ 9:18 p.m.

good riddence, is there really any historical significance to the place. are tourist drawn there ? let the young upwardly mobile transform it . i think its great the people being gentrified live in the worst conditions. do not have vision enuf to beautify it themselves.


qpodad Oct. 6, 2009 @ 3:22 p.m.

Sadly, I feel like the gentrification is inevitable because of San Diego's long history of favoring development over the concerns of local residents. My wife and I (both SD raised gringos) love to eat at Quatras Milpas, so I have already seen a few changes to the area over the past few years. It became clear to me that the developers/hipsters/realtors are onto this area when I was invited to an art show at The Guild, on Newton Ave. a few blocks from Chicano Park. Someone (not necessarily the folks from The Guild, who certainly know the name of their location) had printed promotional handbills for the art show. My wife and I were laughing all night because apparently we were, for purpose of this show, in "East Downtown". Not "Barrio Logan" or "East Village" or even "East-East Village", but freakin' "EAST DOWNTOWN"! I realized then and there that the "re-branding" had already started. Why would you ever call Barrio Logan by what struck me as a made up name? When the real name might be too "ethnic" for the artsy crowd? Did the person who chose that name really think that the people coming were going to buy into calling Barrio Logan (a name with decades of history) "East Downtown"? What's next, I.B. being marketed as South La Jolla? Am I wrong, is "East Downtown" a real name being used now, and I just never heard it before that night? Usually, subtle changes like referring to the area as "Soco" or "East Downtown" are the harbinger of gentrification. I hope the residents, who have a reason to be proud of their neighborhood, have a voice in the inevitable changes that are coming, and that the City can hear that voice over the chorus of developers' voices that already monopolize the City's attention... Very interesting article, maybe a follow up in a year to let us know how the community is doing with efforts to protect their quality-of-life? -Adam


HonestGovernment Oct. 6, 2009 @ 5:42 p.m.

Yes, the fix is in to develop Barrio Logan at the expense of generations of families there. Read CityBeat's article


and then read the VoSD's hit piece on Rachael Ortiz http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/articles/2009/10/05/government/232barrio100409.txt

Whereas CityBeat is sympathetic to the people who will fall victim to developers coming in and trying to erase the Latino culture of BL, VoSD seems to be determined to aid and abet the City/developer cabal. Florido's article was mean and incomplete, as usual. Is he just a lazy reporter, or is VoSD directing him to follow in the VoSD pattern of lopsided, pro-business/developer stories?


HonestGovernment Oct. 6, 2009 @ 7:17 p.m.

For the philosopy of infill and displacement of lower income residents, see http://coib.govoffice2.com/vertical/Sites/%7B6283CA4C-E2BD-4DFA-A7F7-8D4ECD543E0F%7D/uploads/%7B1B48A9FF-C035-4E5D-8B18-8418BA4025A7%7D.PDF

Note: pp. 15 ("pursue the 'right' tenants") and 16 ("upscale"), and 37 (residents = "captive market," and City gets more tax revenue).

This type of infill ("South Park Marketplace") was thwarted, thank goodness, in South Park because of the real estate bust, but we almost lost our only grocery, Gala, which has great, cheap veggies, to American National Investments and Gina Champion-Cain, friend of the City and the local Golden Hill Community Devleopment Corporation. They'd love to pack in 61 rentals and a "gourmet" grocery with captive, upscale buyers.


barriojustice Oct. 7, 2009 @ 1:02 p.m.

Thank you for writing this story.

The young males of Barrio Logan seem to be bearing the brunt of the police force and undercover detectives, as they are harassed on a daily basis. I am convinced that DA office is pressuring the police to clean up Barrio Logan for the down town expansion. Even if it mean placing false accusations on these young men, who cannot afford to defend themselves in court. I realize not all are innocent, but we need to remember not all are guilty. I have witnessed this harassment myself and couldn't believe what I was seeing. We need to come up with a plan that benefits all at hand and not push residing residents out by placing them in jail or harassing them to sell their homes. As your story states, some lived here for over 55 years.

My prayer is that the police harassment stops and the DA’s office not continue to offer merit promotions to those officers that arrest the most individuals. This causes a temptation to abuse the system. East Village as they want to call it... now Barrio Logan is in the Ball Park Protection Zone. Could this be the reason Barrio Logan is suffering from the eastward expansion of the Ball Park Protection Zone and its investors.


enchavez Oct. 9, 2009 @ 9:23 a.m.

So I can understand the pros and cons of the area transformation. My family was and will always be apart of Chicano Park and Barrio Logan. Recently I lived in a little house right smack in the middle of both areas on 16th St. between Logan Ave. and Commercial. I have seen the way people live there from the homeless to the Mexican people further south, it doesn't matter who you are the community is changing. I believe that downtown is a pressure cooker about to explode and the family community that don't want to live in the highrise hussle and bussle area will move toward East village and down towards Logan but will get a rude awakening by the younger thug group of kids that don't understand change. I was born in 1977 and my parents helped in developing the surrounding area. I loved this story speaking of the historical past that I never knew about pushing thru to the now. The bottom line is that "money makes the world go round," the ballpark will continue to affect the transformation in the community. Something tells me that this is not the last we will hear of the situation.


californiascreaming Oct. 19, 2009 @ 9:15 a.m.

To the people of Barrio Logan bring it down or clean up your act. For the love of God what is so appealing about keeping a crime ridden neighborhood and filthy conditions? This article is great because it points out the racists of Barrio Logan. We live in America, I think? But according to the people of Barrio Logan this is Aztlan. Get off your myopic, paranoid, self loathing view that all the world is against you. This is supposedly an immigrant rich area. Now let me get this straight, Mexicans and Latinos risk life and limb to come to a nation that hates you, despises you and wants you out of their country? Now why would anyone cross the border to this? According to the logic of Barrio Logan this gentrification is doing this to all Mexicans and immigrants. Last time I checked: 1. Education for Mexicans in America is better than in Mexico 2. Health Care for Mexicans in America is better than in Mexico 3. Housing for Mexicans in America is better than in Mexico. 4. Working Conditions for Mexicans in America is better than in Mexico. 5. Running Water for Mexicans is better for America than in Mexico....Get the Point? These whiners of Barrio Logan are getting guess what? Priced out of the market. A capitalist concept. Not racist. How many old home owners sold out and were able to get a new house or place to stay in another town or were able to finance their children's education in the future? How many of the retired in Barrio Logan or others in San Diego "cashed out" before the housing crash and can live in security? I aint buying it with the people of Barrio Logan. The only part of this story I liked was the principal of Perkins Elementary School. This principal sees the larger view of the world for the children of the school. He knows that those kids must see themselves outside of the world of Barrio Logan. He wants them as achievers not victims. And some in Barrio Logan criticize him. Wow? Unfortunately the mantra of "keeping it real" in terms of race at the expense of a child's well being is fairly disturbing. For the Latino community to see every issue out of the lens of race only hinders their own educational and financial security. Mexicans leave their beloved homeland because America cares more about the well being of Mexicans than the government of Mexico. Mexico sucks, 15 Million illegal aliens Mexicans can't be wrong.


barriojustice Oct. 23, 2009 @ 1:38 a.m.

Californiascreaming doesn't realize that not all people that live in this area fled from Mexico to Barrio Logan. There are those who were born and raised here and their parents were born and raised here. I think as Americans we all should be grateful that we have it better than some people that live in Mexico. There are many neighborhoods in San Diego County that you can say are filthy and many people that live outside Barrio Logan live in filthy conditions as well. What border did californiascreaming cross? There are many nationalities that represent San Diego, not all are native to San Diego. Now I here racism! There are many individuals that grew up in Barrio Logan and still live in Barrio Logan that are college graduates. Take a look at the council president of Barrio Logan, he was born and raised in Logan. Who really needs to be educated here??? Californiascreaming comments have nothing to do with the story that was written.


David Dodd Oct. 23, 2009 @ 2:03 a.m.

"Last time I checked: 1. Education for Mexicans in America is better than in Mexico"

False. The literacy rate in Mexico is comparable to the U.S., and I have preferred my children to school in Mexico because they get a better education here. Math scores from high school students in Mexico is, on average, much higher than in the U.S.

"2. Health Care for Mexicans in America is better than in Mexico"

False. Here in Mexico, there is both public and private care, they are far ahead of the curve. Many Mexicans living in the U.S. prefer to come to Mexico when visiting the doctor.

"3. Housing for Mexicans in America is better than in Mexico."

False. Rent and purchase price are much less here. Housing is quite affordable, and plentiful.

"4. Working Conditions for Mexicans in America is better than in Mexico."

True. Here there's a 48 hour work week. Wages are far less. However, employment figures are far better. But overall, true.

"5. Running Water for Mexicans is better for America than in Mexico"

False. Since Mexicans don't drink their tap water, the difference is mute. Americans wouldn't drink their tap water either if they knew what was good for them.

1 out of 5. Fail.


SurfPuppy619 Oct. 23, 2009 @ 8:54 a.m.

Last time I checked: 1. Education for Mexicans in America is better than in Mexico"

False. The literacy rate in Mexico is comparable to the U.S., and I have preferred my children to school in Mexico because they get a better education here. Math scores from high school students in Mexico is, on average, much higher than in the U.S.

Gringo, when I taught in Sweetwater we had a HUGE problem with TJ kids crossing the borders to go to school here. Texas had the same problems, which tends to discount the notion that Mexico has a better public school system.

I also question the claim that math scores from public schools in Mexico are better then here-do you have a source for that?


David Dodd Oct. 23, 2009 @ 11:56 a.m.


Huge difference in Tijuana schools vs. San Diego schools. In Tijuana, they are forced to learn or they're kicked out. In San Diego, the teachers don't have very many options and I think the kids know they can get away with more, so they do. I have a friend that teaches in the U.S. and lives here, he concurrs.

So far as proof on the math scores, I'll check it out, but most all kids in Mexico who graduate high school can solve the quadratic equation.


californiascreaming Oct. 24, 2009 @ 4:10 p.m.

Barriojustice, it isn't about those that were born here I have a problem with or those here legally. It is those that are here ILLEGALLY. Let me yell it out at the top of my lungs. The problem with ILLEGAL ALIENS are ILLEGAL ALIENS. Let them wait in line like other people from Vietnam, the Phillippines, Russia, Ireland, Somalia, Cambodia and even Mexico, etc. Illegal aliens are here illegally and are CHEATERS. They cheat everyone else trying to do it right. Do you like CHEATERS? I don't. CHEATERS ARE CHEATERS. I don't want to hear some romantic notion of defending the underprivileged to get your rocks off. I heard it all before "you are racist, you are heartless, you are evil". Take a number.

As for people who were born in America and forced out by high rents. It happened to me living in North Park. North Park is changing. Hipsters (many from other states) are moving in and willing to pay higher rent. More new businesses are popping up. I am not entitled to some pre conceived notion that my rent is supposed to be low. It is called Capitalism. Supply and Demand. There is a demand in Barrio Logan and if the owners of the apartments have a limited supply they will charge what the market will pay.

Refriedgringo, are you serious? I am packing my bags and gonna illegally cross into Mexico it sounds so good. I mean while I am making my trek to Mexico and see all those coming to America illegally I will tell them too turn back. "It isn't true, it is all false, Mexico has more to offer to Mexicans than America." How many do you think I will convince? 15 million Mexicans voted and left with their feet. Why are so many fighting deportation orders? Obviously you aren't here illegally and aren't desperate with nothing. I empathize with those that are here illegally but we as Americans can't service everyone. We can't even service our own citizens let alone anyone else. Mexico needs a bloody revolution. People will have to spill blood there to meet the needs of its citizens.


David Dodd Oct. 24, 2009 @ 4:39 p.m.

californiascreaming, there are only two reasons that Mexicans cross illegally. Mainly because there are higher paying jobs in the U.S., and secondarily, because they have relatives living in the U.S., most of which are legal. They aren't craving wall-to-wall carpeting and central air and community college and some warped sense of what Americans call freedom. They want to earn some money and stay with their relatives.

Your government services people because it is a stupid government. Are the Mexicans wanting to live in a country based on how much free crap it gives to its citizens? No, I think they simply take advantage of what they can get. The function of government should be a simple thing: To fight crime and defend against invasion. Instead, everyone expects government to take care of them. What a bunch of hogwash!

If you were around these parts twenty years ago, you would know what illegal immigration is. The border was practically open. Now it isn't. The ILLEGAL ALIEN problem is now mostly confined to those that have been there for a decade or more.

Mexico doesn't need another revolution. It needs for Americans to stop snorting cocaine and smoking meth, or else - even better - legalize the drugs. The violence here will stop. Tourism will return. When the tourism returns the money will return. When the money returns, investment will return. When investment returns, the Mexican Government will have enough strength to affect growth.

I have lived in Mexico for over seventeen years. I have seen things I can't even yet begin to write about. I have also seen things more beautiful than I would have ever seen had I remained in my native country. I have met people more gracious here than I could have ever imagined. They love their country and they love their people. Only now, are they beginning to trust their government, because only now, their government is becomming trustworthy.

We need a revolution like a fish needs a bicycle. You need to step back and get a different perspective than what your media is spoon-feeding you.


Momfer Feb. 3, 2010 @ 8:05 p.m.

Where are the fanatics of old architecture who conjured up the Hertitage Park and moved old houses there? Why aren't there the same fanatics who saved Villa Montezuma or the Timken Mansion shouting about the hertitage of Senor Villapando's 108 year old house? This extends to the old warehouses and manufacturing buildings too. Ryan Brothers, as reported in the story, is a gringo business that respected the hertitage of its' building. Yet just across the street the old buildng was razed to the point of having its foundations dug up and turned into gravel. Soon the Barrio Logan trolley station will have some kind of upgrade, although what that is is not clear on the MTS website. WE love Chicano Park and have long awaited the promise of "from the 5 to the Bay" That is the only promised developement we want, but where is it?


AndreasAE July 17, 2010 @ 2:18 p.m.

It's about time. No offense, but it's a craphole and we all know it. When it was, thank god only this by the way, my temporary abode I would run into gangsters who always boasted of "Pride." As soon as I became a single parent I realized pride really meant moving up or improving your area--so I moved out to North Park and soon to Point Loma.

Few people there really have pride in their area--if they did they would take the time to economically develop it, but no one bothers to do so, therefore it must come as no surprise that when they redevelop it those people must go--because they will simply just reverted to the cesspool it was.

I'm glad my daughter has less of a chance of becoming an unwed teenage mother--by the way I was married, so hopefully no grandchildren out of wedlock either. I'm glad I can walkout at night, it might cost me more to live elsewhere but peace of mind isn't cheap.

If you don't work hard so your children can live in a better area and have more opportunities, then you're setting them up for failure so don't cry about it.

Good riddance to Logan Heights and barrio logan and shelltown, it was about time.


Grasca July 17, 2010 @ 4:49 p.m.

How many on this blog are products of schools outside the US ? I recall some fellow now long gone who could not spell but sure could cuss. Maybe he was educated in one of those schools ? It is my understanding that not everyone can get a free education in Mexico but that you must pay much like one does here for private education. I am sure that there are readers who can enlighten us. If the paying part is true, it could explain why some are not equal in their ability to read and write. The tyranny of the rich oppresses the poor and leaves them with few options in their own countries and here should they choose to immigrate.


Grasca July 17, 2010 @ 4:59 p.m.

I live in the US and have traveled south of the border many times. And farther than Tijuana. Both America and Mexico have offered beauty and gracious associations to me. Don't slam our country if you choose to live outside it and possibly still work here or collect Social Security as many American citizens do who live close to the border. You can't have it both ways in my opinion. Relinquish your citizenship and be quiet. Enjoy your life wherever you hang your hat and became a citizen of that country. Do I hear a door slapping someone's butt ?


Grasca July 17, 2010 @ 6:07 p.m.

I attended a private high school in San Diego. Several very wealthy Mexican girls were driven across the border each day to get their education in the US at this school. I am guessing that there parents did not find the offerings in Tijuana to be that stellar. Certainly the families had enough money to educate their daughters in native country but chose the US for what they perceived to be a better education. From what I understand this is still happening.

Fiesta del Sol happens each summer in the barrio. It is a testament to the neighborhood and the spirit of the community which is being eyed by developers of the downtown expansion stripe.

Damning Barrio Logan is short sighted. In my community we have similar problems but do not make the news as much because the perpetrators have Anglo surnames.

At some point in time the big Barrio real estate holders with the names of last names of Hueso and Inzunza will sell out and become newly minted millionaires in the style of John Moores.


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