“Developers went into North Park and just leveled many of their beautiful Craftsman houses. They destroyed it. They put up these outrageous rickety-dickety [apartments]."
  • “Developers went into North Park and just leveled many of their beautiful Craftsman houses. They destroyed it. They put up these outrageous rickety-dickety [apartments]."
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We’re on the border — between South Park and North Park. I’m sipping coffee outside Rebecca’s, looking across Juniper Street, fantasizing. What if Juniper were the dividing line between, say, East Berlin and West Berlin? Okay, it’s not, and there’s no ten-foot-high triple-security fence. But Juniper Street is where South Park officially ends and North Park begins, and don’t tell me there hasn’t always been a rivalry between the two communities. For a hundred years, they’ve been developing and decaying and developing again in an undeclared competition for the title of “coolest neighborhood” and the return on investment such a title implies. Back in the day, from sewer lines to trolley lines, each raced to be first. Now, they’re gearing up to seduce a rising tide of refugees from the exurbs: yuppies, empty-nesters, all those who’ve had it up to here with the commuter culture and are searching for the San Diego their grandparents loved.

“Thirty years ago, when I first moved to South Park, you were robbed all the time, there were bars on the windows."

“Thirty years ago, when I first moved to South Park, you were robbed all the time, there were bars on the windows."

So who’s winning?

South Park’s weapon of choice is the quarterly Walkabout.

Seduction by Tour

“All aboard!”

At the corner, outside Grant’s Marketplace, a thin lady hobbles about on stilts, dressed all in white, with a white umbrella and white face. She glows in the night like the smiling ghost of your Great-Aunt Adeline. She’s part of the celebration. Behind her sits an orange Old Town Trolley, its engine idling.

The driver, Tom, is in the spirit. “We’ve got space. Come on board! Let’s see if we can make room for you guys? We’re not supposed to allow standing, so find some knees. That big guy in the back — you can sit on his lap.”

I climb aboard and take a seat in the second row, across from Ann and Joanne.

“We’ve been doing this Walkabout ride for five years,” Ann says. “Five years ago they had a hippie bus. Tie-dyed clothes, curtains, and a hippie driving it. It was fun. But this is the biggest Walkabout we’ve seen.”

What is this anyway? South Park showing itself to the Outside World? Well, yes. One day, every three months, Brigadoon invites us all in. For too long, South Park has been the place you can never find on the Far Side of the Park, the straggle of shops and houses that blur past as the #2 bus wiggles north up 30th, uh Fern, oh, what…? 30th again? to where things are really happening, at 30th and University. North Park.

But a few years ago, as gentrification quickened, people realized that South Park, the quiet one, was also rich in beautifully built, century-old Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival houses, all within minutes of the Bay, Balboa Park, freeways, and downtown; that, like North Park, it was being taken over from a shrinking, elderly population by artists and poets, ordinary Joes, and crackheads. Gradually, the two Parks have acquired an artistic, energetic, original, and culturally rich aura that make you want to abandon the safe haven of your conventional, gated community and live among the young Van Goghs and Shakespeares and Ché Guevaras. Recently, South Park has made it easier for the middle class to make the leap, scoring big with great dog runs and terrific new eateries like Station Burgers and Alchemy. Meanwhile, North Park has opened a restaurant a day, just about, ever since the Birch Theater launched.

So who’s winning this undeclared war for our hearts and minds, between north and south? Could South Park be a worthy challenger to North Park’s arty reputation?

That’s why I’m here tonight. Even though, must say I hadn’t thought much beyond how much free stuff there was going to be on this Spring Walkabout…

Tom inches the bus ’round the corner onto Beech.

“That’s our house!” says a lady named Julie Cobalt, with the name “Sam” tattooed on her right shoulder. She points to a large pile across from Grant’s. “We’ve just bought it. We’re moving in on Wednesday.”

Sam Ho (the Sam of Julie’s tattoo, I guess) sits beside her. Julie says she’s lived in South Park for 15 years. This is the first house she’s owned, though Sam used to own a home in University City. “The house was a five-plex,” she says. “They [the previous owners] totally gutted it and turned it into a single-family residence. Everything is brand new, but it’s nearly 100 years old. It’s about 2600 square feet, four bedrooms, three baths. We paid $850,000. It’s beautiful. All hardwood floors…”

“Now, folks,” says Tom, “we’re coming ’round the corner to Posh Wash. Posh Wash is the only place I know in San Diego where you can watch flat-screen TV on a patio, sipping coffee provided by the management, all while you’re doing your laundry.”

Looks like yuppies 1, hippies 0, so far. We’re driving slowly through the night, like a bunch of kids on a school trip, up Fern. “And now,” says Tom, “the oldest business in South Park — Thomas’s Bike Shop! Since 1937, I believe. Some say since 1903. And now, the Moose Lodge...and the Christ United Presbyterian Church. Very, very historic church, with the second-largest and second-oldest pipe organ in San Diego County.”

He stops the bus outside. “So, here you go, guys, get down at the church for a free hot dog!”

He calls to the milling crowd out there in the dark. “Come on board! Way in the back, there should be a seat. You’ll have to sit on somebody’s lap. Don’t tell anybody.”

That’s the idea of this free Walkabout trolley. You can get on and off all night long, as it circulates through the community.

“Sam and I are originally both from Minnesota,” says Julie, as we take off again. “We met out here. To me, it’s the closest you can come in terms of housing to that Midwest feel, with the hardwood floors. I don’t care if you gave me $100 million, this is where I would live. Here, we can walk everywhere, to the park and to grocery stores and the cafés and the video stores, and that’s a huge thing.”

Sam nods in agreement as we turn onto Juniper.

But why here and not North Park?

“North Park I love,” Julie says, “but it doesn’t feel as intimate. You see Mazara Pizza’s right across the street? They know us, and they let the kids run around, they know our names. It’s…unique.”

“Here we are!” says Tom the driver. He stops the trolley where Juniper meets Fern and Fern turns into 30th, officially the end of South Park and the beginning of North Park, but really the heart of South Park’s commercial life. This is also the beginning and end of his circular route.

“Enjoy your Walkabout!”

Everybody climbs off. We find ourselves on Juniper, across from that haunt of mine, Rebecca’s coffeehouse (home, I swear, to the best scones in the city). A guy’s playing guitar in there, and a crowd mills about outside on the sidewalk. Lots of people jam this side of the road, too, outside the Grove, the bookshop that sells yarns, home furnishings, clothing, art, and holds classes on just about everything. There’s also an excited clump of adults and kids near a brightly lit little shop called Clarity Soaps and Candles.

A lady standing on a box spins a bingo ball cage. “All right. Here we go! O-64!”

“Boo! New numbers!” yells someone in the crowd. People laugh, but the lady, Peggy Orr, the owner of Clarity, ignores him.

“B-14!” she shouts. Then, “Sweet sixteen, I-16!”

This is Bunny Basket Bingo. Prize is an Easter basket.

“G-49!” Ms. Orr shouts. “And here we pause for a commercial…These great ladies beside us, selling T-shirts, are part of the South Park Action Council. Everything that’s done to beautify our neighborhood is done by volunteers, and it’s paid for by what we get from T-shirt sales. Our trash cans, our bike racks, our banners. So keep that in mind. Okay. Two little ducks, quack-quack!...I-22!...N-39!...0-73! Okay. Another commercial break. Thank you all for coming to Clarity. Keep in mind that all of our candles are 50 percent recycled wax. Bring us your used candles and make a difference. I recycle thousands of pounds of wax a year…I-23…0-67.”

“Oh yeah!” someone in the crowd shouts.


“Yeah! Bingo!”

The crowd goes crazy with wolf whistles as a 30-something guy shuffles his way up through the group. Peggy hands him an Easter basket loaded with eggs and other things. Guy’s name is Sean Lenahan. “It’s what I’ve always wanted!” he says.

I ask if he’s a South Parkian, but it’s like interviewing Drew Brees at the end of the Super Bowl — Sean’s surrounded by people wanting to see what’s inside his basket. “Well, I’ve lived in South Park for a good three and a half years now,” he says. “I live off of Ivy over here. I love it. I was brought up in Memphis, Tennessee. And, no, this doesn’t remind me of it. This reminds me of the hometown I should have grown up in.”

Sean’s a graphic designer and photojournalist with the Navy. “I’ve lived in the Ivy Manor apartments over there, and I’ve seen [South Park] grow to be a lot bigger and a lot more respected by the San Diego community. I think it shadows Hillcrest and North Park now, especially in the amount of community participation. We know how to party, but we know how to mind our own business and be quiet, too.”

The three ladies selling the T-shirts turn out to be movers and shakers in this community: Nancy Sherman, Samantha Keenan, both realtors, and Laura Stansell, who’s executive director of South Park’s own Fern Street Circus. “Four years ago,” says Laura, “I met Nancy. She walked up and said, ‘I’m planning a community garage sale.’ And that’s when we started talking. She’s been doing those ever since, along with this event.”

“We had to have South Park become a destination stopping area,” Nancy says. “So we started these quarterly Walkabouts [in 2003] to get a draw, for people to actually stop here. It took…years. Years.”

Of the three women, Samantha has lived here the longest. She doesn’t romanticize the years around 1977, when she arrived. “Those were the bad old days,” she says. “Maureen [Ceccarelli, of Studio Maureen gallery] opened her store more than 20 years ago on Beech. She used to work with the door locked. That’s how dangerous it was. Gangs, robberies. Customers would knock and she’d let them in.”

“That’s why we started the South Park Action Council [in 1997],” Laura says. “We decided we had to clean up our neighborhood, so that we could draw businesses here because it was deteriorating so badly.”

“So now the community has become more gentrified,” says Nancy. “And, yes, gentrification potentially could be a problem. I moved here in 1987. This was a community of artists, poets, interesting people. Are prices going sky-high and forcing the artists out? I think we can attempt to stop that. We don’t intend to be boring.”

And they don’t intend to be North Park. “Compared with North Park,” says Samantha, “our business district is so much more intertwined with the residential, where their business [district] is a huge, separate item.”

“Remember,” says Nancy, “[developers] went into North Park and just leveled many of their beautiful Craftsman houses. They destroyed it. They put up these outrageous rickety-dickety [apartments]. They’ve had many challenges that I don’t think we will ever have to handle. Downtown [in North Park] has been very dilapidated. We have not had quite that problem.”

There’s talk about South Park home values. “For our canyon home, in 1998, we paid barely under $300,000,” Laura says. “That was just before the market went crazy. The value today? Six-bedroom house, the whole canyon, 27,000-square-foot lot, and with a huge deck and a hot tub, 1950s house…not a Craftsman, but it’s probably worth about $800,000. Tom Crowley, another realtor in the neighborhood, said I should tear down the house and develop the area into condo-apartments. I said no, we have a beautiful house. Why would I do that? I wouldn’t develop the canyon. I love it as it is. I was sitting in the hot tub one night, and I heard crackling, and a coyote walked by, about 20 feet away. Foxes, eagles, owls, I’ve always felt it’s like living on a farm in the middle of the city in South Park.”

Poor People Pushed Out

“There are no more poor people in my neighborhood,” says Judy Forman. “It pisses me off.”

Judy the Beauty on Duty — as she labels herself — is serious for once.

We’re sitting in the Big Kitchen on Grape Street, her Big Kitchen, where she has held court since 1979 with a cast of social activists like, oh, her onetime dishwasher, Whoopi Goldberg. Together, they made this little café the heart of activist San Diego. I’ve come back here after the Walkabout because people say Judy is the conscience of South Park.

For Judy, 30 years later, it’s “be careful what you wish for” time. She isn’t happy with the way South Park has evolved from the big push she gave it. Or even its name.

“Golden Hill, please,” she says. “South Park is a name Republican real-estate people want. They want to be detached from Golden Hill because Golden Hill has an [image problem].”

She sees the irony of the renaissance she fought so hard for.

“I spent ten years as a social worker in Detroit, Michigan, where I worked with gangs and communities. I arrived in San Diego during the last recession, in 1979. No one would hire me [as a social worker]. So after three months, I volunteered to wash dishes here at the Big Kitchen. Three months after that, [the owner] said I was the worst dishwasher ever, and she asked, had I ever waitressed, and I lied and said yes. Three months later, I bought the place. My father went into business with me. After 30 years, I consider myself the self-appointed mayor of Golden Hill. But now, so many people have left, a lot don’t know me anymore.”

Thirty years ago, she says, South Park/Golden Hill was a totally different environment. “When I first moved here, it was the lowest rent in the city. It was considered a ghetto, it was considered on the edge. Nobody knew which direction it would go in. We had all slumlords in this neighborhood, we had gangs, we had a little bit of everything. And the rents were so low, we had all of the most talented people in the city. The artists, musicians, theater people, all of the people who are so talented but don’t get paid enough for their talent. So we had a lovely community, multiethnic, multi-income strata. It was mostly Latino, black, some Caucasians. San Diego Youth and Community Services was the main social-service community of the ’70s that was working on developing communities. So when I arrived, being an activist, I joined in. Our main goal was to give our community a positive identity. So we had festivals, we emphasized culture, we worked with the gangs. We worked with the schools. We changed the self-identity from negative to positive. It didn’t happen overnight. We also started — right here at the Big Kitchen — the Golden Hill Community Development Corporation. And we were able to get federal and county grants because this was a multiethnic, low-income area. All the improvements we made, that the people here now are benefiting from, are because of poor people living in this neighborhood. And then it gentrified and pushed the poor people out of the neighborhood. And we are no longer eligible for grant money for work in our community because there are no more poor people in my neighborhood. We had been able to get the money to plant the trees, fix the schools, make the parks urban gathering spots….”

Problems started, Judy says, when the Golden Hill Community Development Corporation split on two issues. “This was 20 years ago. There were the people who thought that, in order to improve the community, you had to improve the value of real estate. That was the majority of the people on the board. Then there were about three of us who argued that the way you improve a community is to build community. I wanted to improve the lives of the residents who were already here. My intention was never to move families out of this community. And I need to add here that most of the people who started the Golden Hill CDC have sold their property and moved away. I think there are about 2 of us [from the original 11] left.”

Yes, she says, the Fern Street Circus started around this counter at the Big Kitchen, too. “We put it in the after-school program. And it’s still that. It’s just not as large. It’s more…white. Because the neighborhood isn’t that [diverse] anymore.”

Her favorite accomplishment? (Apart from sending Whoopi Goldberg out of “racist” San Diego to San Francisco to be discovered?) Probably the dog park.

“I knew that in order to build community, there had to be more interaction between residents. So I worked for five years to make the leash-free dog [area in Balboa Park] legalized. That was my other big community builder. What a success! The dogs love it, the people get to know each other. They might not know each other’s names, but they know their dogs’ names. I think it’s one of the most wonderful things that I’ve been involved in. I’m so proud of it.”

Of course, South Park’s bad old days included a double cop murder where the dog area is today. “For a long time,” she says, “people were frightened to go there.”

And the gangs?

“[In the ’90s] I hired 15 gang members. Once a month, I had them all in for dinner, and I had men come in and talk to them, about sex, drugs, violence. So they worked for me here. And they’re all still alive and doing well. I’m so proud of them. They’re positive human beings in the community. And that’s when the graffiti stopped…That’s when people stopped being afraid to come to my community. Which I resent now. I want to go get some spray paint, and I want to go to every garage and start [graffiti] painting again. Check this out: in the beginning of the ’80s, it was 80 percent renters. At the end of the ’90s, it was 80 percent homeowners. Does that tell you something about demographics? And yet now, with the economy, the irony is how many of those new homeowners can’t afford to live in their homes, so they’re renting them out to pay the mortgage.”

But how do you stop the future? Not even King Canute could prevent the tide from coming in.

“[With its 1905–15 housing stock], ours is one of the few housing markets that the economy hasn’t affected,” Judy says. “I hate it that the houses in this community have not lost their value at all. We as a community got together in the early 1980s and downzoned, so that single-family dwellings still exist here. Look at Hillcrest. They took down the single-family houses and built condos. Look at Kensington. They took down single families and built apartments. This is one of the few communities that hasn’t been ripped down and replaced like that.”

Goliath’s Tale

Don’t include North Park in that list, says Jack Montgomery. North Park can match South Park house for Craftsman house and is experiencing an unprecedented burst of cultural development, to boot.

I’ve come across the border to see how the other half — North Park — lives. And it looks as if, right now, it lives large.

Montgomery, the artistic director of Lyric Opera San Diego at the recently revived Birch North Park Theatre, says North Park has become the county’s prime quartier, where culture, arts, dining, and historical architecture are not just surviving but popping like nowhere else. Key, says Montgomery, was the creation of the Birch. Thanks to developer Bud Fischer, Montgomery, and to many others, the 1928 North Park Theatre was saved from destruction after being dark for many years. Five years ago, it was transformed from a defunct movie theater into the super-sophisticated home of the San Diego Lyric Opera. The ripple effect has been remarkable. “We know for certain that about $177 million of [North Park] redevelopment is directly linked with the theater’s revival,” says Montgomery. “La Bohème, the Renaissance Project at the corner of El Cajon and 30th, and the eateries that are now becoming Restaurant Row all the way up and down 30th — a great deal of that is directly linked to the theater and its use by Lyric Opera, and to the films [shown here], Jazz in North Park, the La Jolla Music Society Dance Series, concerts, Ray at Night...and the people they attract.”

A lot of North Parkians didn’t believe it would happen, he says, and thought it was crazy to spend all that money. “But now, businesses in the neighborhood [see] that the arts can bring life back to a community. We just went to the mayor’s announcement of the Arts and Culture Commission report for last year. San Diego is the eighth-largest arts community, as far as ticket sales go, in the United States.”

Montgomery says it’s no coincidence that it happened in North Park. The same combination of factors that made it one of San Diego’s early developments a century ago pertain today: It’s close to everything — trolleys a century ago, freeways today — and it has a beautiful park.

“For us,” says Montgomery, “the most interesting thing is that we’re one of the only theaters that’s not on a campus. We’re actually in the neighborhood, and people walk to the theater. And there are many people who will stop me in the lobby and say, ‘We just can’t believe that we are able to walk from our house to an event that’s as world-class as we’ve just experienced.’ And yet, when we said in the community that that’s what we would do, a lot of people didn’t believe it would happen.”

When it showed films, Montgomery says, the North Park Theatre was for many years the “largest-grossing suburban film house in the Fox West Coast chain.” He reckons the reason today’s nearby True North Tavern is always crowded is North Park’s central location. It saves patrons having to go all the way to P.B. for a similar singles-bar live-music atmosphere.

Is it fair to compare tiny South Park to big-time North Park? Standing at 30th and University, you realize what a David and Goliath proposition that is. A rising South Park may be a pebble in North Park’s shoe, but North Park is still the shoe.

Actually, North Park’s main pebble is its own history of deflated expectations. It was supposed to become the site of San Diego’s first big shopping center. Then the city fell in love with Mission Valley and left North Park in the lurch.

George Franck and I walk down University toward 30th, looking at abandoned temples of previous North Park glories. “That used to be the JCPenny department store,” says Franck, a lifetime planner for SANDAG and vice president of the North Park Historical Society. He’s looking across at a large green-and-yellow building. “It’s been empty for about three years now.” He points to a cream-colored building. “That used to be the Woolworth’s.” Then to the Western Dental building. “That was the 1912 Stevens-Hartley office building.” The Hartleys were one of the families who owned the lemon orchards that developed into North Park. “That corner was a pharmacy for at least 40 years. Now it’s going to be a giant Chinese buffet.”

The one shining star here is the glittering theater complex across the road, the North Park Theatre, presenter of gateway entertainments like Gilbert and Sullivan that introduce you to more serious works. For what they’ve achieved, you even forgive them for closing the grand front entrance and forcing customers to sneak in like criminals by a side door. Leasing the lobby to a restaurant and a bar probably makes the difference between solvency and becoming yet another failed arts initiative.

Franck and I call in on Elizabeth Studebaker, executive director of North Park Main Street at her office near 30th. They have fought many wars together. North Park isn’t home safe yet, Studebaker says. It’s one of the area’s first exurbs — satellite towns for an expanding city — that deflated when the freeways came in and enticed mall developers to gamble on the wide-open spaces of Mission Valley. “North Park was considered in the 1930s and 1940s to be the premier shopping district of San Diego,” Studebaker says. “Then, after the war, people got cars, the freeways were built. JCPenny left us. Wards left us. It became a lot more difficult for the smaller mom-and-pops to survive without those anchors that draw people to shop in their stores.”

Today, without any big anchors, how is everyone surviving? “Our anchor tenants just look different now,” Studebaker says. “They’re not necessarily large in square footage. They are restaurants and boutiques. They’re unique. They’re creative, they favor sourcing their products locally, they inspire loyalty. That makes North Park an interesting experiment.”

“When we started [working to revive] the area in the ’70s,” says Franck, as we hit the sidewalks again, “North Park was a pretty crummy neighborhood. It really was. There were some young families moving in, but…the house that I bought here in 1975 for $80,000 is worth about $600,000 now. It’s a very pleasant house, but it’s not historic.”

And, yes, it’s true, he says, North Park’s easing of zoning restrictions has allowed the destruction of a ton of old houses and in some places created a degraded atmosphere. “Some of the stuff has been truly awful, like the apartment buildings, ‘Huffman six-packs,’ as they call them. There was a period in the ’50s and ’60s where they were putting up these huge six-, eight-plexes on single lots, and they paved the front yards so you could park your cars there.”

On the other hand, he says, there’s a whole lot that hasn’t been bulldozed. Just one block from University Avenue, you’re back in timeless North Park. Craftsman houses not a jot different than they were a century ago. The houses, the quiet streets, with places like Stern’s Gym on Granada mixed in. I have to run up the stairs to see inside Stern’s. It opened in 1946 and is said to be California’s oldest bodybuilding gym, still as Spartan and cheap as when Leo Stern welcomed a bunch of Mr. Universes and Arnold Schwarzenegger in to bodybuild the old-fashioned way. Below Stern’s, there’s the city’s reputedly oldest Chinese laundry, the New Life, where Tom Tran’s employees still wrap laundered sheets in brown paper and tie them up with ribbon.

One of the scrawny kids who walked into Stern’s in 1949 was Fred McLaren, who’s here visiting from Colorado. “I lived with my grandparents on 29th Street,” he says. “They were at 2761, about two blocks from University and one block from the North Park Theatre. Me and my gang used to dare each other to sneak in on roller skates while a movie was showing and skate from one fire door right across the screen, then out the other. We never got caught.”

The house at 2761 29th Street is still there, a Craftsman with the swing chair where young Fred’s grandpa smoked his cigars. The people who own it now bought the house from Fred’s grandparents. That means two owners in a century. How stable can a community be?

Even Claire de Lune, Claire Magner’s pioneering coffee place, which, when it opened in 1997, helped provoke a new generation’s move from the ’burbs back into North Park, sits in a Spanish Revival building at University and Kansas. It was built at about the same time as the North Park Theatre across the road. The high ceilings tell you about the department-store dreams Edward Newman was nurturing when the Crash of ’29 hit.

I drive with George Franck through the yet-to-be-officially-designated Dryden Historic District — a marvelous collection of houses that dates to around 1912, maybe five of them Craftsman houses, others Spanish Colonial Revival, others, California bungalows. They have certainly received plenty of TLC. “In the early period, it was fairly well-to-do people here,” says Franck. “They came up here because people believed in growth and because the trolleys made it easy. Up Park, along University, back down 30th. We should have those trolleys back.”

The climax of the tour is the Masonic Lodge, the Silver Gate. The Quayle Brothers, who designed the North Park Theatre, also designed this 1931 “zigzag”-style Art Deco ice cream cake of a monument that’s still used and looks as fresh as the day it was dedicated in 1932. South Park wasn’t into this scale of building in 1932, or even now.

So, is there really a discernible difference between the vibe of the two Parks, North and South?

I get back on the phone to see what Montgomery thinks. He runs with the Civil War conceit. He sees the differences between the two as being like, say, Chicago versus Charleston: North Park as the big, bawdy, brawny town, full of furious activity and creativity, versus the more gentle and genteel South Park. “Take Burlingame, with its pink sidewalks,” he says. “It’s always positioned itself as a place where doctors and lawyers would choose to live, a counterpoint to Banker’s Hill and Hillcrest and Mission Hills. It was another area close to the golf course. Slightly more settled, slightly superior.” Of course, Burlingame is technically North Park, being north of Juniper. But it is south of the natural frontier, Switzer Canyon. And, says Montgomery, it carries those southern airs well.

Defining the Difference

It’s late at night. At the Vagabond, just north of the North-South demarcation line, Juniper. People are still hanging around after South Park’s Walkabout. It’s been their most successful ever, say locals, in every way, including attendance. A gent in a top hat and French-striped shirt sits talking with friends on Vagabond’s crowded little patio. Derek Little is an artist who specializes in painting women’s bodies so they look as though they’re wearing clothes. Very hot in New York, where he’s from. He had to escape the madness there. Now he lives in North Park, though he seems to prefer South Park on this Walkabout night.

“In New York I don’t remember anything other than gallery walks where the entire community would be out doing something like [this] together. In New York, it’s all about making money. Community walkabout on a Saturday night? It’s unheard of. They can’t shut down their businesses to, like, entertain the neighbors! They have to pay the rent. And [sitting outside like this], it’d be a bombardment of car horns and people yelling at each other, and full of trash, too.”

He says South Park is like the West Village in New York. “More residential. Children are being born, couples are settling down, they own property. The East Village is more like North Park: students, a transient atmosphere, with things that come and go.

“There’s a lot of new energy going into North Park right now. Young people are buying houses, because a lot of homeowners are [getting old]. There’s a lot of change. I live between El Cajon and Adams. The recession really hit Adams, and El Cajon is old-school. But there are a lot of new storefronts right now. Of course, it’s still a lot more laid-back than New York. Too much? Well, I go back and forth about that. I have my days. I was a ‘hurry up’ kinda guy for many years. It tires you out.”

“I was born and raised in North Park,” says Sam Chammas. But he has chosen South Park for two of his businesses, Station Tavern & Burgers and the Whistle Stop Bar. “One thing my mom shared with me was how things have come full circle. In the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s, people would come from all over San Diego and go to the different bars and clubs and supper clubs that were in North Park. Bluefoot [Bar and Lounge, 3404 30th] used to be called Club 30, a little jazz-and-supper-club place. And all those venues that are bars now were bars and clubs then. I lived through the 99-cent-store era of North Park, and I’ve lived through the glory years of the North Park Theatre being opened, Palisade Gardens [the condo complex, at Utah and University, converted from apartments]. Now it’s the bar-restaurant era of North Park all over again.”

The difference between North Park and South Park? South Park, says Chammas, is easier, gentler. “Many of its core businesses are fortunate enough to have kind, fair landlords. It shows by the variety of mom-and-pop businesses there. In North Park, because it has always been a dense commercial area, I don’t think a lot of the businesses own the buildings they’re in. They’re always going to be at the mercy of a landlord.”

And, he says, the Brigadoon factor has helped keep South Park away from prying developer eyes. “There’s a purity to South Park. Because of its size and location. It’s not easy to find. It’s in a little nook. It’s not close to a freeway. Where 30th Street comes into South Park, it changes into Fern Street, jumps back, and people get lost. To find it, you’ve got to want to find it. So many people, especially in Whistle Stop and the Station, will tell me, ‘Omygosh! I’ve lived in San Diego all my life! And I never knew this was here.’ The difficult access filters out knuckleheads and people who aren’t appreciative of neighbors. North Park is just more intense. It can attract a greater knucklehead percentage. In South Park, so many business people have been able to buy their building. Myself, at Whistle and the Station, the great girls at the Dogwash — they were fortunate to buy their building. Joe Grant bought his [Grant’s Marketplace corner deli on Beech]. So what that means is you get less change, less turnover. We’re going to be here a while. South Park is smaller and more relaxed and chill.”

Maybe the most chill business of all is the oldest. You can catch Jinna Albright on her front porch, waving at you and saying “Hi!” just because you’re passing by on the road. She owns Thomas Bikes, the business Tom pointed out on the Walkabout trolley tour as the oldest in South Park. Indeed, it has been in operation since 1903 and at this location since 1937.

Jinna hasn’t been here that long, but she says she’s seen it all in South Park.

“Thirty years ago, when I first moved here, you were robbed all the time, there were bars on the windows. When I moved out, I told my husband I never wanted to move back again. But he’s a beat cop and he saw the changes coming and he said, ‘No, this is where we’re going to buy our house. Because this is the neighborhood everyone’s going to want to be in.’ So we bought our house for $155,000. That was in 2001. It was a case of, if you’re willing to buy the ugliest, oldest house in the neighborhood and you have a vision of making it pretty, you can get a house here...We’re definitely not North Park. The atmosphere is different. Like, I live on Fern Street, a busy street where people walk back and forth. So I can say hello from my front porch. It’s more like a little old English village.”

She knows climbing house prices and rents are affecting her world. “Judy [Forman] is right to fear gentrification. We have one guy who’s new in our neighborhood, an attorney. We were voting on new bylaws. And [at a recent meeting] he was raising his hand…he has no problems with cement buildings being put in and old houses being torn down. He raised his hand, and I looked at him, like, ‘Are you retarded, man? Go right back to New York.’ I mean, this is a beautiful neighborhood, and he’s all for five-story buildings moving in. But he was the only one, and we all looked at him, like, ‘Just because you’re an attorney…you need to get out.’ He’s trying to get involved in the community. But, no. Never going to happen. They’re never going to shit in my yard. Because I won’t allow it. This neighborhood is my yard, you know? And there are a lot of us [willing to fight]. Oh, yes. Judy is right on that point. We don’t need this. My mother ran Fern Street Florist for almost 20 years. She still [owns] her house here, but she moved. She thought people were just getting more snooty. She’s also one of those old-school Golden Hill people.

“It’s like me. I’ve been here a long time. And I’ve put a lot of work into this community, and then two bike shops pop up within two months of each other last year. How do you think it made me feel? So there’s that part of me that says, ‘Well, that’s growth,’ and you accept it, and another part of you that says, ‘No! I’ve been here a long time. This is my neighborhood.’ So there’s that push and pull with anything in life. But the big difference between us and North Park is that here you can still sit on your front porch and wave and say hi to people. That’s what I like about South Park. It’s like going down a country road. People feel warm inside. Warm-fuzzy.”

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Founder July 21, 2010 @ 4:20 p.m.

I've been living in North Park's Art District since the mid 80's and have also been actively serving on the Board of the NP PAC every year since it's inception. During that time, a very small group of locals that are very well connected with and supportive of the person serving on the City Council have been making most of the important decisions for the rest of North Park. During the last two years, North Park has lost many of it's artists and the "arts" have been replaced by Bars and Clubs as North Parks #1 attraction. This has been exciting (and very profitable) for their Owners but very worrisome for all the Residents that live within walking distance to the Business District itself.

NP-RID (Residential Improvement District) was formed because the traditional NP "Community" groups (NPCA, NPPC & NP-Mainstreet) have either supported and or watched our ABC problems increase without doing anything for all the impacted Neighborhood Residents. That is why NP-RID was formed and to date we have been so successful that we have received TV & Press coverage along with support from folks in other parts of San Diego and are now the first Residential Improvement District in California ...

I'm looking forward to the next ABC License Hearing and will encourage everyone to support each other and do what's good for our Residential Improvement District, not just what is good for NP's Business District. That "old thinking" is exactly what has happened in the past and is also exactly what has gotten US into the unacceptable situation we are now in. About 60 protestors have filled out the required URBN Protest paperwork and they, (not a very tiny pro business group), will get to attend that Hearing. They will be able to speak about all the issues of Late Night Bar/Club's and the impact of NP's Additional Crime is having on all of US!

NP-RID has partnered with the folks in Pacific Beach (who have more experience with ABC issues than any other part of San Diego) and I again invite everyone to visit their superb website: http://www.pbspirits.com/?p=1662 . There you will learn about what happens when ABC issues are allowed to be "divided up" by the local Business Owners. BTW: Did you know that one of the Owners that own a Club/Bars in PB also has a Bar/Club in NP? Last month, PB gave SD the best Community ABC meeting to date with "FACTS" not feelings plus they even had the Ventura County Police/Vice Officer (whose position is funded by the Alcohol Licensee's themselves, not the City!) discuss how they have solved most of their ABC problems + he included his before and after "stats" which are also part of his presentation. Here is a blog link that contains the video of that entire PB ABC Meeting: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/20... This meeting illustrates how every meeting in San Diego should be posted on the Web, so folks can find out what is going on in San Diego.


Roscoe July 30, 2015 @ 12:57 p.m.

Thank you for posting, my husband and I are definitely interested in this. He has owned his home since 1992 and has seen this very thing that you describe happening over the past 10 years. Families as well as artists who USED to be able to afford to live here have been priced out and what is taking their place is not 100 percent good for the community. Look at Ray Street, how many artists are still thriving there? Anyhow, I am interested. Regards!


Founder July 21, 2010 @ 4:25 p.m.

1 Con't.

Remember, PB is the only place in San Diego with more crime and more Alcohol Licenses than North Park, and there is ABC reason for that! We will continue to encourage & enable everyone and especially all those that live within walking distance to a nearby Business District to demand to be treated fairly! NP-RID (NP's Residential Improvement District) will help those who want to retain their Quality of Life and property values. Our motto is "No more Business as Usual", we also deserve equal treatment and will support only "Neighborhood Friendly" Local Business's. We will also continue to ask all the other Business Owners why they don't practice the Golden Rule instead of just dumping their patrons and parking problems on US!

NP-RID supports our all our Police & Vice Officers who are working short handed and often on longer shifts. They too are also frustrated with the level of Crime in North Park and we have met with Capt. Vasquez to see if we can support them to make them more successful. The first DUI sweep in NP resulted in 16 DUI's, 16 Automobile impoundments and a huge number of citations, so we all know we have a big problem! Finally, we also encourage our CD3 Councilmember Todd Gloria to get even more involved and help all of US solve our ABC related issues. NP-RID will continue to provide his office and other interested parties updates on our progress toward a Safer San Diego for all! If you would like to be added to NP-RID's email list, just email me or better yet send me your vCard...

Working Together We Can Be The Change We Deserve!

Thank YouAll Founder

BTW 3 suggestion for the good folks in South Park: 1. Like Little Italy allow only restaurants that close by midnight. 2. Insist on Self Managing any MAD you consider setting up. 3. Fight any increase in Zoning and or Density "improvements".

Be careful or you will lose the very things that make South Park cool!


HonestGovernment July 21, 2010 @ 4:53 p.m.

Interesting, but...three things: 1. To Judy: There are many poor people living here: they may not be able to afford paying to eat fried eggs and burgers in your restaurant, or go to Chammas' Station Tavern, but visit Gala, Millers, or Food Bowl often enough and you'll see plenty of EBT users. Go over to the Felton/Elm Street cul-de-sac to the low-income rentals and Golden Hill Villas (built and run by the CDC) and ask how many of the kids there are on the free-lunch/breakfast programs at Golden Hill Elementary. Lots. Most. The CDC you mention consists of members Keenan and Stansell, among others, who tout themselves as existing to "improve the quality of [your, my] life".) To fund improving our lives, Keenan, Stansell, and fellow CDCers (aided by City Planning) created an illegal MAD (according to a court decision), a private tax on all property owners. While the City appeals the court decision that ruled the MAD invalid, they are still taking ~half a million/year out of our pockets, via our property bills, giving it to the CDC to spend, and none of it can go into the General Fund to do real things (street repair, library services, sidewalk repair). MAD money lives up to its foolish name: it just goes for meaningless, decorative, CDC-promoting things. CDC, with City approval, just spent over $14,000 of our tax to paint the light poles a garish turquoise. Your life, improved! [cont]


_Spark_ July 21, 2010 @ 10:14 p.m.

I've always thought of the border between North Park and South Park as Switzer Canyon, not Juniper. Just seems a more natural dividing line.


HonestGovernment July 22, 2010 @ 7:45 a.m.

[cont] 2. To Bill Manson: There really is a discernible difference between North and South Park: the MADs and how much is taken from the property owners and how it is spent. [Founder, note: "Self-managed" is not the way to go! That is just what you get with the BIDs - a private group with no oversight calling all the shots.] If you want an assessment, get Park & Rec to set it up and run it! They will do it legally, by allowing only a capital project and its maintenance to be assessed for and funded. Park & Rec runs the NP MAD, starting on the north side of Juniper. The parcel owner where Mazara's is pays a NP MAD tax of $75/year. But directly across the street on the south side of Juniper, the Economic Development division/GH CDC run the South Park/Golden Hill MAD. They impose a $425 MAD tax on the Cali Liquor parcel owner. GH CDC charges almost 5x more, per parcel. Another example: the owner of the South Park parcel housing Rebecca's and El Camino pay a MAD tax to the CDC of $515. But the NP owners of the parcel housing The Grove and Daily Scoop pay only $92 to the NP MAD. That's a big difference. And Spark, it's a legal difference, not a state of mind.

  1. To Chammas: Very, very few of the SP businesses own the property they are in. (Another CDC booster, Ziegler, doesn't live here but owns whole blocks of apartments.) Lucky that your family had the money to buy GH and SP property (you don't live in South Park, but in GH) and run your own bars and taverns, but most other business owners in SP are renters. That includes Rebecca's, Big Kitchen, the former SP Bar and Grill (old owner in tax default; new business license owners from Diamond Bar), Alchemy, Hamilton's, and on and on.

Founder July 22, 2010 @ 8:10 a.m.

4. I totally agree with you but until now nobody has mentioned the B word (Burlingame). They are between Switzer Canyon and well, You! That neighborhood may be very small but they are also very connected. The folks that live there are insulated from Density, to the North, because they previously prevented any infill residential construction along the edges of Switzer Canyon and by you folks to the South! A large percentage of NP decision makers live there and they proudly vote to allow infill in other parts of NP knowing that it will never be allowed anywhere near them... That is why many have urged our CD 3 office to restructure the Boards of the NP-Planning Committee, the NP-MAD and even our NP-PAC, so that all these positions are filled "by district" instead of general election which now allows a very small group to "run" North Park with a smile on their face, because they can! All one has to do is look at where the public money has been spent over the last 10 years and you will instantly see that it has been mostly spent to upgrade the Business District at 30th and University Ave. instead of being equally spread all over North Park... The folks that live north of Lincoln Ave have continually gotten short changed when it comes to any quality of life improvements and are getting additional Density instead!


HonestGovernment July 22, 2010 @ 8:28 a.m.

One more thing - To Judy, concerning "poor" people in South Park: Not only are many of our good neighbors low-income-qualified renters, but there are people here who own or did own property and have lost their jobs. I know three personally, in a 3-block area. Two have lost their houses to foreclosure and have moved, and the other has struggled mightily but is hanging in there, barely surviving.

Others are in over their heads on mortgages and may or may not make it.

South Park runs from the north side of A Street to the south side of Juniper, and from 28th to the east side of Juniper Canyon. In this area, there are plenty of struggling home owners and absentee property owners. South Park is NOT just the CDC booster group revolving around the local realtors, Einstein charter school boosters, and the Mills Act tax-avoiding owners (mainly on 28th, Dale, Granada, Grove).

Also, Judy, what do you think about the fake "historic" clock out on the sidewalk in front of the Big K? MAD-assessed property owners are paying a hefty monthly electrical fee and contractual maintenance fee for that clock, which was purchased and installed in 1991 by the CDC. At that time, the CDC, whoever they were, went before the Council and swore that they would pay for all related costs forever. Shortly afterward, the clock got stuck at 2:30 and stayed that way, not running, until 2008, when the CDC got the MAD money from property owners and started charging us for the clock. Note that the time is wrong, and has been wrong since February, but who cares? It has no historic connection to South Park and no one needs it to know what time it is. Meaningless, useless MAD money.


Founder July 22, 2010 @ 8:37 a.m.


A self managed MAD with a limit on future increases of say $5 per year and a Board elected by District, instead of by "general election" or worse yet by appointment is the way to go, why pay 30 to 50% for management? It's much better to have a local private company do the work on an "as needed" basis and be responsible to the Local Community instead of getting mired down in more City red tape. MAD's should have small boundaries and that would prevent it's money being spent in another location by folks that don't care about local issues, only their on special interest projects!


HonestGovernment July 22, 2010 @ 8:39 a.m.

Founder: curiously, people who live in Burlingame lately say that they live in South Park. The guy who owns Vagabond lives on 30th at Laurel, in North Park's Burlingame, but recently was in a news story in which he said both Vagabond AND his home were in South Park! Why? Greater North Park legally extends down to the north side of Juniper. All property owners in that NP area pay into the NP MAD, and they should be glad. If they want to be in South Park, they have to pay up (5x more).


Founder July 22, 2010 @ 8:42 a.m.

By the way, I'd like to say, this stories Photo was great!


HonestGovernment July 22, 2010 @ 8:47 a.m.

Founder, agree on your idea, but that is NOT the way it works in San Diego. A very rigid system exists, and you can't change it just because your idea is sensible.

The "self-managed" MADs automatically turn over 15% of all assessments to the private managers and 4% to the City's Economic Development division. The 15% "Administrative fee" doesn't even begin to cover what the private management group is allowed to take. They are reimbursed for far, far more, as "expenses."


Founder July 22, 2010 @ 9:18 a.m.

9 Honest Gov't.

That's because South Park is now COOLER than NP! Why: Less Crime Less Late Night Noise Less Bar/Club Blight Less Traffic Less Density Less Parking Blight Less Planned "Improvements" Less, Less, Less


Founder July 22, 2010 @ 9:26 a.m.

11 Honest Gov't.

Take a look at how great a job Little Italy's MAD is doing for them and then try to find a better managed MAD anywhere in SD! Plus, they have their own Private Manager so they can "keep the money in the family"...


Founder July 22, 2010 @ 10:11 a.m.

Honest Gov't. Check out this great example of how the City allows these Big Districts to operate with "Our" money (with approval of the Council Office):



HonestGovernment July 22, 2010 @ 10:26 a.m.

Uh, Founder. Not. Little Italy. It isn't a legit MAD, by State law. It's one of the Economic Development's illegit MADs. It's what should have been formed as a PBID, because that's how the money is spent. Do the research. If you want to form a PBID, fine. BUT: It is formed with quite more stringent protocols, compared to MADs. And therein lies the story.


Founder July 22, 2010 @ 11:10 a.m.

15 Honest Gov't., I've never even heard of a PBID!

So kudos to you for being in the know!

Perhaps what would be really helpful is to describe the "ideal" management model is and then ask our Leaders why they are opposed to doing things right!

Thanks again for a superior post!


Founder July 22, 2010 @ 11:13 a.m.

By the way, here a link about the latest on the Parking Wars saga: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/20...


aquarimary July 22, 2010 @ 11:55 a.m.

Funny that "Judy" comments first on there not being any poor people left in South Park.... ever been in to the Big Kitchen? We went one time and couldn't believe the prices! My family couldn't afford to eat there... so Judy- think about it.Also, we took some visiting friends to Hamililtons because they had heard about it, and it turned out to be a very "un-neighborly" place where the people definitly were snooty to us because we weren't "from there"


HonestGovernment July 22, 2010 @ 12:38 p.m.

Thanks, Founder. You do good work, too, and your cause is just. Just be careful what you ask for.

Very important: The Cal State Laws define very specifically PBIDs and their formation protocols and how the assessments can be spent, just as they define these things for MADs. The two are very different in legal formation protocols and in legal application of assessments. In PBID law, STREETS AND HIGHWAYS CODE SECTIONS 36600-36671, see esp. Section 36621. (You need a petition signed by property owners who will pay more than 50% of the assessment to even initiate a PBID formation process. MAD law is covered in Cal Gov Code Sections 53750-53754. There is no such petition threshold requirement. A Business Association or other nonprofit can just decide to get issue before Council w/o any community backing whatsoever. At least, in San Diego.)

In 1998 and 2003, Mr. Little Italy himself, Marco "New City America" Li Mandri, got then City Atty Casey Gwinn to rewrite/Council to approve changing the SD Muni Code so that it would contradict (violate) State law concerning what MAD funds could be spent on. No Muni Code can supersede State law, duh! But such chicanery gives a complicit Council an "out" to vote for something that is nevertheless illegal per State law. Especially when the City Atty says it's OK!

Read: http://docs.sandiego.gov/memooflaw/ML-98-11.pdf This resulted in O–18523 being amended June 8 1998, under Mayor Susan Golding (“Maintenance Assessment Districts” title amended 6–8–1998 by O–18523 New Series.)

Then: ORDINANCE O-19169, introduced April 21 2003 (See Report from the City Attorney dated 2/7/2003; and letter from Marco LiMandri dated 9/30/2002:

"On 2/12/2003, LU&H voted 5 to 0 to amend the existing Municipal Code provisions governing Maintenance Assessment Districts to allow assessments to be levied and used for parking, marketing and promotion, and economic development...At the February 12, 2003 Land Use and Housing Committee, a Report was submitted by the City Attorney's Office regarding maintenance assessment districts [MAD]. The Report, dated February 7, 2003, addressed a proposal to amend the San Diego Municipal Code to enable the creation of a new form assessment district. The Committee directed the City Attorney to prepare an amendment to the Municipal Code to expand the definition of the term "improvement" for MADs. The term "improvement" is to be expanded to allow for a variety of facilities, services, and activities to be maintained within a MAD..."

Enter Jim Waring, Bill Anderson, Jay Goldstone, Jerry Sanders, and the ex-BID Council president, Kessler, into the Economic Development division, and the “self-managed” MADs really launched! The BIDs, including LiMandri’s Little Italy Assoc, started collecting property taxes and spending them on the same things that the BIDs spent them on. New City America realized some nice new contract dollars from this.


Founder July 22, 2010 @ 1:43 p.m.

Thanks Honest Gov't.

I agree, if we got no "new improvements" (Density) then in 5 years we would be MUCH better off than we will be with those improvements...

Since the City cannot provide enough facilities now it is a "Given" that they will not be able to provide them later at increased prices. So what we are seeing now is the selling off of our quality of life so the City can have more folks to tax!

My Crystal ball is now full of this: .. In-lieu parking fees but no new parking. .. New Density for our own good, even if we don't want it. .. increased Crime due to less enforcement. .. additional citations because they generate money. .. more Density located away from the Wealthy.

and I don't see much of this: .. Open Gov't. .. Additional (New) park and or open space. .. Quality of Life improvements equally spread around. .. Trust in Gov't. to do the Right thing. .. Reduction of Business Blight, in our Neighborhoods


HonestGovernment July 22, 2010 @ 2:57 p.m.

Founder, You said it all. Perfectly. We will fight the density and the ridiculous anti-local-business destruction of free parking. Whether we will win is a question. Council is shaping up to be worse than ever...Frye gone, Gloria, Faulconer, and DeMaio calling the shots for the developers, Emerald, Young, and ? kow-towing, and ... Hueso, Atkins, and Vargas doing their best from the next level of corruption to aid and abet what they started. Peters the next "strong" mayor? Bleh.


Founder July 22, 2010 @ 3:21 p.m.

Honest, that just what San Diego needs, I can see it now: Strong Peters for Mayor!


nan shartel July 22, 2010 @ 4:50 p.m.

i lived in South Park in the 80's...it was mostly gay and A OK

i adored South Park then...little gay men's bars who didn't mind a neighborhood woman comin' in for a drink..an Italien Retaurant with early day order take out.. Lasagna with the authenticity of chick peas

our apartment sat on a canyon and had a high deep wooden porch on the back with a queen size bed under a canopy of Eucalyptus trees perfect on a starry nite for whispering..cooing.relishing the breezes and love making

i wonder if it's still there???


nan shartel July 22, 2010 @ 4:53 p.m.

and Founder...i think ur gonna be a legend here at the READER in ur own time homey ;-()


Founder July 22, 2010 @ 5:36 p.m.

24 Time is but the stream I go wishin' in...

I think it would be very cool if folks considered a "return to better daze" and everyone that used to live in North or South Park returned for a visit and then join each other for a party at Morley Field:


Kind of a "Remember When, Park Party"...

I'll ask, what do you all say return to another day.

If interested, give a shout come visit and walkabout.

Please don't try to refrain walking down memory lane.

For you it should be a must like keeping the Public trust.

I expect you be there together we can share.

Come to the Park Party till Dark.

Just like the old daze with less of a haze!

What do you say, Hip, Hip Hooray!


Founder July 23, 2010 @ 7:37 a.m.

26 See my previous post #2 above

"Remember, PB is the only place in San Diego with more crime and more Alcohol Licenses than North Park, and there is ABC reason for that!"

North Park is already "just" behind PB now and NP-RID is hard at work to make sure we don't get more like PB; in fact I'd love it if we could somehow become like South Park is now!

With the 30th St. Upcoming Mobility Study, South Park also gets put on the Planning Block so please get mobilized now or South Park will suffer the same fate as North Park; all the old and cool, being "improved" by new Density Blight that is only good for the Business Owners...


Founder July 23, 2010 @ 11:51 a.m.


Please call the Office of our Strong Mayor and ask him to do US a big favor.

"What is happening with our money" (and I'm not trying to be funny)?

Hopefully they would return your call, and not decide or be told to stall!

Hopefully we have a Right to know because we live in San Diego!


BlueSouthPark July 23, 2010 @ 2:25 p.m.

I'd like to speak to labels - "hippies," "yuppies," "old people." I've made friends with neighbors who bought houses here in South Park in the 1980s, when they were in their 30s. They say they embraced and really enjoyed the older people who then were their new neighbors in the 80s, people in their 60s and 70s. Those people had been in South Park since after WW II, and they had many stories to tell. Now in their 60s, my neighbors talk of how most of the new 30-somethings buying here just seem to think that the "old" people should get out, if the ideas of the 30-somethings aren't pleasing. It's ugly. There is a lot to learn from people who have been here for a long time, and I enjoy it and appreciate the long-time owners. Some of the development-type boosters here are the 30-somethings who just want their property values to escalate. They resent the lower property taxes paid by long-time owners. It's mean. I'd say, drop the labels. Oh, and one of my older neighbors asks, since back in the 80s they were labeled "yuppies," how come they are now being labeled "hippies"?


Founder July 23, 2010 @ 3:13 p.m.

30 BlueSouthPark

N&S Park Calling!

What you say is all true, They say mean things to you.

I've had them say such to me, other view points they don't see.

You better fully support their game or they will surely call you a name!

Too many of these new folks don't even care no matter what you do, to them, it's not fair!

For long time Residents, it's just not Right that we get stuck with all their Business Blight!

We helped make this area what it is, why should we now be stuck with their new Biz?

It's sad, our area is changing, that's for sure, too bad it's the Bars and Clubs that are now the lure!

What will South and North Park's future be I guess we'll just have to wait and see...


jmtrudeau July 23, 2010 @ 4:55 p.m.

Big Kitchen = Over priced blah food and super rude and slow service. I used to live in South Park but left because nothing is open after 9pm except for a couple bars.


Founder July 23, 2010 @ 6:05 p.m.

32 JMT

Post Resident Post

You are into the late night scene tell US what about that is so keen.

Where are you living now what about it is so WOW?

I would really like to know, perhaps one day, I can go.

So please share, tell US all where,

in order that we can visit there; hopefully they would not gawk and stare!


Founder July 23, 2010 @ 6:24 p.m.



So. Park Lucky

Thanks To You Too

South Park is now really very lucky to have a Resident that's not sucky!

It seems funny to say, but way back in the day,

there were more that used to take some pride than today when folks get so snide!

I like new folks like you, keep doing what you do!


BlueSouthPark July 23, 2010 @ 7:35 p.m.

You are very, very good! Totally, totally cool. Cool fact: My neighbor who bought in SP in the 1980s showed me where her older neighbors said that their kids' horses grazed the grass on the easement in the 1950s, and where her husband would come home form work at the StarKist tuna cannery and go up to Snippy's for a snort of beer.. We all need this kind of continuity of history to keep us grounded. The same neighbor said she wished Snippy's would be shut down, ...and I say, no more bars!


nan shartel July 23, 2010 @ 8:17 p.m.

diversified neighborhoods...ethically..and age related..sexually oriented or otherwise make for some mighty tasty Societal soup

it's the kind where money doesn't enter into the kitchen..each one brings their own special ingredients to add to the pot

what sights!!!

what sounds!!

what a neighborhood feast!!!

many an older beatnik lived there when i did...the intellectual beasts

not ready to live on their laurals as only obscure references in Wikipedia

as a San Francisco resident during the days of gatherings at Powell's Bookstore and The Bread and Wine Mission i felt right at home

the 30's somes were yuppies... young city or suburban residents with a well-paid professional job and an affluent lifestyle.

they were not hippies

they were the "Baby Boomers"

those born after WW2 and before Viet Nam

the shock and awe birth years of population growth...hahahahahahaha

oh my gawd...were old now!!!

so i guess according to some i can't move back to South Park

i can only watch it on TV


nan shartel July 23, 2010 @ 8:21 p.m.

and jmtrudeau...rolling up the sidewalks at 9:PM is the sign of a REAL neighborhood!!!


Founder July 24, 2010 @ 8:59 a.m.

Regarding #37, #38 & #39

-- Continuing comments --

Nan, You were up way past my bedtime, now it's kinda early for a rhyme.

But here is another short one from me, for all your great points for others to see.

Reading these comments each day, we each wonder what to say,

Should we write and say this or that, hoping for a tip of the hat.

A quick suggestion, if I may, Speak from the Heart, is what I say.

Tell US what is best for our City, instead of something very witty,

better to believe in what you write, than post something silly or contrite!


nan shartel July 24, 2010 @ 11:27 a.m.

founder u never flounder when poetry u write

a tip of the hat

a smile and this and that

i like ur style

u do beguile

as u ask for our best

thoughts of how to feather our nest

in North Park or South Park

what do WE want to see

as it ever CHANGES to what it's going to be

i guess i do like the non density idea Founder....it wasn't wide open spaces when i lived there...no horses trimming the grass for me...but that deeply resonant feeling of diversified NEIGHBORHOOD was delicious for me


nan shartel July 24, 2010 @ 11:32 a.m.

and to the author

Bill Manson...this a well written delicious neighbor piece in itself ...KUDOS!!!

i love it!!!


Founder July 24, 2010 @ 3:17 p.m.

Regarding #41 & #42 this additional bit of poetry is just for you

To ex South Park nan whose still a big fan...

Residents of both Parks are, "like" real frustrated so far,

unless we mobilize today, we will be left without a say.

The City has Big Plans, for them it is a must, but for our Quality Of Life it is a bust.

We tell them often, "less is more", they won't listen and just get sore,

so what exactly can we do except talk until we are Blue!

For each and everyone living in our "Park", they care not for US until they reach their mark.

So for now you all have been warned, don't allow yourself to be scorned!

If you love our Neighborhood as I do, demand that your Rep listen and stays true.

If you too believe that this is right just, "Say NO to Additional Blight"!

They will smile and say, look at things "our" way,

Their only Business you see is increasing Density,

They will push for any building whim even if it's only good for them.

It's Progress they all say, "so don't get in our way",

but if enough of US will not follow suit, we can together give their ideas the boot!

Now more than ever, it's VERY true both South and North Park needs ALL of YOU...


nan shartel July 24, 2010 @ 5:20 p.m.

this makes me all sad in my South Parkese homey

can i write anyone even tho i live in~~shutters~~ Lakeside


Founder July 25, 2010 @ 8:36 a.m.

Regarding #44

--What Do We Do --

Ex South Park nan, of course you can,

just by posting all your memories and kind words here others may learn to now protect all that they hold dear.

So many are too busy working for their pay, to help protect the very place where they live today.

I believe this blog story and it's comments will help spread the word, then more folks may get interested, even if they are a nerd!

When neighborhood folks work one by one, the current system makes it no fun,

but gathering together in a large group will work, because then, no one, not even a Councilmember will call you a jerk!

So for all of you wondering what each of you can do, I say get active, talk to your friends and ask what is true.

If enough folks question the status quo and take up the call, then both South and North Park will surely become the best of all.


nostalgic July 25, 2010 @ 5:29 p.m.

Reply to #28: The Greater Golden Hill MAD, found to be unlawful in Superior Court, has been appealed by the City and will be heard by the Appeals COurt at a date still to be determined. The end of this year is the EARLIEST expected date. Because the judge did not specify the remedy, the city continues to tax and spend pending the appeal. As the finding is based on a California Supreme Court decision, it is likely that the current MAD will be declared illegal. However, it would take yet another lawsuit to get the city to pay back the money it has spent.


Founder July 26, 2010 @ 12:22 p.m.

RE: #46

-- MAD Tax --

We all know Lady "Justice" is blind you know but these days, she is also moving real slow...

Maybe the IBA will tell the City to give their MAD Appeal the ax, and to refund all the money they've been collecting from that illegal tax!

It might make, The Greater Golden Hill MAD, but for the all the Residents, they'd be glad.


tatlar July 26, 2010 @ 1:40 p.m.

I don't buy the whole North Park - South Park community divide. In the context of business and development funds fair enough, but this article is being divisive on a community basis as well which does not help anyone. I live in North Park and love it - I have friends who own businesses in the community who love it too. Many of my close friends live and work in Golden Hill (aka South Park) and I love it there as well. My wife and I enjoy riding our bikes and walking the dog between the two, visiting long time friends along the way. The only thing spoiling both communities are the influx of outsiders on the weekends who have little care for the havens so many have worked so tirelessly to nuture and cause trouble in places that facilitate it.


jmtrudeau July 26, 2010 @ 3:03 p.m.

My rant isn't about the night life, it was about the fact there is nothing open with in walking distance past 9pm other than bars or the 7-11. Had a few incidents where I needed a drug store and had to drive up into North Park. Also, the hipsters are invading South Park and ruining it "Oohh, look at me I'm so cool that I don't enjoy anything that is popular and oohh I'm so cool I wear sweaters and scarves when its 95º outside, and stop sign smop sign I just ride my bike through. Kind of why I stopped going to Hamiltons if it was after 8pm because it gets really douchey in there at night.

Where do I live now?? On the Cusp of North Park and Normal Heights. Where do I do to "Get my drink on" maybe 3 to 4 nights a month? Lou Jones, Rosie O'gradys, Ould Sod, and Blind Lady Ale House. I personally detest most of the 30th street bars.


Founder July 27, 2010 @ 7:17 a.m.

Regarding #48

I don't see "this article is being divisive" at all, but rather an attempt to describe the differences between the too. I was hoping that more Residents from "our" area would add their comments because the small cross section of folks interviewed in the story gave less than a fair representation of what really HAPPENING here...

I do agree with your description of the "spoilers" and the Business's that are attracting them that are dumping upon our area! I'd also add that the Planning Departments attempts to increase our Density and re-route traffic through our neighborhoods will only have a negative affect upon all of US that live nearby a Business District; sadly a number of locals have and continue to support these reductions in our quality of life because they support Business growth over our Residential Neighborhoods.


Founder July 27, 2010 @ 7:32 a.m.

Regarding #49 Welcome back and thanks for sharing your new found digs.

  1. I think you are wise to relocate up North of El Cajon Blvd. as that area still has much of the same "charm" that other parts of the "Parks" have lost, due to New Density and the Late Night Bar/Club scene.

  2. I also agree the 30th Street is fast becoming the new "Grand Garnet" Party Street of our area. Soon if nothing is done to limit new alcohol licenses, it may even take over the title of Booze Blvd. from Pacific Beach since we now have Party Buses bringing folks to drink.

  3. If we can limit the number of new places that open, especially those that stay open after Midnight, then the "Parks" may again become the Neighborhood where we all want to live instead of the place we all used to live...


Founder July 27, 2010 @ 7:08 p.m.

Regarding #52 That was really kind of You!

It for me, Blue South Park, it's lots of fun, a Lark;

and since it is now still daylight out, perhaps one day, I'll see you about.

Enjoy the great light, I bid you Good Night...


spswede July 28, 2010 @ 4:56 p.m.

Hi! I have lived on 31st Street between Grape and Elm,for 20 years, and I love it here! Sure, we have some plane noise, but no late night party noise! I DO prefer South Park to North Park, just because it is a bit quaint and quiet, but not dull! Thank goodness that the planned sale of Gala Supermarket, that almost happened about ten years ago, didn't materialized! Can you who live here, see a Ralph's with underground parking and condos on top of it, at that site?! GLAD it didn't happen! South Park should NEVER be trendy!! Bjorn Palenius


Founder July 28, 2010 @ 6:15 p.m.

Regarding #54, BP Please, please consider telling US lots more.

I love all of what you say, about keeping things this way!

To all folks, please spread the word, tell 'em, "you heard it from a bird"!

Said by the talking Lark, "Please Save North and South Park"

Tweet Tweet


pthornton2652 Aug. 1, 2010 @ 7:47 p.m.

WOW .. Judy seems to accept few to her community; her remarks turned so ugly. Does she only accept the poor because she certainly sounds prejudice against professionals? Her words almost seem like a joke considering that I too felt offended by the Big Kitchen's over-priced meals and rude service. Maybe, ironic?


Gibson2dot0 Aug. 8, 2010 @ 4:35 p.m.

Dear Reader/s,

I would like to read an article about Judy and everything that she has done for Golden Hill.

I talked to a teacher that used to work for Brooklyn Elementary (before it was turned into the Einstein Academy) and she said that back in the day Judy used to do all kinds of fundraising and grantwriting for the school too. It leads me to ask, what and how much has she REALLY done for the community?

I don't think I could name a person who is more in touch with the community-- socially or economically-- than Judy. She's a ex-social worker who isn't afraid of dealing directly with the poor, the gangs, and other "undesirables." If anything it sounds like it is more of a passion of hers TO DEAL with them. She seriously laments that the area has become TOO gentrified. She's genuinely sorry that the poor people got pushed out.

-- Note: Anyone that want's to argue that, "poor people still live here" should focus their argument against the article's claims not Judy's. It is a major theme of this article that the area has gentrified i.e. House prices go up, gangs/crime goes down, poor people pushed out. Judy is just calling things as she sees it.--

She's a local business owner that is sensitive to the business climate of the area AND is still deeply active in the community (Corporate Social Responsibility - anyone, anyone? Bueller? Bueller?)

As for everyone here that assumes that Judy charges ridiculously high prices which poor people can't afford: Clearly you don't go to the BK very often. If you did you might know that Judy often, personally discounts her prices to those she thinks need it or deserve it. Whether they're poor or they just "don't have enough cash" to cover their bill.

Yes, I am a fan of Judy's. And Yes, I know Judy isn't perfect but she is neighborhood legend and I think she deserves some more time in the spotlight.


Founder Aug. 8, 2010 @ 7:24 p.m.

Reply #57 Tip of the hat to BOTH You & Judy...


jmtrudeau Aug. 12, 2010 @ 12:56 p.m.


So when I end up paying $30 (not including tip, I rarely stiff servers but they were awful) for two orders of 2 eggs bacon and brown rice with coffee and only to be ignored by our server who is standing 4 feet away wasn't bad enough, now your telling me that I subsidized "those she thinks need it or deserve it." Pure crap. I ate there twice and had identical experiences.


opassons Aug. 12, 2010 @ 4 p.m.

Full disclosure: I own a home in North Park, am trying to run a business that connects the area, and I am generally not a conspiracy theorist. I like South Park, alot. The business owners are friendly and it is just not a pretentious place at all. I don't know why some people are so upset about calling it South Park, it is both part of Golden Hill and has its own identity, what's the problem? I agree with whoever said that the whole "divide" issue is much more about official and pseudo-official groups than about people. Ask 500 people in the area if they like Toronado or Ritual or Alchemy or Blind Lady or Viva Pops or Daily Scoop and the majority will say "yes, glad to have them." And my experience is most don't care to fight over the differences between North Park, South Park or the other parts of the extended area.

There's alot more positive that can be done to help our entire corridor thrive, both from a business standpoint and in terms of protecting our open space and quality of life. We would do well to find commonality rather than focusing so intently on eachother's warts. Most days I don't have to use a car to go anywhere in this area, which is a byproduct of having bike friendly places around that let you feel like you are part of a community, not just living somewhere. For those who feel like the area is losing its soul, all I can say is for every jerk who stumbles through at 1AM on Friday treating our neighborhoods like a trash can, I regularly meet 2 or 3 new families or small business owners who put their hearts into the area.


jmickles12 Sept. 3, 2010 @ 1:21 p.m.

"Apart from sending Whoopi Goldberg out of RACIST San Diego to San Francisco to be discovered"


I'm glad that the reader had the balls to print it up, and the balls of Judy to speak her mind.


Founder Sept. 4, 2010 @ 10:37 a.m.

Reply #61 Good comment, now if we could get many more folks to read the online reader and add their comments, we all would benefit!


PirateJenny June 12, 2011 @ 9:36 a.m.

Here it is a year later and I find this article. Please tell me South Park is doing well?! I sit in the center of the suburbs, in the center of the south and plot my escape ! I have 2 years till my son graduates High school and plan to break a land speed record getting out :-) The more I research, the more I am convinced that South Park is for me ! See you in 2014


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