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The San Diego City Council passed an “abatement of abandoned properties” ordinance unanimously on October 2. It makes abandoned properties (structures and empty lots) subject to the same city code sections regulating vacant properties.

Vacant properties are unoccupied but are available for lease or sale. Abandoned properties usually involve “code or public nuisance violations” and many are “boarded” up.

With passage of the ordinance, buildings such as the long-empty Pernicano's and Casa di Baffi restaurants will have to be cleaned up. The former eateries — on Sixth Avenue between University and Robinson avenues — closed more than 25 years ago and remain empty and vandalized. The site is owned by George Pernicano, who also owns 3 percent of the Chargers.

The new ordinance states that “Vacant structures which are boarded or are located on properties with code and public nuisance violations are a blight and cause deterioration and instability in neighborhoods.”

Owners will be required to remove litter, waste, and graffiti, post “no trespassing” signs on the property, and file a “statement of intent” with the city. Fines for continued code and nuisance violations would start at $500 per property, up to a maximum of $5000 per year.

I talked to Alan Bilmes, co-owner of City Delicatessen at 535 University Avenue, adjacent to the Pernicano-owned property. “We want to see redevelopment of the site, especially a hotel,” said Bilmes. He said the rundown property “hurts our business.” He added that vermin live in the building and “aggressive panhandlers” hang out in front of the old Casa di Baffi, which has its entrance on Fifth Avenue.

Luke Terpstra, chairman of the Hillcrest Town Council, said via email: “The Hillcrest Town Council is pleased with this new ordinance. Properties can sit in ruin or decay, looking horrible for the neighborhood and causing all sorts of problems. Just because the owners or property managers or lenders are not ready to deal with it, it does not mean that the neighbors have to look at it.”

Realtor Stanley Paul Cook represents the Pernicano family regarding this property. Cook emailed a year ago: “At this time the family is dealing with some significant health care issues and everything is on hold...with two parents in their mid 90s there are real challenges almost every day.”

Cook did not respond to a new request for comment.

Video of the building:

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SanCarlosGuy Oct. 2, 2012 @ 9:16 p.m.

I'm sorry to hear the Pernicanos are going through a difficult family time. However, after 25 years, the property needs to be flattened, sold or renovated. These properties are eyesores in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood. I hope they come to their senses soon and remedy this blight.


dwbat Oct. 2, 2012 @ 9:39 p.m.

If/when it happens, Hillcrest residents and business owners will be dancing in the streets!


mngcornaglia Oct. 2, 2012 @ 10 p.m.

Finally. It took the city too long to act on this problem, thus far. How much longer...


Javajoe25 Oct. 2, 2012 @ 11:43 p.m.

It's true; that miserable eyesore needs to be transformed into...something! Especially since Hillcrest badly needs more public parking spaces, plus, it would give someone a chance to try a new business.

Sometimes I wonder if the Pernicano's purposely let that building sit there as a big memorial to who they once were. Nothing but an ego trip, and obviously no real concern about the neighborhood and what the community might want or need.


Ian Pike Oct. 3, 2012 @ 7:25 a.m.

I must be the only person in town who thinks that Pernicanos is a novelty, the real estate version of a decorative antique. I'd rather see it there, stoically refusing to accept the passage of time, than another Starbucks or Denny's.


Jane Belanger Oct. 3, 2012 @ 8:27 a.m.

I couldn't agree more, Ian. It's my favorite part of Hillcrest.


dwbat Oct. 3, 2012 @ 9:08 a.m.

There is NOT going to be a Starbucks or Denny's there. Hillcrest already has a Starbucks and Denny's is in North Park. A paved parking lot would be a big improvement over that property. And the City Council agreed 100%.


Javajoe25 Oct. 3, 2012 @ 9:50 a.m.

A novelty? That place is a dump. What do you find novel about a building with broken windows and the stench of urine in the doorways?

Let someone go in there and refurbish that place and put in a cool business, and then you will have a novelty. I think a large bicycle shop would do really well there. I'm getting kind of tired of all the restaurants. And definitely not another Starbucks! Otherwise, a facility that offers classes such as painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. Something like they have in North Park or the Bravo School in NTC (?). Truth is, anything would be better than that big reminder of abandonment and decline. To me, that place is now an ode to death. Not cool by a long shot.


William Howell Oct. 3, 2012 @ 10:09 a.m.

Those of you who are interested might look up a piece done by "About San Diego" on PBS about this situation. Mr. Pernicano apparently "went off the deep end" when his long time chef passed away totally unexpectedly. He literally shooed everyone out of the restaurant, locked the doors, and never went back. Apparently the interior is just as it was left. Kind of like a time warp.

His kids and managers have for years tried to get him to do something with the property, but he wouldn't have it. I guess the pain was just too much for him and he "snapped".

Years ago, he probably should have had a conservator named and the business taken over and properly disposed of. That didn't happen, but now it looks like the problem is finally going to be solved.

Don't throw stones. I don't think it was selfish, I think there was some serious mental health issues involved. He's done a lot for the community, let's cut him some slack in his final years.


Visduh Oct. 3, 2012 @ 1:53 p.m.

Really, that story doesn't sound like anything the old man would have done. And losing the chef from one of the restaurants would not have had much effect on the other. And, yes, there were two distinctly different restaurants there, the Casa di Baffi being priced on par with Lubach's and the Grant Grill in that time frame. There were mental problems there if you classify being a total jerk a "mental health issue". He had a high-handed attitude toward the public for many years before those eateries closed. He'd brook no complaints--even though there were many--with the brushoff, "If you don't like it, don't come back." He had confided in some people who were friends, or what passed for friends with him, that he'd lost money on the Casa for as long as it was open. He kept it so that the Chargers would go there, along with some local bigwigs, and he could rub elbows with people who would not have otherwise paid him the time of day. Even his own kids would have nothing to do with those restaurants! So, he kept the real estate there, unoccupied, a blot on the neighborhood. Why? Well, he was, after all, a total jerk.

This step by the city is a good one, but the family will probably meet the minimum requirements of the ordinance with clean up and maybe a bit of fresh paint. When George is no longer around to be the grand obstructionist, the property will be sold or leased and put to good use. Until then, those will sit there looking just about the way they do now.


musicguru99 Oct. 3, 2012 @ 6:37 p.m.

He didn't want to sell because he was stubborn. I knew one of the son in laws that is married to one of the daughters. He told his family as long as I am alive the property will never be sold.


onebadscientist Oct. 29, 2014 @ 6:08 p.m.

Heard he was a homophobe and this was his f u to the area. Sad.


clockerbob Oct. 4, 2012 @ 10:13 a.m.

I live in that part of town. There are numerous vacant business structures where fifth and fourth ave crosses university. (UNION BANK) Didn't Mr. Pernicano let the city turn the parking lot into a paid lot. There are six hamburger joints within walking distance of Pernicano's and Casa di Baffi restaurants maybe they could turn it into an IN AND OUT burger joint.


Javajoe25 Oct. 4, 2012 @ 2:52 p.m.

What? An IN N' OUT? Actually, it wouldn't surprise me. There seems to be some kind of "herd mentality" going on in Hillcrest with multiple hamburger joints opening all in one season. If that place has to be another food joint, then I say PIZZA! There is no such thing as too many pizza joints. Yum!


dwbat April 23, 2014 @ 7:28 p.m.

Maybe a boutique hotel would work there. Hillcrest sure needs that. I go by the site often, and just think: What a waste this is, and such an eyesore!


dwbat Oct. 5, 2012 @ 12:25 p.m.

I think the property is too valuable to put in a pizza place (which it was before). A major development is more likely its future.


dwbat Nov. 3, 2012 @ 12:57 p.m.

Here's another example of an unsightly abandoned property, this one located in North Park at 3926 1/2 - 3928 1/2 Mississippi Street.


dwbat Sept. 4, 2014 @ 9:09 p.m.

Amazing that it's finally going up for sale! It should get a hefty price. There will be a Hillcrest hoedown celebration when the bulldozer arrives.


dwbat Sept. 14, 2014 @ 9:01 a.m.

Their new marketing website lists an asking price of $12 million. http://www.uptownpernicanos.com/ I took this photo thorugh a window two years ago. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/users/p...


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