“I joke that if I have to go anywhere past the 125, then I’m going to pack a bottle of water and a snack,” she says. “I even found a gym closer than the 125.”
Jill lives two miles (or four minutes, according to Mapquest) from the Eastlake Village Marketplace, a shopping area at the northwest corner of Eastlake Parkway and Otay Lakes Road. This intersection is one-tenth of a mile east of the Otay Lakes exit off the 125. Another tenth of a mile down the road, just under the overpass, on the left-hand side of the street, stands the LA Fitness sports club, where Jill was once a member but never could get herself to go. By Mapquest, that gym is a four-minute drive from Jill’s home.
“I just never went,” she says.
So she searched and found the Institute of Health and Fitness, which is even closer, near the post office, in a strange business park near the design district, where large warehouse spaces house gymnasiums, furniture stores, and temporary tax offices.
Jill’s new gym is 1.3 miles from her home.
“It’s like Cheers,” she laughs. “Everybody knows your name.”
Besides City Farmers, Jill says the only other reason to leave Eastlake is for two of her favorite kinds of food. And if she didn’t have to, she wouldn’t.
“If I could have Ethiopian and Indian [in Eastlake], I’d be home-free,” she says.
In March 2012, a user who goes by the handle “thepinksquid” started a thread in a forum on City-Data.com. The subject line read, “I’ll be blunt. Why is Eastlake/Otay Ranch so cheap?” She explained that she and her husband had been looking to purchase a house and couldn’t understand why, with so many conveniences, newer construction, and so few negatives (“except for the obvious, that it’s kind of bland and far out”), the house prices are so much lower than other parts of the county.
Echo42 suggested that the stigma of being a “thoroughfare for illicit border crossings more than 15 years ago” might be what’s keeping the area from being as desirable to the masses as it might otherwise be, “especially being within five miles of the border.”
Oddstray wrote, “Eastlake simply hasn’t yet had an opportunity to prove itself to be ‘a good place to live.’ After this financial mess calms down, which may take several years, I think, then whoever buys there at today’s prices will own a gem.”
Hitman619 wrote, “I think the biggest problem people have with Eastlake/Otay Ranch is race. Eastlake/Otay Ranch racial makeup is mostly Asian/Mexican Americans, with some whites and blacks mixed in.”
Kettlepot, who listed proximity to the border, foreclosures, and high Mello Roos fees among the reasons for lower housing prices in the area, also took up the race “problem.”
“After a certain tipping point in percentage of non-white ethnicity, property values decline,” Kettlepot wrote. “My guess would be that in San Diego, once the population drops below 50 percent white, concern begins to grow that an area might become a lower-income area with non-middle-class values.”
It’s the same north-of-the-8 vs. south-of-the-8 discussion that’s been going on since who knows when. The funny thing is that I remember the first time I heard someone say it, I thought they accidentally had it backward, and that what they’d meant to say was something to the effect of “South of the 8 is better.” Obviously, it depends on what you’re looking for, but my initial assumption was that everyone finds diversity appealing.
SANDAG’s 2008 statistics break down the 20,431 population of 91915 (which comprises the bulk of Eastlake) as: 8051 Hispanic, 5309 white, 907 black, 50 American Indian, 5172 Asian, 238 Pacific Islander, 13 other, and 691 two or more races. SANDAG’s regional growth forecast predicts that by the year 2050, those populations will experience triple-digit increases within the zip code — all but two. Other will increase by 1362 percent, and white by only 21 percent.
My friend Irene, who lives in Eastlake Greens, about a mile from me, moved to San Diego from Brooklyn with her husband and children in 2012. They first landed in a Tierrasanta rental, and in their search to purchase a house, they, like Jill’s family, chose Eastlake over North County, though for different reasons.
“You know, I can definitely say Rancho Peñasquitos and North County, I do not feel comfortable there at all,” Irene says. “I know people think everything above the 8 is desirable. I’m okay with north of the 8. It’s pretty, but I find it kind of sterile, like everyone works at the same office or something. Here [in Eastlake], I feel like there are all kinds of Navy people or nurses, bikers, and athletes. I do get a sense there is a very diverse population here, just by seeing people driving, peeking through their car windows, going to Parent Day at [Eastlake High School], or going to Target. When I drive, I know that people aren’t all just from the suburbs. I do feel like people have moved here from all parts of the world. I do feel an eclectic-ness, it’s just not in an urban form.”
I met Irene six months after we’d moved Eastlake. She was even newer to the neighborhood than I was. It turned out that we had hung in the same Afro-Bohemian circles in Brooklyn and knew many of the same people. We also had similar suburban upbringings, had spent parts of our young adulthood traveling and living abroad, and now have similar feelings about settling into marriage and motherhood in these particular suburbs.
“I love the amenities,” she says. “There’s a mall and an Apple Store. I can go get my computer fixed, go get groceries, get stuff for my kids. I can go to TJ Maxx. I can buy furniture. For day-to-day, Monday through Friday, I’m really good here. I have everything I need, and I have some peace and quiet.”
On the other hand, she, too, feels something missing. She doesn’t put it in exactly those words, but every time we meet up for tacos and beer at Tacos and Tarros (a Mexican bar/taquería on the outskirts of the Otay Ranch Mall), Irene comes up with yet another plan to make something happen in Eastlake. One week, she talked about starting an open-mic-type monthly event where people sing, read their poetry, or whatnot. The next week, she decided she wanted to host a reggae night. And she occasionally talks about starting an African-diaspora dance school, to give the Eastlakers a bit of flavor by way of samba, sabar, and moribayassa. I get the feeling that, even with all the diversity of which she speaks, the “peace and quiet” she likes so much is not quite enough to satisfy her.