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“It’s working out fine,” he says of his Glashaus, which he calls an artist collective studio, gallery, and event venue. “There are no problems at all with working down here.” He says that the Glashaus is a symptom of the slow turn taking place in the barrio: Devine considers it part of the neighborhood’s gentrification. “When we first moved in four-and-a-half years ago, I don’t think there was anybody else down here. The Bakery had just opened, and there was the Woodbury architecture school, but that was about all.”

Devine is certain that the arts have brought new tenants to Barrio Logan, if for no other reason than the economy. “Ten years ago, it was the same thing in Little Italy. You could get space cheap there. Now, rents are too high. Some artists are still in Little Italy, but most got pushed out. Artists aren’t the richest people. We’re always looking for inexpensive space.”

Devine estimates that there are more than 100 artists presently working in Barrio Logan. “I have 30 tenants of my own,” he says. Similar warehouse conversions likewise house 30 or more artists each. Along with the aforementioned Bakery at 16th and National, “there’s the Union on Main Street, and he’s got almost double the space I have.” Some artists actually live in the barrio, Devine says, as well as upstream in surrounding Sherman Heights and Golden Hill.

“Some of the people in the arts down here are pushing to make Barrio Logan the next arts destination,” he says. “I’m not a member of any boards or any committees, but we’ll see if that happens.”

“Chicken soup. That’s what we call it, the barrio community swimming pool.”

“This is my place,” says Karina Spilker. “I don’t wanna leave. I wanna clean it up.”

Born and raised in Barrio Logan, Karina Spilker manages the MAAC Project STEP (Striving Towards Economic Prosperity) center, which is located inside the security-gated Barrio Mercado apartment complex. She assures a visitor that her comment is not an indictment of the pool’s water quality.

“No, that’s just what we call it.” She laughs. “Chicken soup. People say, hey, we’re going to chicken soup. It is only open during the summer. There’s always a big line outside waiting to get in.” She offers a walking tour of the complex. A majority of the residents here are undocumented, she explains, but all have children that were born in the U.S. “And they have to have an ITIN [individual taxpayer identification number] from the Internal Revenue Service. They are taxpayers. As long as they have an ITIN number, we can rent to them.”

From all outward appearances, the Barrio Mercado appears to be something it is not: a middle-class oasis, a pricy condo development. It is, in truth, affordable housing and intended solely for the barrio’s low-income wage-earners and their families. The sprawling complex was built under the auspices of the MAAC Project 17 years ago, in the shadow of the Coronado bridge, on what was once San Diego Gas & Electric property. The westward view is not pretty: an astonishing array of power lines and towers and high-voltage grids of a kind not generally seen in the suburbs.

A low industrial hum fills the air. Is that always present? Yes. Spilker points to some unmarked gunmetal Quonset sheds across the street as the source. She then points out a nondescript gray warehouse that is closed to the public and that otherwise has no signage. “What are they doing in there?” she asks. (A later directory search will show that the tenant is S&M Enterprises, a wholesale marine industrial-supply company.)

A Caltrans truck yard occupies the land next to the Mercado. As such, it is adjacent to a supervised day-care area operated by Head Start for children of the residents. She says that exhaust from idling Caltrans trucks sometimes inundates the play area. “And we get a lot of smog from the bridge on some days.” Spilker agrees that asthma and allergies are fairly common among the residents. There have been days when, because of the fumes, the MAAC Project staff has been sent home.

Chat with Karina Spilker about Barrio Logan

“When Northgate [Mercado, the grocery store] was being built, we thought it [the mysterious toxins] was coming from the trucks. But there are places around here doing things we don’t know about — dumping chemicals, mixing paint. We blame it on the trucks. We blame it on NASSCO. But we really don’t know what the hell a lot of these other companies are doing.”

Whatever it is, she says, the toxic aftereffects have hit close to home. “My own kids dealt with asthma growing up.” Did Spilker ever once consider leaving the barrio? She says no. “This is my place. I don’t wanna leave. I wanna clean it up.”

“My parents were married at that church, the one where Father Brown is.”

In May, former Chula Vista councilman Steve Castaneda ran for State Assembly in the 80th Assembly District, a broad region that includes Chula Vista, National City, San Ysidro, and Barrio Logan. He lost to San Diego and Imperial Counties’ Labor Council CEO Lorena Gonzalez.

Castaneda searches his memory for the name of the church, then comes up with this: “Our Lady of Guadalupe. My mother grew up on Kearney [Avenue] in Logan Heights, before they built the freeway. We’re talking about the 1930s and the ’40s. And there was a lot of industry there back then. In those days, you lived right on the property where your garage or your wrecking company was.”

The area called Logan Heights was originally developed as a lower-middle-class working neighborhood, and eventually became a factory town for the fish, lumber, and shipbuilding industries that dotted the bay. Had it not been for a market collapse in the late 1800s, the barrio might be even more industrialized than it is now. Plans were scrapped to make Logan Heights the western terminus of a cross-country rail system. Instead, that all went north to Los Angeles. Logan Avenue became a small commercial center, and during the 1930s, there was even a public beach and a community pier with amusements. The expansion of the naval base between world wars ended all that.

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FatCatSegat June 29, 2013 @ 12:19 p.m.

My younger brother lived right under the Coronado bridge for a little over a year I believe. Almost immediately the respiratory problems came up with his stepdaughter who was about four and his newborn. Besides the thousands of cars traveling back and forth overhead, the bridge is infested with thousands of pigeons. Imagine all that pigeon crap, lice and disease raining down on the complex adjacent to the "temporary" CALTRANS storage facility. Needless to say when this was brought to his attention, he moved away. All day long the screaming and shrieking of birds can be heard coming from the bridge, even as the noisy non-stop tiretreads overhead add to the cacophony. I feel for those people stuck there but have often enjoyed visiting the area. Food, art and the occasional bike race and of course Chicano park. Oh yeah, my compliments to the beautiful sugar skull makeup artist's work. Haunting beauty, isn't it?


sbees5 June 29, 2013 @ 3:40 p.m.

If the industry is removed and the area cleaned up, won't the rents then rise, leaving a lot of people who will have to relocate?


tonyriggs June 30, 2013 @ 6:53 p.m.

Oh jeez

This "story" is so full of holes and questionable motives; where to begin?

I have several questions 1.Why is she living with her live-in boyfriend, the father of her two children? Does he offer any finaicial support or is this just another freeloader relationship with some taxpayer assisted benefits? 2. Why is this woman working in Coronado - could it be she's wants whats been earned by others but doesn't know how to go about "getting it"? 3. What exactly is hers or her boyfriends immigration status? Are these kids their meal ticket? 4. Why does the city, county or state punish low income people by placing them in harms way? Could it be their punitive nature to "teach" people to NOT be low income? 5. Where are the peoples mislayed sympathies when it comes to the 1000's of homeless people on the streets that might love to have a roof over their head, even in barrio logan, yet the reader chooses to pull out some piece about kids? 6. With the deplorable health conditions down there, why is the city, county and/or state allowed to continue playing games with peoples health?

I am certainly sympathetic to anyone that finds themselves in low income housing, either by sad mistake, misfortune or as these children, through no fault of their own but I also find it CRIMINAL to shove a family into an apartment right next to some factory belching toxic fumes.

People can go on and on about how "beautiful" they find it down there underneath the bridges but the facts remain whether you're blind or not: Master Plating was allowed to operate and dump toxins for years before most of you readers fell in love with barrio logan - those toxins are still in the ground, top soil and air. Pidgeon shit by the bucket load gets washed down onto the houses, sidewalks and streets everytime thre is a rain storm, tons of exhaust pollution 24X7 from the freeways and shit floating in the air from the factories..

Oh well


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