As holiday traffic makes the 805 freeway a little more congested, Christmas lights on the Market Street overpass contribute to the seasonal cheer. This is the fourth year since the lights went up, a collaboration between neighbors and local businesses.
The next overpass heading north on the 805 (past the 94) is the Tulip Street overpass/bridge, which can be accessed from Home Avenue. “Not only is it sad and depressing to drive or walk across the bridge at night,” said Daniel Castañon, “but it is also disheartening driving under the bridge on the 805 freeway.”
Castañon is a 38-year-old product support engineer. Like many of his neighbors, he wants to install Christmas lights on the Tulip Street bridge.
“Many residents that live near the bridge have offered to provide electricity from their homes to light up the Christmas lights on the bridge,” he said. “Unfortunately, this simple solution cannot be done, as the bridge is Caltrans property and proper permits are needed.”
On December 6th, I drove from Azalea Park across the bridge into Fairmount Park, by Castañon’s house. At dusk I drove underneath the bridge via the freeway. The bridge appeared to have no regular street lights and a large tree blocked some of the moonlight, making it dark. “[Just] like if the Grinch all of a sudden stole Christmas,” Castañon said.
Geraldine Gobaleza is a 43-year-old Azalea Park resident who lives across the bridge from Castañon. When she returns home (via the 805 south) from her job, she is “pleased” to see the Normal Heights and North Park bridges adorned with colorful lights. Then “the first bridge when entering the City Heights neighborhood is dark and somber,” she said, “[and] it’s not very appealing or welcoming.”
Castañon said, “I reached out to the City of San Diego who in turned asked me to call Caltrans. I also did a web search and found the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association, which is in charge of hanging up lights on seven bridges [in North Park and Normal Heights].”
On December 7, the office of councilmember Georgette Gomez and the El Cajon Business Improvement Association returned Castañon’s calls.
“We would love the lights all across the bridges,” said Steve, the community development coordinator for the business improvement association. “Unfortunately, Tulip Street does not fall in our areas, but we can help them [with information]…. “Our [annual] encroachment permit is about $400 for seven bridges, and that includes electricity.”
Steve added that residents must first build a rapport with Caltrans, but this is where Castañon fell short, because his calls were never returned.
“I am trying to get an estimated cost so that we can start some fundraising,” he said, “I am also waiting to hear back from the City of San Diego to see if there are any funds in community grants.”
Steve said that putting in the electrical outlets on the bridges through Caltrans wasn’t as costly as the the lights themselves. “They are about $4 a foot,” he said, “and they aren’t straight across; they kinda swag [like the letter ‘w’].” He said that throughout the 29 years of bridge lighting, they had to maintain the wire and the lightbulbs, and they recently switched to LED lights.
Enrique Gandarilla is the executive director for the City Heights Business Association. His organization helps beautify and promote University Avenue and the businesses (in Cherokee Point and City Heights).
“We paid $643 for this year’s lights [on the University Avenue bridge across I-805] to the [El Cajon business association], and they install and remove the lights.”
The overpasses on Interstate 15 by Azalea Park have no Christmas lights either. “We can look into the possibility of adding holiday lights to the I-15 [and University Avenue] bridge deck,” Gandarilla said, “but next year, since the deck is under construction this year.”
Gobaleza said, “I reached out to Liliana Garcia-Rivera, who is the executive director for the Diamond Business Association. She told me that they had gotten their councilwoman to give them $5K and also had SDG&E help them out with another $5K, which is how they got started.” This is the organization that got the Market Street/I-805 overpass Christmas lights.
So, Azalea Park and Fairmount Park residents will have to wait until Christmas 2018 to see if they can get the Tulip Street bridge lights.
Another neighbor offered a faster alternative: “We can watch the new ‘Do Not Enter — Wrong Way’ signs with the red blinking lights [on the University Avenue and 15 Freeway exits].”