The Orchid includes no parking.
On April 11, Lisa Sku and her doggie Stella strolled past Orchid, a newly built Adams Avenue structure their neighbor compared to "Darth Vader."
"I appreciate the urban design element," she said to me later that day. "It appears to be a three-story multi-use building with an interesting design."
Steven Slater, who made the Darth Vader reference, moved to Normal Heights last year. "It has been painted black and has some sort of futuristic brushstroke clouds mural by the stairwells. The whole thing is extremely boxy and top-heavy. It does not fit in with the neighborhood at all, as most of the buildings along Adams Avenue are low wood-framed or classic brick and mortar structures."
Next Door posting with comments
"I think the complex fits in," Sku said, "and it's an upgrade to what used to be on that lot. Did you see what was there long before? It was Grandma's House, the dog sitting place."
The Society of Master Craftsmen's Properties calls their multi-dweller complex "Orchid — experimental community in Normal Heights." According to their website, the complex that's less than a mile west of the I-15 and Adams Avenue exit contains 13 one-bedroom, one-bath apartments and two studios. The management company opened the high ceiling and modern, "lofty" apartments and studios to view and rent on April 5.
Mark Martinez, who works for the County of San Diego, likes the futuristic-looking architecture that partly shadows Von's parking lot to its east. "Hopefully [the area] will become a destination for its nickname: 'Abnormal Heights.' Maybe an array of differences [between] the old and the new will make Adams Avenue between the 15 and the 805 a new cool destination to check out."
Slater never agreed with the Normal Heights neighbors I spoke with on Sunday; on March 16, he posted a photo on NextDoor of the Orchid complex under construction from a vantage point where it appeared to be towering over the street's telephone lines. "I hate this new building ...." he captioned the photo; shortly after, it went semi-viral, garnering over 200 comments, mostly negative. Many of the mid-city dwellers said it was "ugly, an eyesore, and disturbing."
"[Would] you guys lighten up," commented Kevin from Kensington. "It's there to stay; it's a contemporary industrial building style."
"Besides, it corresponds with the city community plans," Sku continued, "distinctive neighborhoods, development diversity, etc."
"If there really is no parking incorporated for the residents, that's one of the biggest offenses," commented Sku's neighbor. "...even though our micro-neighborhood is walkable, you need to take a car and a freeway to get places in San Diego. Not including any parking is irresponsible and puts more of a burden on the neighborhood with street parking. Especially in that location."
Other neighbors said the new residents could park at Vons next door.
"[I] am pained by what the downtown political power kings have force[d] into the neighborhood," commented Max, who lived in this area from 1960-1982. "... My family hangs on in the area just because they are not able to relocate. How is $4,500 a month considered affordable housing?"
According to the new complex's website, the one-bedroom, one-bath apartments are renting for $2,300-$2,800 a month, the one open studio is renting for $2000. The management company rented another studio in the complex for $802 a month with a stipulation that the renter's annual income "must be $40,450 or less to qualify for the unit."
Raymond, another resident that's lived in "Abnormal Heights" since the mid-2000s, "adores" the new Orchid building. "I also like the modern one that's west of the old post office on Adams Avenue. I think that's a three-story building too. I'm curious, when did they allow three-story buildings on Adams Avenue?"
"That [other building] is on my block!" Sku continued, "I was happy to see if finally finished, and that SKA Bar is still open despite the pandemic. I recommend checking out that rooftop if you have a chance."