"That street has been bad since we moved here in 2010."
In the last two weeks, Azalea Park locals were surprised yet thankful for the city's recent repairs of their Columbine and Pepper cross streets.
"That street [area] has been bad since we moved here in 2010," Courage Musial said to me on May 1. "We were constantly putting in requests to our council members only to be ignored."
Musial's neighbor agreed. "That was definitely the [worst] street in the neighborhood. You almost needed a four-wheel drive to get through it."
Mark Pennington, a resident of this part of City Heights since the 80s, took to Facebook and posted a 2017 photo depicting what appears to be a 6-foot by 6-foot pothole and cracks atop one of the two recently paved streets.
"They just kept patching the holes, and more holes kept developing," Musial commented underneath the 2017 photo. "This photo shows a new patch of asphalt thrown in a big pothole (below the six-foot by six-foot pothole) in response to pleas from residents to fix the street," continued Linda Pennington, Mark's wife. "Everyone knew it was a stop-gap solution that wouldn't last long." Months after, "the pothole reemerged," said another neighbor.
"They just kept patching the holes, and more holes kept developing."
On April 19, I drove towards Azalea Park, known for its variety of art installations and surrounding uber-trekkable canyons. I exited on Home Avenue off the 805 freeway, hung a right (east) on Home, then turned left (north) on Fairmont Avenue. Almost a mile up on Fairmont, I turned left onto Poplar Street and passed the ornate Azalea Park sign. I parked on Columbine Street, the second street to appear after passing the entranceway sign.
"I recently drove down that street and love that it is finally smooth," Eugene Smith said to me. "It was a mess for the seven years I owned that property on Columbine."
I spoke to Linda Pennington, who, through her Project CLEAN, has lead cleanups of the City Heights streets, alleys, parks, and canyons since 1981. She's the City Heights community organizer for the San Diego Canyonlands organization.
"We were told that there was some serious work that needed to be done well below the surface."
"We kept inquiring about it and asking our succession of councilmembers to look into it as other streets in the neighborhood were getting fixed. We were told that there was some serious work that needed to be done well below the surface on this particular [Columbine] street, so that's why it was taking so long to get it done."
Azalea Park is known for its variety of art installations and surrounding uber-trekkable canyons.
About two weeks ago, Linda posted Facebook photos of their newly paved streets. Former City Council President Georgette Gomez chimed in underneath Linda's post, saying, "We pushed hard before leaving, I was happy to see it was going to get done last year, but Covid pushed the project to this year. Finally, long overdue!"
"The fact that GG (Georgette Gomez) said she worked on it is kind of laughable," Musial said to me. "I think with Todd as mayor; he recognizes how bad it gets around here. I will give props to Sean Elo since it happened while he was our rep. The feeling that City Heights is neglected is very real. Most of what happens here would never happen north of the I-8."
Smith said he received a notice four years ago that Columbine Street was next to be fixed. "Better late than never, I guess."