City Heights, San Diego, California
Socially and economically, City Heights has a high concentration of lower income businesses and households, resulting from the newly arrived immigrant communities. Businesses tend to be smaller and wider spread than to the north and east. Like other urban mesa neighborhoods north of¬†Balboa Park, City Heights has a high rate of pedestrian activity, relative to the rest of¬†San Diego. Crime rates were quite high until the recent renaissance, which ushered in one of the highest concentrations of police presence in the city.City Heights¬†is a large community in the eastern part of¬†San Diego, California, known for its ethnic diversity.¬†Along the main streets (which include University Avenue, El Cajon Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue) one can find¬†Hispanic,¬†East African,¬†African American,Indian,¬†Middle Eastern, and¬†Southeast Asian¬†businesses. City Heights was previously the city of¬†East San Diego.
A short history of the City Heights neighborhood can be found on the City Heights Business Association website.
In the 1880s,¬†Entrepreneurs¬†Abraham Klauber¬†and Samuel Steiner purchased over 240¬†acres (0.97¬†km2) of unincorporated land that sat 400¬†feet (120¬†m) above sea level northeast of¬†Balboa Park¬†in hopes of developing the area. Together they named it “City Heights” or the “Steiner, Klauber, Choate and Castle Addition” after the original developers of the property.¬†With the opening of the¬†Panama Canal¬†and the planned¬†Panama-California International Exposition¬†in 1915, the voters of the area voted for City Heights to become an incorporated city known as¬†East San Diego¬†on November 2, 1912. Population boomed in the next few years from 400 in 1910 to 4000 during the incorporation.
On December 31, 1923, the City of East San Diego ceased to exist and was annexed into the City of¬†San Diego. The status of the city was in limbo throughout the early part of 1924, since the East San Diego trustees did not immediately recognize the annexation. Complete annexation occurred over the next few years with the City of¬†San Diego¬†taking over, improving or adding new services into the City Heights area.
During most of the 1930s, 1940s, and the 1950s the area was an important commercial center. In 1959 the neighborhood began to experience a decline as Fashion Valley,¬†Mission Valley¬†and the College Grove Shopping Center siphoned off merchants and customers from the University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard corridor.
In 1965 the¬†San Diego¬†City Council approved the Mid-City Plan. The plan proposed to densify City Heights and surrounding areas, as a means of increasing business and commerce. The plan resulted in many single-family homes being replaced with multi-family apartments. The 1970s and 1980s saw an increase in crime started to increase with the arrival of the illegal drug industry, mainly¬†methamphetamine.White flight¬†started taking place and intensified into the early 1990s.
In 1993, three teen boys were killed in a¬†gang-related fight at¬†Hoover High School. The community reacted and spurred efforts to reduce crime in the neighborhood. The City Heights Business Improvement Association erected billboards that declared¬†Welcome to City Heights,¬†San Diego‘s¬†Crime Capital. Won’t Anybody Help?¬†to gain city officials’ attention.
In November 1993, the city of¬†San Diego¬†proposed to build a new¬†police station¬†to address the rising¬†crime rate. However, the city was strapped for cash and did not have funds readily available. Entrepreneur and¬†philanthropist¬†Sol Price¬†pledged money for redevelopment efforts in concert with the city and his for-profit¬†redevelopment¬†corporation. The city and Sol Price’s redevelopment corporation opened the new police substation in 1996. Sol Price collaborated with SDSU to help students in City Heights attend college providing them with scholarships and supports.
The 2000s have seen redevelopment efforts continue and new public facilities have opened. New services are being provided to residents of City Heights including schools, a library and a¬†community center. Crime rates are also down and a new urban retail village is serving the community.
City Heights is large and diffuse, with many subneighborhoods. The neighborhood is divided into two pieces by Fairmount Avenue: City Heights East and City Heights West. The neighborhood is bounded by¬†Interstate 805¬†to the West, El Cajon Boulevard to the north, 54th Street to the east, and Home Avenue/Euclid Avenue/Chollas Parkway to the southeast.
“Downtown” City Heights is generally regarded as around Fairmount and University Avenues.
The neighborhood is further divided into sixteen sub-neighborhoods: Teralta East, Teralta West, Corridor, Cherokee Point, Colina Park, Castle, Fairmount Village, Fox Canyon, Islenair, Chollas Creek, Swan Canyon, Azalea Park, Hollywood Park, Fairmount Park, Ridgeview, and Bayridge.
Population stands at 65,450 as of 2005. Median household income is $19,393. Racial makeup is approximately 47% Hispanic, 15% Asian, 34% African-American and 4% Other. Median age is approximately 23 years old.
In an effort to reverse the extremely high crime rate and the grateful economy, the community has undergone without any distinct redevelopments. The local projects are a major focus of the¬†Smart Growth¬†strategy by the City of¬†San Diego, which is funded in part by private organizations and philanthropic individuals, notably¬†Sol Price¬†(founder of¬†Fedmart¬†and¬†Price Club).
These projects concentrate primarily on education, crime and¬†gang-related¬†activity reduction, economic improvements, smart urban growth, renewal of community pride and improvement of overall quality of life, while at the same time enhance the “melting-pot” identity for which City Heights is known.
Recent projects that have been completed include the very first alternative fuel station in the city, a new retail complex with some¬†mixed-use¬†developments, several newly expanded and improved basic education schools, a new “urban village” with a new library, a new police headquarter and a gymnasium, as well as a number of innovative uses of open spaces as parks.
Twice a year FaceLife chooses a Neighborhood in City Heights and closes off the streets and renovates 12 – 15 homes by painting, landscaping, and cleaning up the surrounding area in a one day event. FaceLift is a program of Community Housing Works a non-profit organization connected with NeighborWorks America.
Project CLEAN is another program with Community HousingWorks that provides graffiti supplies and clean-up organization to any resident that would like to get involved in making their community a better place to live.
As a result of the improvements, population in the neighborhood has been on the increase, reversing the trend of urban flight for those who could afford to move just a few years prior. Indeed, the redevelopment is now starting to focus on controlling growth.
A few trendy bars and clubs have started to move into the neighborhood; some would argue that¬†gentrification¬†is happening along with redevelopment. This most evident in Normal Heights and Kensington which is not actually a part of City Heights, but borders.
Arts, culture, businesses and cuisine
Due to the large immigrant population of City Heights, a vast array of ethnic restaurants can be found in the community. Most are located along the main arteries of University Avenue, El Cajon Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue.
There is also a sizeable¬†gay community¬†in Azalea Park.
The annual International Village Celebration is held around late spring or early summer and is aimed at highlighting the community’s diversity.
One can find many types of cuisine from all corners of the world. You will find anything from Vietnamese, African, Mexican, etc. There are also a few¬†Ethiopian restaurants¬†in City Heights, although there are almost none anywhere in San Diego. City Heights also has a Jamba Juice, Subway, Albertson’s, a drive-thru Starbucks, many car repair shops, and Pet Zone, a local pet shop/tropical fish store.¬†Quite a few pubs and bars such as The Tower Bar, The Beauty Bar, Last Call & Nancy’s are around to cater to those into the nightlife.
City Heights is a walkable neighborhood with many of the restaurants, businesses and shops near the main residential pockets. It is common to see pedestrians, cyclists and scooters throughout the neighborhood and surrounding communities. Centrally located within¬†San Diego, City Heights has easy access to freeways,¬†Mission Valley¬†commercial centers and the downtown area. University Avenue, El Cajon Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue are the major thoroughfares.
Because of the presence of the University Avenue transit corridor (the busiest in the metro region), City Heights has substantial bus service connecting to Downtown as well as to the¬†Mission Valley¬†trolley stops.
City Heights is home to twelve public elementary schools, three public middle schools, two public high schools, and two private grade schools.
Private grade schools
- Waldorf School of San Diego
- Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School (OLSH)
Public elementary schools
- Cherokee Point (San Diego Unified School District)
- Hamilton (San Diego Unified School District)
- Euclid (San Diego Unified School District)
- Marshall (San Diego Unified School District)
- Edison (San Diego Unified School District)
- Central (San Diego Unified School District)
- Florence Griffith Joyner (San Diego Unified School District)
- Herbert Ibarra (San Diego Unified School District)
- Mary Lanyon Fay (San Diego Unified School District)
- Wilson (San Diego Unified School District)
- Rowan (San Diego Unified School District)
- Rosa Parks (San Diego Unified School District)
Public middle schools
- Clark (Monroe) (San Diego Unified School District)
- Wilson (San Diego Unified School District)
- Mann (San Diego Unified School District)
Public high schools
Both in¬†San Diego Unified School District