Hillcrest, San Diego, California
Hillcrest is known for its tolerance, diversity, and locally-owned businesses, including restaurants, caf√©s, bars, clubs, trendy thrift-stores, and other independent specialty stores.¬†Hillcrest has a high population density, compared to many other neighborhoods in San Diego, and it has a large and active lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The neighborhood is bound by¬†Mission Hills¬†to the northwest,¬†Bankers Hill¬†and Balboa Park to the south,¬†University Heights¬†to the north, andNorth Park¬†to the east. A large ridge overlooking¬†San Diego Bay¬†borders the neighborhood to the west.
Hillcrest is part of the Uptown community planning area, which consists of the neighborhoods of Mission Hills, Hillcrest,¬†Bankers Hill, Park West, and University Heights.
The 1990 Census showed that the neighborhood’s residents had a median age of 39 and that 37% had college degrees.
In 2000, there were 43 percent of households in Hillcrest (zip code 92103) headed by unmarried couples who were gay or lesbian.
The neighborhood is governed by the elected officials of the city of San Diego. The city councilman representing the area is Todd Gloria.
The Uptown Planners is an elected planning group composed of residents, property owners, and business people from the Uptown area; it advises the city on land use and other issues.
An ad hoc “town council” provides a conduit for information from citizens with the government. The Hillcrest Town Council is an organization of local residents that was formed in 2007. It meets monthly. Its mission statement is “To provide a voice & enhance the quality of life for Hillcrest renters & homeowners while supporting actions that benefit our neighborhood.”
The Hillcrest Business Improvement Association has existed since 1921; in 1984 it became a city-approved¬†Business Improvement District.¬†Among other activities, it sponsors the annual “Toast to Hillcrest,” which offers food and drink samples from over 20 local bars and restaurants.
The commercial area of Hillcrest is noted for its many restaurants. Nearby Balboa Park provides recreational and cultural opportunities to Hillcrest residents.¬†Scripps Mercy Hospital¬†and the¬†UCSD Medical Center¬†are located here.
San Diego Gay Pride is an annual celebration for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. In July, there has been a parade, then a two-day festival in Balboa Park. It is considered to be the largest civic event in the city of San Diego.
Hillcrest “CityFest” is an annual street festival which features food, live entertainment, a beer garden and street vendors.
Other regular events in Hillcrest include a weekly farmers market on the grounds of the local Department of Motor Vehicles, Book Fair and Mardi Gras.
Hillcrest is a walkable neighborhood with caf√©s, restaurants, and shops near the main residential pockets.
Hillcrest is served by¬†State Route 163¬†at the University Avenue, Washington Street and Robinson Avenue exits. University Avenue and Washington Street are the major east-west thoroughfares in Hillcrest; Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Avenues connect Hillcrest to Downtown San Diego through Park West and Bankers Hill.
There is bus service connecting to Downtown as well as to the Mission Valley trolley stops because of the presence of the University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard transit corridors, the two busiest in the metro region.
Lack of parking is a major problem in the Hillcrest area. By one estimate, Hillcrest is at least 100 spaces short of meeting the demand for parking, and the deficit could increase to 750 spaces by 2025.¬†The parking shortage is so acute that the opening of a new 36-space parking lot in June 2010 was front-page news.
In an attempt to deal with the parking shortage in Hillcrest as well as¬†Mission Hills,¬†Bankers Hill, and other uptown areas, the city council in 1997 created a special parking district called the Uptown Partnership.¬†The Uptown Partnership receives a portion of the income from area parking meters, amounting to about $700,000 per year. The money is supposed to be reinvested in the community to improve parking availability, traffic circulation, transit effectiveness, and pedestrian mobility.
For their first several years the Uptown Partnership worked on trying to build a parking garage in the Hillcrest area. They abandoned that idea in 2009, finding the cost to be prohibitive. They decided to focus their efforts instead on improving turnover at metered spaces, by increasing the cost per hour and expanding the hours of meter operation. They budgeted $2 million to upgrade every parking meter in Uptown.
That plan met with considerable local opposition. Some local citizens and groups called for the Uptown Partnership to be dissolved, pointing out that it has created only 50 new parking spaces in its 12-year history – by converting parallel parking to diagonal parking on San Diego Avenue and by realigning the Normal Street median, a project which got underway in 2009. During its 12-year existence the Partnership has spent more than $2.5 million, including $350,000 a year on salaries, supplies, and rent.¬†The city council has affirmed its support of the Uptown Partnership but has recommended it adopt more financial transparency and seek more community input.
Initially, Hillcrest was a¬†chaparral-covered mesa.¬†Kumeyaay¬†Indians inhabited numerous villages scattered throughout the San Diego region. Spanish colonization brought the first of twenty-nine California missions with the founding of the nearby¬†San Diego Mission.¬†Presidio Park¬†in Mission Hills and¬†Old Town¬†just down the hill are a part of San Diego history.
In 1870, Mary Kearney obtained a deed from the city for the land that eventually became Hillcrest. In 1871 Arnold and D. Choate, two real estate developers, obtained that property. George Hill, a wealthy railroad tycoon, then purchased the land. Real estate development began in 1910 and the area was built out by 1920. During the 1920s and 1930s Hillcrest was considered a suburban shopping area for downtown San Diego.
In 1940 the “HILLCREST” lighted sign at the intersection of University and Fifth Avenue was first erected, donated by the Hillcrest Women’s Association, a group of local female shopkeepers. After falling into disrepair, it was taken down and rebuilt in 1984.¬†After¬†World War II, Hillcrest was left with an aging infrastructure and population.
During the 1970s gays and lesbians began to establish residences, businesses, and organizations in Hillcrest.
1974: Protesting the city‚Äôs refusal of a parade permit, 200 gays and lesbians marched through the streets of downtown for the first time.
1975: The first city-permitted¬†gay pride parade¬†was held.
1980: The Center for Social Services, founded in Golden Hill in 1973 — now called the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, and generally known as “the Center” –moved to Hillcrest.
1984: The Hillcrest Business Association, a business improvement district, was formed.
1985: The Hillcrest Business Association hosted the first CityFest.
1994: A new Vermont Street pedestrian bridge was completed. The span, featuring public art, cost $1.2 million.
2001: Mercy Gardens — formerly the Sisters of Mercy Convent, which housed nuns from 1926-1990 — was remodeled for use by the HIV-positive community.
On August 2, 2007, a 100th birthday cake was served to the public, marking Hillcrest‚Äôs first one hundred years; there were Hillcrest Centennial events throughout the year.
2007: The Hillcrest Town Council was formed to give residents a voice.
1986:¬†Maureen O‚ÄôConnor¬†was elected mayor. She became the first elected official to ride and march in the Gay Pride parade.
1993:¬†Christine Kehoe, now a state senator, was elected as the community’s representative to the San Diego City Council. She was the first openly gay/lesbian elected official in San Diego.
1994: Former mayor and current talk-show host¬†Roger Hedgecock¬†led a group of protesters calling themselves “The Normal People”. They wanted to march in the Pride parade ‚Äúin political disagreement to the homosexual agenda.‚ÄĚ When rejected by the organizers of the parade, Hedgecock brought the matter to court. He filed a lawsuit, arguing that their exclusion violated San Diego’s “Human Dignity Ordinance.” The Superior Court rejected their claim, arguing that their right to march was not protected under the ordinance, since the Pride event was private and the “Normal People’s” message was intended to interfere with the event.
Superior Court Judge¬†Bonnie Dumanis, a Hillcrest resident, was elected San Diego District Attorney. She became the highest ranking, openly lesbian law enforcement officer in the nation.
2005: City Councilmember¬†Toni Atkins, who represents Hillcrest, was elected Acting Mayor of San Diego by her fellow Councilmembers. San Diego became the nation’s largest city with an openly gay or lesbian chief executive. She would step down from the post following the November election of new mayor¬†Jerry Sanders.
2006: The 32nd Annual Gay Pride Festival was held July 28-30. 150,000 people gathered to watch The 25th Annual Gay Pride Parade.