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City Heights, San Diego
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City Heights is a large community in 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, Northeast African, Near Eastern, South Asian and Southeast Asian immigrant businesses. The area was previously known as East San Diego.
City Heights has a high concentration of retail outlets, restaurants, and other examples of self-employment resulting from the newly arrived immigrant communities. Businesses tend to be smaller and wider spread than to the north and east. Like other urban neighborhoods north of Balboa Park, City Heights also has a high rate of pedestrian activity relative to the rest of 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, becoming once again known as City Heights. 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 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 firm eventually 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 saw redevelopment efforts continue and new public facilities open. New services were provided to residents of City Heights, including schools, a library and a community center. Crime rates also fell and a new urban retail village began 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 Park, Fairmount Village, Fox Canyon, Islenair (a city-designated historic district), Chollas Creek, Swan Canyon, Azalea Park, Hollywood Park, Ridgeview, and Bayridge.
Population stands at 65,450 as of 2005. Median household income is $19,393. Median family size 5. Median age is approximately 23 years old.
As with other older neighborhoods found just north of Downtown San Diego and Balboa Park, City Heights is currently enjoying a renaissance. In the March 2015 issue, San Diego Magazine named City Heights as one of the best places to live in San Diego. City Heights is getting a public space called the Central Avenue Skate Plaza, a half-acre park that’s being funded with a nearly $2 million state grant, plus money from the city and the Tony Hawk Foundation. Spearheaded by members of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council, the project will include a 6,000-square-foot skating area, as well as turf and play sections. Already in place, the new Copley-Price Family YMCA at Fairmount and El Cajon includes a 7,500-square-foot gym, two pools, a soccer field, and demonstration kitchen in a LEED-certified building.
In 2015, the music festival San Diego Indiefest took place in City Heights' Urban Village. IndieFest features a three-day celebration of independent music, film, art, business and thought. It will have a wide array of visual art, activities, film, comedy, dance, food, beer and spirits.
The community has undergone some 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 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 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.
A significant addition to the neighborhood is City Heights Square Senior Housing Project on 43rd Street. Completed in 2008 with subsidies provided by the Redevelopment Agency Affordable Housing Program, the project provides critically needed affordable housing for seniors
Twice a year FaceLift 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 HousingWorks 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, the redevelopment is now starting to focus on controlling growth.
City Heights has been touted next up-and-coming San Diego Neighborhood.
Arts, culture, businesses and cuisine
Due to the large cultural 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.
The annual International Village Celebration is held around late spring or early summer and is aimed at highlighting the community's diversity.
City Heights is ranked a very livable city, with lots of local amenities, stable housing market and sunny weather.
City Heights is home to different types of cuisine from all corners of the world, including Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Somali, and Ethiopian culinary traditions. Quite a few pubs and bars cater to those into the nightlife, such as the historic Tower Bar, Black Cat Bar, Til-Two Club, Soda Bar and El Coqui Grill.
Azalea Park is blossoming into an arts district - The Azalea Park Arts District (APAD). Visitors can find sculptures, art installations, murals and hand-painted signs to denote the flower-named streets. The Manzanita Gathering Place was built to be a creative refuge awashed in art at the opening at Manzanita Canyon, with canopies and columns incorporating mosaic tiles made by Azalea Park residents. Local artists have moved their businesses to Azalea Park and see this neighborhood becoming a vibrant arts community. At the Azalea Community Park, local artists have created a unique oasis with the Water Conservation Garden, collection of succulent plants and creative sculpture.
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.
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