92103 Driveabout: Bankers Hill/Hillcrest (Video)

Following are three of my favorite weekend things to do:
  1. The Spruce St. Bridge
  2. The Juniper-Front Community Garden (Video)
  3. Seasonal shopping at Urban Outfitters in Hillcrest. 


Towards Downtown

2220 Front Street, Juniper-Front Community Garden

2220 Front Street. The Juniper-Front Community Garden is perched on a hill on Front Street between Ivy and Juniper Street, and was established in 1981. The quarter block is divided into approximately sixty 10-by-12 foot plots. The Port Authority owns the land and rents the garden plots for approx. $100 per year. Juniper-Front Community Garden’s waiting list is long, often with prospective gardeners waiting a full year before an opening.
Matt Browne has a plot at the community garden and filmed this video.

One Historic Plaque Thief in Custody – Mission Hills Heritage/SDUptown News Update

The perpetrator said the plaques had been cut into pieces and melted down before being taken to a recycling location that he named.

At least 23 historic plaques like the one above have been 
stolen in Mission Hills since July 25.

One Plaque Thief in Custody! At a special Community Meeting tonight hosted by Mission Hills Town Council at Francis Parker Elementary School, Capt. Walt Vasquez of the Western Division San Diego Police Department made a welcome announcement: One man, on parole for a previous theft conviction, is in custody and has confessed to stealing some of the plaques. He actually showed police how he had done so with a screwdriver, and then actually took the police to several locations for which he is responsible. He was apprehended with the cooperation of National City Police on a tip from an alert citizen, as yet anonymous to the public. The perpetrator said the plaques had been cut into pieces and melted down before being taken to a recycling location that he named.

SDUptown News-Plaques stolen include:
• The Pioneer Park (children’s playground) plaque
• Six Inspiration Heights neighborhood markers (Sunset Boulevard and Alameda Drive), which are all original markers from 1909.
• Three Private Way markers, one from Sunset Boulevard and Witherby, and two from the top of Juan Street.
• At least nine individual designation plaques from Fort Stockton Drive
• Two from Washington Street (Griswold and Florence Apt. Buildings)
• A Temple Beth Israel plaque
• First Christian Science Church at the corner of Laurel Street and Second Avenue

That recycling center is outside of San Diego and the police in that jurisdiction have been notified. They already had an ongoing investigation of that recycle center for alleged illegal activity. This complaint will be added to their suspicious activities. It was reported that the criminals received between $20 and $22 for each plaque.

This criminal was working with two other men. The second man has been identified and police are searching for him to arrest. The identity of the third is still uncertain. Detail descriptions of the suspects were not released because the investigation is ongoing. The police have requested that the public remain on the alert for all suspicious presence and activity and to report such to the Western Division Police Department non-emergency number (911 only for a crime in progress): 531-2000. Detective Brenner is in charge of this investigation.

One plaque was recovered, but it is not from the Mission Hills Community. The charge against these men will be either Petty or Grand Theft, depending on the valuation of the stolen property that can be attributed to them.

Both our current and future City Council Representatives for Mission Hills were in attendance: Kevin Faulconer and Todd Gloria. They announced a request they have made that will come before the City Council to pay for the replacement of the plaques stolen from public locations. The Councilmen and the other attendees, thanked Officer Vasquez and the four other officers he brought with him: Lt. Kevin Mayer, Lt Mark Hanten, Act. Det. Mark Brenner and Officer David Whitfield. They were congratulated for their efforts on our behalf, and encouraged to keep up the good work.

REMINDER: Stay vigilant and report suspicious people or behavior. And always stay safe.

SDUptown News orig posted 8/19/11: Three homeowners have reported an “orange truck or SUV” on Tuesday between 3-4:30 a.m.along the 2100 and 2200 block of Ft. Stockton with three men inside it who appeared to be hiding something large. SDPD is asking Uptown residents to provide any other information they may have in order to help find the thieves.



Hillcrest DMV Office Targeted for Urban Renewal

Imagine a government office building that features loft apartments, shops and restaurants

Far-fetched? Not to the state of California. Officials are looking to apply that groundbreaking concept in San Diego.

Their approach? A ‘mixed use’ redevelopment project housing government, residential, and retail/commercial functions, to replace the Department of Motor Vehicles office on its Normal Street site in Hillcrest, built in 1960.

“It’s a way to leverage the equity in the property,” says Eric Lamoreaux, spokesman for the state Dept. of General Services.
Lamoreaux explained that under a public/private partnership agreement, the developers — San Diego-based Lankford & Associates — will take the economic risks, and share their profits with the taxpayers.
He said the state has developed other facilities under similar “build to lease” economic arrangements, but never one involving mixed uses.
The agreement stems from legislation sponsored by State Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-39th/San Diego) in 2008.

Assuming there are no deal-breaking devils in the details, those wearisome waits at the Hillcrest DMV office figure to get more tolerable once a brand-new, 50 percent bigger building takes its place.

The taxpayers would get the new office for free, essentially, along with a cut of the proceeds from the apartments, retail and commercial tenants that’ll be included in the 5-story midrise.
Plans also call for underground parking, and continued access to the Hillcrest Farmers Market.
So far, neither the state nor developer is offering specifics as to the project’s cost, or number and of residential and retail/commercial units, saying those projections will be developed by way of public input and official review processes.
If the project is approved, Lankford & Associate would have a 65-year-lease, plus extensions for up to 30 more.
Community leaders hope it’ll be synergistic with the nearby Uptown District shopping mall, a thriving economic anchor for two decades now.
“I’ve heard of these projects being thought of in other communities, but this is the first that’s coming to fruition,” says Leo Wilson, chairman of Uptown Planners, the city of San Diego’s official planning group for Hillcrest, Mission Hills, Bankers Hill, Middletown, the UCSD Medical Complex, Park West and University Heights neighborhoods.
While Wilson praises the concept, his group faces a long process of ‘due diligence’ to make sure it’ll be executed to the standards of the Uptown community plan.

“We want a very nice, walkable urban community with very attractive buildings, with ‘commercial’ that’s inviting to people,” Wilson said in an interview Thursday.  “If, to put a project together ‘public/private’, the worst scenario would be, ‘Is this going to be a tenement?  Are there shortcuts going to be taken because of issues involving the finances?'”

But at this early stage, with the concept being unveiled to the public at an Uptown Planners community meeting Thursday evening, there seems to be cautious optimism.
“I think it’ll succeed,” says Barbara Machado, a stylist at an Uptown District salon.  “I like coming to one place, doing all my shopping in one spot.  So if I can go to the DMV, my little apartment up there, and all the stores, yeah, I’d go for that.  Yeah.”
The DMV portion of the project will take about 14 months to complete; the residential and commercial phases, a total of 18.
During the construction, the staff from the Hillcrest DMV office will be farmed out to other department field offices throughout San Diego County, to help handle the overload of Hillcrest customers who’ll be referred elsewhere in the meantime.
“That’s just one of the things we’ll have to put up with, with the change,” said Old Town Dolas Jackson, as he waited for his noon-hour license renewal appointment Thursday in the Hillcrest DMV office.
“If you’re going to work, you’re going to work,” Jackson said of the DMV staffers who’ll have to commute to far-flung locations for the duration.  “If you want to get your license or whatever ID you need, you’ve got to be willing to travel.  
That’s what it’s going to take.”

Dining: Local Habit | On my must try list

While walking my dogs at Dusty Rhodes dog park in Ocean Beach, I met the chef’s wife of the restaurant Local Habit in Hillcrest. We both have new rescue dogs. The following day I noticed this new review in the SDUptown. After the post I included some links to past articles, yelp reviews etc. Comment back if you go or have been. Sounds yummy.

By David Nelson | SDUN Restaurant Critic

Anyone who remembers the California-style “fern bars” (airy places hung with masses of potted ferns and similar greenery) that were cornerstones of boomer social life in the 1970s may be too long in the tooth to make a habit of hanging at Hillcrest’s new Local Habit. But a few fern tendrils in its woodsy, high-ceilinged room, with its bare wooden tables and vast windows offering views of 5th Avenue, create the same cozy feeling as those now quaint venues, encouraging patrons to make a habit of visiting their “local,” as Brits frequently refer to pubs.

“The décor just came together; it kind of chose us,” says co-owner and manager Adam Hiner, who evidently shares a talent for scavenging with partner/chef Nicholas Brune and partner/occasional bartender Barry Braden. “We found all this reclaimed wood and figured out what to do with as we brought it in.”

If the décor to some degree designed itself, the menu and bar lists show a careful, deliberate approach to hospitality. Local Habit is in fact a successor to and continuation of the previous occupant, Pizza Fusion, which apparently needed a little more pizzazz—and more than high-quality pizzas—to make it. 
First at bat on the Local Habit menu: a list of imaginative, appealing pizzas built on guests’ choice of traditional Naples-style dough, or whole wheat or gluten-free crusts. “There must be a genuine sensitivity to gluten on the part of management, in fact, since almost every item bears the logo “gf” encased in a red circle.” Exceptions include a savory bread pudding enriched with Gouda cheese and roasted tomatoes and peppers, and a bread salad with grilled seasonal vegetables, arugula and tomato vinaigrette. If these items show an eye to pleasing vegetarians, they should, since Local Habit also offers substantial vegetarian plates, such as sandwich of grilled veggies, house aioli and mixed greens assembled on a whole wheat baguette that is, of course, gluten-free.

The counterpoints to Local Habit’s carefully composed but easy-going menu are highly selective lists of bottled craft beers, California wines, superb ciders and home-made sodas. The beers are choice and often seem on the pricey side, but most are bottled in quite large portions, of 22 ounces (for example Port Brewing Shark Attack and Eel River 2009 Climax Noel, both $10) or even, in the case of the $17-a-pop AleSmith Speedway Stout, 750 milliliters, which is one big brewski. Hiner notes that his restaurant is “the only craft beer place in Hillcrest,” and that customers who used to head to foamier neighborhoods now make Local Habit a regular port of call.

The wine list misses a baker’s dozen by two, but offers boutique choices such as Terra Savia Chardonnay and Keenan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($6 to $12 by the glass, $24 to $38 the bottle). Cider was a mainstay of American life until the Temperance movement commenced striking in the 1830s, when entire orchards of apple, pears and cherries were chopped down. Local Habit revives a fine old tradition by offering Julian Hard Apple Cider, and Fox Barrel pear and black currant ciders. Priced at $2.50, the rich-tasting root beer and ginger ale cost no more than do diet colas at dozens of nearby restaurants, while they clearly offer much more in the way of flavor. Unsurprisingly, servers pour water into canning jars from large beer “growler” flasks (growlers typically contain 64 ounces), which have become another local habit since Stone Brewing Co. introduced them several years ago.

A written-daily blackboard supplements the printed menu and offers some pretty zingy options, such as a pizza with anchovies, tomato, shaved onions and Spring Hill Cheese Co. Firehouse Jack that instantly won the vote of one guest who exclaimed, “I like little fishies on dough!” When the pie arrived, it was greeted by a robust appetite and disappeared with impressive speed. Another irresistible choice, which shared perfectly, was a salad of top-grade blue cheese, assorted greens and quite wonderful organic almonds from SMIT Orchards, an artisan grower in Northern California. It was, in fact, a terrific salad. Local Habit also uses stone fruit from the same excellent grower. 

Photography by Jarett Boskovich
The pizzas are said to be individually sized, but depending with what you preface the main course with (if anything), you might well share one with another guests. They are notably thin-crusted and, while “delicate” seems an unlikely concept at Local Habit, the pizzas fit this description. They’re delicious, too. Although one a purist insisted on a pie topped simply with Petaluma Jack cheese and house-made beef pepperoni (the flavor is different and rather assertive), he could have ordered imaginative choices decorated with house-smoked pork loin, shaved red onions and two cheeses, a Hawaiian-style combo of braised pork shoulder, pineapple, onion and cheese, or sunny side-up eggs, crisp bacon lardons and pesto made by hand in a mortar, just like they do in Genoa.

The creativity continues with sandwiches, notably rustic Italian bread stuffed with cured-on-premises pepper bacon, local farm tomatoes and frisee lettuce in cider vinaigrette, and such salads as grilled Romaine tossed with cucumber, tomato, pungent garlic croutons and a creamy buttermilk dressing. Optional side dishes include sauteed greens with julienned onions and garlic (certainly not fare you would have found at ’70s fern bars) and roasted Brussels sprouts with house-made mustard and chives (ditto). The cheese boards are deluxe, and definitely make fit companions for Local Habit’s carefully selected reds. When the server suggests dessert, just say “yes” and look forward to treats like the seasonal bread pudding, which may feature whiskey-marinated Santa Rosa plums and a sublime vanilla-whiskey sauce, and the remarkable fudge brownie with SMIT Farms pecans and raw coconut caramel. Topped with a chiffonade (a fine julienne) of basil, the gluten-free triumph comes close to fudge. A first bite caused one guest to say, “Oh, wow!”—and just might do the same to you.