Home » Top Highlights, Commentary » Has the proposed Hillcrest LGBT Historic District ended before even starting?

Has the proposed Hillcrest LGBT Historic District ended before even starting?

Guest Commentary

Gateway video progression showing #1 Fifth Ave. wiped out to make room for an elevated concrete box.

Ask anyone anywhere in the world, gay or straight, with even a passing knowledge of San Diego, and they will tell you that Hillcrest is our ‘gayborhood.’ Although now as the saying goes, “we are everywhere,” we had to start somewhere; and Hillcrest has remained as the place where LGBT locals and tourists alike live and visit to experience a sense of belonging.

However, the heart of Hillcrest is about to be ripped out. Nov. 14, the City Council will vote on a new Uptown Community Plan. Although called for since 1988, a Hillcrest Historic District not only isn’t included in this new plan, but a group of real estate speculators calling themselves Gateway have lobbied city staff and councilmembers to have the same area as the historic district specially designated for them.

Rather than comply with historic preservation or even the same development requirements as everywhere else in Uptown, Gateway is demanding entitlements for unlimited height and density and to bulldoze over nine square blocks.

Many of you reading this right now might be thinking that what I’m saying is an exaggeration, that the situation can’t possibly be as bad as I’ve described.

However, for better or worse, this Gateway group has produced a video showing that this is exactly what they want to do; and you can watch it at https://vimeo.com/170125758.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

In the last Uptown Community Plan, the Hillcrest commercial core area, “which is generally bounded by University, Third, Sixth and Robinson,” was proposed as a historic district. This area is “significant because of its unique architectural attributes.” The plan noted that the “two-story buildings along these streets represent a unique and historic relationship between building facades and pedestrian sidewalk areas,” making it a model for the ideal of walkable neighborhoods.

In June 2015, the first draft plan update called for increasing the footprint of this proposed Hillcrest Historic District, and to include an LGBT context as reflecting the living history of the area. It further called for the city to “Provide interim protection of all potential historic districts identified in the adopted Uptown Historic Resources Survey,” and to “Partner with local knowledgeable organizations and groups.”

Yet when the revised draft was presented in June 2016, the district still wasn’t established. Paradoxically, city staff claimed both that the scope of the plan was so large that there wasn’t room for it, and that they didn’t have time to restore it to the final plan.

Gateway video progression showing #1 Fifth Ave. wiped out to make room for an elevated concrete box.

This led Uptown Planners, Lambda Archives, Hillcrest History Guild and over 20 other individuals and groups to call for the implementation of the Hillcrest Historic District in the final plan. It also prompted Save Our Heritage Organization for the first time to include the Hillcrest Historic District in its Most Endangered List of Historic Resources.

Despite the fact that no other potential historic district in Uptown received this level of endorsement, city staff still refuses to include it. And in September, staffers created a work program that wouldn’t even begin to look at implementing it until 2023!

While all this was going on in the open, Gateway paid the Atlantis Group, the lobbyists behind many controversial local land use issues, to spend hundreds of hours meeting with city staff and councilmembers.

And even though there has been no public discussion of it, it appears city staff did make time to incorporate 110 pages of code revisions and arguments from Gateway, and is going to recommend a Gateway special district be included in the final plan.

Certainly greed is the major motive behind developers’ efforts for a free hand, and one hesitates to accuse those we barely know of homophobia.

However, when we consider the ugly history of the Pernicanos property, its dereliction long tied to anti-gay rumors, it’s hard not to see getting rid of a district honoring LGBT people as a final spite. And it is difficult to imagine a different motivation for those putting in quote tongs their calling “the removal of the ‘proposed historic district’ for the commercial core of Hillcrest as a common sense step.”

But motive is irrelevant when the practical effect of what is called business as usual is in fact the eradication of our cultural heritage. The underhanded demolition of the Michels-Carey House shows that developers are more than willing to destroy anything considered historical if it stands in the way of their plans.

There are only four days left until this chance to save the heart of Hillcrest is gone forever.

Please call or write Todd Gloria at 619-236-6633 or ToddGloria@sandiego.gov. Bring your friends to the Nov. 14 City Council meeting on the final plan (it will likely be in the evening session). Urge him to repudiate the Gateway special district and have city staff fast track implementation of the Hillcrest Historic District.



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Posted by on Nov 10, 2016. Filed under Top Highlights, Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

13 Comments for “Has the proposed Hillcrest LGBT Historic District ended before even starting?”

  1. Nothing lasts forever. The Ghetto is dead. Build it bigger and better. The future is today.

  2. Obviously Uptown Planners and their rotating Board of Obstructionists have failed the community. Blame yourselves. There was plenty of time to work with the city but due your lack of vision the City has to make a decision . What are the credentials of the Uptown Planning Board? What Experts did the Uptown Planners contract to help design their recommendations. You botched the job so now you are trying to throw a stick in the city wheel. Too late. We are moving on.

  3. I support this idea. There is nothing unique about the proposed Hillcrest Historic District other than it’s Hillcrest and gay. The two story buildings were a hodgepodge of construction projects that had nothing unique but were, instead, hastily built to accommodate growing population migrations to the new uptown suburb growing a century ago. Such designation seems to be a clear attempt to use our “gayborhood” as a political tool to block progress and modernization that has allowed for steady deterioration of our beloved neighborhood. It’s time to evolve.

  4. The three previous comments sound exactly like the talking points the lobbyists for Atlantis Group have been saying for months now. It’s pretty much the same as the ad campaign used on Prop B. The land owners and developers portray themselves as altruistic folks just trying to make the world a better place. Of course if they also end up destroying farmland or the soul of a neighborhood at the same time so be it. And of course if they also make a windfall and leave town, so be it. What is really tragic is that the Gateway Group chose to make the dialog angry and polarized in a false way. The residents of Hillcrest and surrounding communities are not opposed to growth, increased density or development. They simply want the decisions on how it happens to be in the hands of the citizens, not the people who are only focused on their own big pay day, as the land owners, developers or lobbyists. There is plenty of non historic property waiting to be developed in Hillcrest, and good ideas protect the value of historic real estate for the property owners. If the City decides to reward the Gateway Group for their manipulative and polarizing plot to destroy Hillcrest it will be a sign our city is not ours.

  5. Anyone who supports this plan is brain dead. You don’t erase the history of a community and put in sky scrapers and think that’s some sort of “Future”. People are drawn to our community because it has a neighborhood feel. If it gets turned into this bullshit, it’s not going to attract anyone, and it’s just a matter of time before all its character is lost. Sorry I will take historical character over ugly large concret boxes and skyscrapers any day.

    I’m sure the majority of people who support this don’t even live in Hillcrest. Also with giant expensive high rises comes even higher and more expensive rent. astronomical rent prices are the resason there are so many vacant store fronts in our community, not because it needs to become “high density”.

  6. Those fugly buildings will completely overshadow the historic buildings that stay (if any). Build something that compliments one of our best blocks in Hillcrest for historic buildings… .at least restore the cute storefront facades. I’m so disappointed with architects and designers these days who seem to be artistically challenged and can’t imagine something great that honors the history while building for the future… Such a male-idea to build the most biggest and grotesque thing and dominate a whole block with no respect for anyone else or anything else. Like Irwin Jacobs spewing his by-pass bridge off ramp on the Cabrillo bridge… it’s disgusting. Why is this always a fight? Why are rich assholes dominating OUR city? Why are our elected offices bought off so easily? Everyone’s gonna write their letters to council and go to this meeting, and they will side with the developers anyway… that’s how it’s done…Ignore the people and community and let the developers do what they want…. must be something in it for them.

    HR supports developers most of the time.

  7. Opponents often say the proposed new buildings would be “ugly concrete boxes”. But have they really stopped to look at the old ones? Look at the southwest corner of 5th & Univ, where the chocolate shop is. That is a true concrete box, rectangular with plain square windows and no adornment of any kind. The remainder of that block along University is equally devoid of any architectural style, just simple boxes. There are some gems sprinkled through the area, but a lot of it should go. The businesses here are so obviously struggling from lack of foot traffic, which higher densities would rectify. Honestly, walk through Hillcrest at the height of dinner hour and see how many restaurants have only 3 or 4 tables filled – or less. Ironically, some of these properties were actually occupied by homophobic businesses in the past and now are being claimed as essential parts of gay history. I would support preserving the more unique or attractive facades, but only as part of an overall plan involving much more housing. I personally would love to move into a highrise in the heart of Hillcrest, a community I’ve called home for nearly 40 years.

  8. Greg,

    You are obviously passionate about “your aesthetic” of what architecture is but that is just your opinion just like I have one. Maybe you are artustacaly challenged with a low taste level and sophistication. Peoples tastes differ, get over it. To generalize the rich @ss&%$ are dominating our city is a pretty vulgar and ignorant statement. San Diego has a housing shortage and a growing population. I am born and raised here several generations and the city has never stopped growing or developing as long as I can remember. The last two votes were unanimous because the City knows there needs to be more housing. If you can’t afford it then save your money until you can or move.

  9. Looks like the City Council’s vision is not as narrow as the people who have been drawing this out. It passed, onward.

  10. Maxx , Jedd, Mark, and John… You are either paid by the Atlantis group or you have drunk some of their Kool-Aid. The Gateway / Atlantis Group usurped seven years of careful work with Uptown Planners and concerned residents of the uptown communities, (especially Hillcrest). You idiots think that supporting construction of 200′ towers in the core of Hillcrest is going to somehow allow you to live there? You will not possibly afford it. You will also not afford to live in North Park, or anywhere within a 5 mile radius, within 1 years time. You will all have to take a bus , or ride a bike, or take an uber to take part in the lifestyle that you all imagined that would be your entitlement , courtesy of the all-powerful “Gateway Group” who supposedly will provide your millennial masses with “affordable” high rise condominiums in the heart of Hillcrest. You people don’t even get it. The urban millennial dream of stepping out of your perfect little dream home and getting a cold pressed latte, or sampling a craft beer with your Bros while wifey takes the baby to the (non-existant dog park) IS NOT GOING TO MATERIALIZE. If you can’t afford to rent an apartment, or even dream of OWNING a home in an Uptown neighborhood – (and you think that the Gateway Group will make that possible)? You will be LUCKY to find an affordable home in Lakeside or Chula Vista – unless of course, you are entitled.

  11. I already own my house in Hillcrest and yes it is in the areas set for new zoning and I am fine with it. And no I don’t have any connection to any developers and I am not a millennial, I am GenX. Stop generalizing, progress is happening with or without you.
    Obviously the Uptown Planners have failed. Why don’t you focus your attention on their waste effort and failures to support the community. What are the Uptown Planners credentials? Which experts in planning did they secure to build a vision?

  12. Let’s see: ‘Jedd’ was born before 1981, and is a lifelong San Diegan who owns his house in Hillcrest. He also represents himself an expert on local history, architecture, and land use; and so dismisses anyone with different opinion on these topics–especially if they are the representatives elected by his neighbors in the community, which is all that Uptown Planners is. (He doesn’t say if he ever ran to be on it and failed to get elected.) But he has lived here for over 35 years and acquired expert industry knowledge without “any connection to any developers,” and doesn’t believe the rich “are dominating our city.”

    Yet he denies that there has been over seven years of plan update work done by dozens of community groups, including the Hillcrest Town Council and Hillcrest Business Association, in addition to Uptown Planners. Saying that “obviously Uptown Planners and their rotating board of obstructionists have failed the community” isn’t just wrong, it distracts from what actually happened.

    The truth is, the city council voted to approve a mix-mash of last minute and completely out-there changes (such as re-adopting the old 1988 maps) made by the Planning Commission just within the last month. And the Gateway special district to replace the Hillcrest LGBT Historic District wasn’t made public until the day this article was published. (I only knew about it because I submitted a Public Records Act request, CCPRA 16-1609, which while not fully responsive did reveal some of what Gateway was pitching behind closed doors.) Feel free to look all this up. None of this ever went before Uptown Planners, so how could it have “botched the job”?

    These are the facts. Anyone saying that Uptown Planners or any member of the public had “plenty of time” but the city “had to make a decision” is either clueless or lying. And as ‘Jedd’ has taken such pains to assure us that he’s in the know, he must be lying.

    Which leads me to this question: I’ve searched Facebook, 411.com, and LinkedIn, and can’t find anyone named ‘Jedd’ who fits this Build-A-Bore description of the perfect developer shill. This kind of digging is necessary when you see pro-Gateway and anti-community accomplices repeatedly troll online commenting on articles like this in total disconnect of actual and possible. They set up fictitious narrators who possess a totally coincidental background that magically grants them authority to pronounce an alternate reality that only those without “credentials” and “challenged with a low level taste and sophistication” refuse to accept. The tactic is dreary in its redundancy, which is why Roy, Morgan, Daniel, and I, all mention it.

    Prove us wrong about this, ‘Jedd.’ Tell us who you really are, so we can vet your credentials. I’m the author of the original article; everyone can see who I am. Have the courage of your convictions, or quit poisoning the public dialog.

  13. This will almost certainly end up in a lawsuit that the city will lose, just as it lost when it tried to shove 301 University down our throats.

    There is no way that this plan can pass muster under CEQA, which requires infrastructure, parks and other amenities to support a massive increase in population.

    10-20,000 more cars in Hillcrest when we already have traffic gridlock — that’s how stupid this plan is.

    Even dumber is the notion that people are going to spend a million dollars or more for a high rise condo without any parking. People work all over San Diego, and they are not going to give up using their cars.

    None of that infrastructure is provided for in this plan.

    Uptown Planners is NOT supposed to consist of planning professionals. It is supposed to consist of neighborhood residents who want sane and sensible development in THEIR community.

    The people here who claim that they will be able to afford to live in high rises make me laugh. They probably live in mommy’s basement.

    I’ll bet there isn’t a single pro-development post here that isn’t from a low-level development industry stooge.

    The gay community has been indifferent to planning issues, so I don’t want to hear any whining from them if the gayborhood ends up being demolished.

    They will have done very little to stop it.

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