The Neighborhood: City Heights


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shop signs in City HeightsNight after night, Al Stasukevich sat on the garage roof of his Cherokee Street home, watching the drug deals go down. The about-to-retire Navy chief did more than watch. He made sure police knew what was going on in his City Heights neighborhood.

After enough watching and note-taking and calls to police, the tide turned in favor of the guy who just wanted to live quietly in the heart of San Diego. One by one, the bad guys were shut down, busted and evicted from his tidy street. As far as Stasukevich is concerned, the overnights on his garage roof are where redevelopment really began for him—even in a part of San Diego that had been written off by anybody who could afford to move out.

That was more than 10 years ago. Redevelopment in City Heights now hasa big capital R in front of it, and ahuge amount of money and expertise behind it.

San Diego’s most culturally diverse, economically depressed victim of bad urban planning is redefining itself. Stasukevich has gone from neighborhood lookout to code enforcement guru to full-time community activist and head of the City Heights Project Area Committee. He’s got all that chief petty officer experience guaranteeing that whatever needs to gets done will get done.

“I think the whole idea has to be smart redevelopment,” Stasukevich says, now speaking that combination of English and developerese that takes over when you make a commitment like his. “Our main goal is to preserve our single-family neighborhood and plan for density—but density where it needs to be.”

He’s one of hundreds in City Heights who’ve seen their hopes for turning around their neighborhood backed by the biggest guns in San Diego’s philanthropic community, city officials and lots of money—public and private. The reinvestment will amount to more than $550 million in projects over the next few years. Here’s the short list of what’s been accomplished so far:

Community library and park with a pool, theater and athletic fields—$14.8 million.
Rosa Parks Elementary School—$24.4 million.
San Diego Community College District Continuing Education Facility—$8.6 million.
San Diego State University Community Center for education and job training—$2.9 million.
Mid-City police substation and community gymnasium—$12.7 million.
City Heights Village Shopping Center, complete with Albertsons, Starbucks and other big-name food and service stores —$20 million.
Townhomes and office center (under construction)—$45.5 million.

Still in the works are a $12.5 million transportation center for alternative-fuel vehicles, an Imax theater and an education center to train thousands in the auto service industry; a transit plaza; a $42 million combination transit plaza and San Diego Workforce Partnership metropolitan career center expected to train 10,000 people a year; an ambitious $120 million model-school project that combines a 700-student school with community services, a park and low-income housing for 330; and four more elementary schools that will cost an estimated $200 million. Also in store are more mixed use (housing/retail/commercial) projects and multimillion-dollar infrastructure improvements, as well as first-time home buyer and rehab programs.

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