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Signs of Life

Billboard 1204 in early March.


As a city’s quasi–welcome sign, it’s held some interesting verbiage and graphics. The comely Café 222 proprietor’s head has adorned it—capped by a giant waffle. Of late, it’s plugged a bail bonds company, a downtown condo project and, through March, featured a national beer company that references clothes-free practitioners at Black’s Beach.

Meet Clear Channel Outdoor’s billboard 1204.

You can’t miss No. 1204. It’s the only billboard greeting drivers exiting I-5 South on the downtown Front Street exit. The board, on the east side of Front, between Beech and Ash streets—and across the busy roadway from, hey!, the offices of San Diego Magazine—is seen by roughly 30,000 pairs of eyes per day.

Clear Channel employees don’t like to talk about prices in print, but sources say the billboard’s monthly tab can run from $3,000 to $6,000. Of the company’s more than 700 local billboards, “That [Front Street location] is definitely one of the most popular ones,” says Clear Channel Outdoor San Diego vice president/division manager Steve Wagner.

Miller Lite has rented the space since October; the beer company’s six-month contract was scheduled to end after March. Who’ll be next? At press time, Wagner wasn’t sure.

Rubbernecking outside our office during yet another Front Street traffic accident gets me curious about our billboard neighbor. I approach San Diego Magazine advertising executive Cambria Dotterer. She’s been featured on No. 1204. The Gaslamp Quarter Association used her up there in a green-and-purple duotone “Shop Outside the Box” campaign.

“Nobody recognized me because I was green, and wearing sunglasses,” says Dotterer. “But I’m glad I didn’t know at the time how many people saw that billboard... Um, are you really writing a story about a billboard?”

Yep.

—Ron Donoho

Film at Seven

Call it an “open mike” night for local filmmakers. The nonprofit Media Arts Center San Diego has teamed with the Association of Independent Film & Video Makers to present free monthly screenings of locally shot shorts. The action takes place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month in the living room of a small two-story bungalow on 25th Street in Golden Hill.

The evenings feature a succession of films and videos no more than 12 minutes in length. There are no advance signups; filmmakers from San Diego and Tijuana may exhibit their works on a first-come, first-served basis. Paul Espinosa, an independent filmmaker who has won numerous awards for his dramatic films and documentaries about U.S. and Mexico border relations, hosts the open screenings.

“Making films and videos can be a very challenging experience, and many people don’t realize how isolating it can be,” Espinosa says. “This is an important opportunity for filmmakers to brainstorm and learn from other people who are doing the same things.”

Ethan van Thillo, executive director of Media Arts Center, says the bungalow doubles as a mini-studio where filmmakers may come to view and edit their work. Video equipment is available by appointment.

“We are an open-space community for media artists,” van Thillo says. “We would like to be a space where, 24 hours a day, a film producer can come and have an open library of resources.”

For more information, call 619-230-1938 or visit the center’s Web site at www.mediaartscenter.org.

—Mandy Tust

Hot Blocks:
1700-1800 India Street, Uptown


Downtown San Diego redevelopment has proven quite infectious, and among the surrounding areas touched by restorative progress is Little Italy, a charming Old World community torn in two by the construction of Interstate 5 in the early 1960s. This block of India Street has always been Little Italy’s heart, and these days it’s pumping at full speed, with a vibrant pedestrian scene and a sea of sidewalk cafés, bistros and bakeries. Don’t miss the original Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, a community mainstay since 1950. It’s a combination restaurant and Italian market where locals still shop for dried sardines, mascarpone and orechetti. Recent additions worth a visit include Scarab Pottery and Gargoyle Gallery & Café, which, in addition to a fine selection of imports (from Moroccan keychains to Indonesian sarongs), is the gateway to the Fir Street Cottage Shops, a collection of colorfully painted boutiques selling everything from clothes to knickknacks.
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