There aren’t enough public parks and community meeting spaces in San Ysidro, but an influx of cash will fund two cool new projects for the historically underserved community that butts the international border.
A $450,000 grant will help pay for the transformation of a historic church and its adjacent parking lot into a community center and outdoor urban park and event space.
Casa Familiar, a nonprofit that serves southern San Diego County, and UCSD’s Center on Global Justice, partnered up on the project. They won the grant from ArtPlace America, a collaboration of foundations, federal agencies and financial institutions that funds “creative placemaking” efforts, or projects that involve using arts, culture and creativity to cheaply and quickly improve the urban environment.
The old church will become El Salon, and the parking lot will be branded as the Casa Patio Project.
Casa Familiar has been trying to develop the church site into a community center and housing project with the help of UCSD’s Teddy Cruz for over a decade.
“We were trying to move the project forward as an affordable housing development project, but we kind of said we are really, really trying every policy and every financing mechanism in order to move this forward as a housing project, but it’s not happening,” said Casa Familiar’s development director, David Flores. “So we said, let’s just flip this whole thing on its head and let’s focus on building the community spaces first, because that’s what’s really exciting to new philanthropists.”
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What do the people at Casa Familiar really want to accomplish with a dilapidated old building on Hall in San Ysidro? That street is very narrow and lends itself to a residential milieu, not an invitation for cultural celebration. The homeless situation in San Ysidro is severe. At least, 30 percent of enrolled children in San Ysidro are homeless. There are more and more elderly that are destitute. And, most of these people do not have an immigration problem.
The young need more places to socialize and drain their energies in positive ways. And, the young make up a huge portion of the population in San Ysidro. The issues in San Ysidro are huge and disturbing an already highly impacted neighborhood will not help anything. It just seems that an "art" focus is poorly conceived. After all, this is not a well healed community a la Marina or Russian Hill districts of San Francisco. Art is wonderful and should be promoted. But, the gentrification of San Ysidro is not the answer to these huge social problems.