Across East Village, cranes zig and zag across a quickly changing skyline. The downtown neighborhood is in the midst of an unprecedented construction boom.
There are 10 active development projects in East Village, according to Civic San Diego, the city nonprofit that oversee downtown development. The agency lists another dozen that will begin construction soon, three more pending approval and another three that just finished at the end of last year.
“It’s safe to say this is the biggest development boom the East Village has ever seen,” said Brad Richter, Civic San Diego assistant vice president of planning.
I recently spent hours walking around East Village, navigating the closed roads and sidewalks, loud noises, cement dust and other obstacles that come when a neighborhood is packed with so many active construction sites. I talked to a handful of people who live and work in East Village about what they hope comes once the cranes come down and the new buildings open up.
David Vanderwall chases shopping carts, working at the Albertsons on 14th and Market in East Village. Magnets are meant to keep carts in the store, but homeless people find a way to get them out. Vanderwall said he hopes the building boom helps get some of East Village’s growing homeless population off the streets.
“I just hope all this construction lowers the rent, that’s about it,” he said. “I hope it helps the people who don’t have a place.”
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Reduce rents? LOL! If developers thought that building out east village would reduce local rents, they wouldn't do it. Decades ago, local planning organizations like C-3 believed that Centre City East (as East Village was called at the time) would slowly evolve as local artists moved into old
warehouses and lofts, creating a real arts community. Then along came John Moores and the new ballpark. As part of the deal to get that project done, the city deeded over half a dozen CCDC owned downtown blocks to JMI, which filled them with highrise hotels and condo towers. That led other developers to buy up the east village blocks not already owned by the Jerome family, and start the highrise glut we see developing there. Talk about things like "IDEA districts" is just so much developer PR fluff to obscure the fact that the gentrification would eventually force more people out of the districts, to live on the streets in some adjoining neighborhood.
Several (well, two at least) recent articles have bemoaned the fact that an East Village arts community, which was attracted with low rents, has in turn attracted development whose higher rents threatens to displace the arts community. And this criticism is valid. Those who “hope all this construction lowers the rent” are just kidding themselves.
I’d just like to point out two things: First, it’s been this way in many other places, San Diego is just now getting its share of that particular course. Second, this is the way things have been in arts communities forever. Well, the last 50 or years, anyway.