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The first episode of Culturecast, our new podcast that for its first season examines the tensions created by gentrification and the artistic renaissance in Barrio Logan, ended on a cliffhanger.
This week, we pick up where we left off and dig into the challenges local developer Greg Strangman faced after rehabbing a few buildings in Barrio Logan.
Strangman’s firm spruced up two apartment buildings and a few commercial units on Logan Avenue, a street that’s become the center of the artistic renaissance happening in the historically under-served, Latino neighborhood. Soon after the projects were finished, the grumblings from the community began.
Strangman opened the project with a bang in January by inviting two local arts nonprofits to take over the residential buildings for a night with a huge exhibition featuring almost two dozen San Diego artists. CityBeat arts reporter Seth Combs slammed the “Parallel” show. There were fliers and posters advertising the building’s available units hanging throughout the event, and Combs said that made the whole thing feel like a sham.
“‘Parallel’ wasn’t an art event,” Combs wrote. “It was a carefully staged marketing party that happened to include some art.”
Combs said the project itself was a bellwether of the onslaught of gentrification in Barrio Logan.
I sat down with Combs and Strangman to talk about the neighborhood’s transformation and whether there’s a right way to redevelop a neighborhood like Barrio Logan. Strangman defended his event, talked about his passion for art and culture and said he moved his company’s office to Barrio Logan because he genuinely digs the vibe there.
“After sourcing out North Park, South Park, Little Italy, Mission Hills, we kind of settled on Barrio Logan [and decided it] was going to be an ideal home for us because of some of the cultural history and the richness of the people that are here,” he said.
Also on the podcast, a real estate agent who grew up in Barrio Logan offers his take on gentrification, and a business owner who rents one of Strangman’s commercial spaces and has been in business for 16 years talks about the good and bad effects of the change he’s seeing. Strangman also directly addresses criticisms of an art installation – an old scoreboard alongside a controversial quote – that’s on the outside of one of his buildings, and details why he thinks the neighborhood is safe from big, bad development, at least for now.
“I think it’s going to grow really organically,” he said. “I really do. I just don’t see anything coming in here and tearing this place apart – I just don’t see it,” he said. “I could be wrong. … But who knows, maybe a Chargers stadium will come in and change the whole dialogue.”
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
At the end of April, Vista’s planning department recommended that the City Council adopt a percent-for-art program that would require new downtown development to pitch in to pay for public art, either on premises or in another location.
The percent-for-art program would apply to any new development downtown that’s 1,500 square feet or bigger and would ask developers to put 15 cents per square foot of a new project toward public art.
One local business owner said fees like these make affordable housing more out of reach for him and his employees. Another longtime resident said he supported a public art program, but disagreed with making developers pay for it. And an arts advocate said she thinks developers understand the economic impact of public art and many would be willing to add to the city’s public art program. Plus, she said, public art is important.
“I think this is a way we can love where we live more,” she said. “This stuff matters.”
The City Council ended up sending planning department staff back to the drawing board to come up with more strategies and models for funding public art. John Conley, director of the city’s planning commission, is heading up that effort and a spokesperson for the city said he’d likely bring ideas back to the City Council in coming months.
Vista currently pays about $35,000 a year from its general fund for the city’s “Kites Over Vista” public art exhibitions and other arts programs. The proposed public art fees would add to that fund.
While a handful of local cities like San Diego, Escondido, San Marcos and Solana Beach have percent-for-art programs, there are still several local municipalities that don’t.
Like Vista, National City is in the middle of working toward passing a new percent-for-art program that’s expected to be voted on soon.
The local building industry adamantly opposes public art fees.
• The proposed change in the Port of San Diego’s public art policy that I told you about in last week’s Culture Report passed unanimously, which means new private development and redevelopment projects in its jurisdiction can now opt to put 1 percent of the project’s budget toward a lighting project for the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge.
• At the city of San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture public art committee meeting in March, artist Janet Zweig presented preliminary ideas for the piece she’s creating for the new Mission Hills-Hillcrest Branch Library. Here are the rest of the minute from the commission’s March meeting.
• This year’s Festival of Arts in North Park is happening Saturday. (Times of San Diego)
• There’s a new gallery in Barrio Logan and it’s showing an exhibition by John Mireles, the photographer who mounted giant portraits of his neighbors on his fence in Logan Heights.
• There’s an epic new observation deck at the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park.
• These photos of Fern Street Circus’ new residency at the San Diego International Airport make me wish acrobats and clowns were everywhere all the time. (U-T)
• Seema Sueko, co-founder of San Diego’s Mo`olelo Performing Arts Co, is moving on up in the theater scene again. (U-T)
• In an email, artist Nasser Pirasteh told me it took him nine months to finish the “In Out” sculpture that sits in the front yard of his La Jolla home. He said it’s his greatest work to date. A neighbor complained that the large art piece crossed the line, though, and is illegal. The city agreed, and sent Pirasteh a letter saying if he didn’t take it down, he’d be fined starting next week. Pirasteh hasn’t taken the piece down and, in the meantime, the U-T reports that people have written words of support on the wall around his home.
“Art is not a code violation, it is art,” writes one supporter.
• Avid festival-goers will want to scroll through this roundup of the summer’s best fests. (DiscoverSD.com)
• There’s an art show in Barrio Logan that displays feminism through the lens of San Diego and Swedish artists. (CityBeat)
• Alex Zaragoza, a writer who previously helmed the Culture Report, tells the Reader more about the new pop culture and music show she’s hosting.
• CityBeat reports that a legendary San Diego punk music venue is closing.
• The Times of San Diego talks to longtime friends Deborah Szekely, founder of the New Americans Museum in Liberty Station, and artist and filmmaker Vivian Blackstone.
• CityBeat’s Seth Combs puts on his art critic hat and says North Park’s “50 to Watch” show isn’t yet the authoritative showcase of the city’s best artists, but it’s on its way.
• The San Diego Asian Film Festival’s Drive-By Cinema truck is up for grabs.
• Movies, books and plays based on scandalous Tinseltown murders basically write themselves. Playwright Joe Di Pietro talks to KPBS about “Hollywood,” his juicy new play showing at La Jolla Playhouse that’s based on the 1922 murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor.
• A city in Northern California is taking the lead from the annual Arts Alive Encinitas event, which results in artist-made banners that hang from the city’s lampposts, and instituting an Arts Alive event of its own.
• The U-T reports that Alpine’s new public library just opened, and includes a piece of public art by San Diego sculptor Christopher Puzio.
• Some folks weren’t happy when, in 2013, the mural picturing famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was stripped from a large exterior wall of the San Diego International Airport’s commuter terminal. The U-T wrote that the artists, John and Jeanne Whalen, weren’t happy either. They told the paper they were working to preserve the mural. They did, and now the piece will go up on the Masonic Lodge in Ramona as part of the city’s H.E.A.R.T. Mural project. (East County Magazine)
• Food deserts are places where it’s easier to buy junk food than fresh food because there’s nary a grocery store close by. The U-T maps local food deserts and says folks living in the central and southern areas of San Diego are the farthest from healthy food.
• If you want to torture yourself, here’s a roundup of some good-looking chocolate chip cookies in San Diego. (U-T)
• And here’s a roundup of tasty-looking hamburgers. (Pacific Magazine)
• Oh, hey, and how ’bout a roundup of 10 coffee shops you might like? (Xome.com)
• Why stop now? Check out this listicle of unusual tacos. (Reader)
• Follow these chefs on Instagram for lots of #foodpic action. (San Diego Eater)
• There’s a new cold brew specialist in town. The Reader talks to the man behind Red Hat Coffee.