Culture Report: Keeping Convoy Culinary and Cultural
Chula Vista’s Third Avenue gets a makeover, Zaha Hadid’s La Jolla design still in the works and more in our weekly roundup of arts and culture news.
The emerging culinary and cultural district is essentially inside the triangle created by the 805, 52 and 163 freeways, and the heart of it is Convoy Street.
The San Diego Night Market, an Asian food summer festival, happens there, and so do a handful of other food and community festivals.
“It’s an incredibly dynamic business district,” said Vince Vasquez, a researcher for the National University System Institute for Policy Research who also serves as the spokesperson for the Convoy District Partnership, a group that promotes the region. “We think of it as San Diego’s next great business district.”
But Vasquez said he and a growing number of community members think Convoy Street is at risk of losing its cultural character. A project proposed by Time Warner Cable at 4020 Convoy St. could do irreversible damage to the neighborhood, Vasquez said.
Time Warner has plans to replace a shuttered restaurant on the site with a facility housed with equipment. A spokesperson for the company said the project is needed to improve service to the area.
Vasquez said he’s all for better service, but that the project should be built in a more industrialized zone.
“It’s an industrial facility,” Vasquez said. “No employees will be housed here, it won’t bring any customers to Convoy and it will be fenced off to the public so it would be completely walled off.”
The project got early approvals, but the Convoy District Partnership appealed, asking the City Council to reconsider the project’s exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act. The appeal was denied but Councilman Chris Cate, who represents the area, asked the partnership and the cable company to it down and work things out before the final permit approval hearing on April 14.
Vasquez said not much as changed as a result of Cate’s request. Time Warner did tweak the project, but Vasquez said it wasn’t enough.
“It would be inconceivable to place a project like this in Little Italy on India Street or on University in Hillcrest,” he said. “And we’re afraid if this project is approved as-is there will be more projects like it. So we’re taking a stand and saying we want community-friendly projects.”
Cate said he knows the project isn’t as appealing as a restaurant or brewery, but he said it is in line with current zoning. Plus, he said, the site’s been blighted for years so a new building will be an improvement. Though Convoy Street is on its way to becoming a more pedestrian-friendly district, it’s still home to big car lots and other businesses that aren’t restaurants, Cate said.
Cate also noted that the three-year process to update Kearney Mesa’s community plan will kick off in the next few months. The completed plan could help guard against projects like the Time Warner building in places that don’t make sense.
“How do we make the district more walkable and brand it better?” Cate said. “Those are all things we’re trying to push forward through the updated community plan process. We would all love to have Convoy be beautified and have more activation there, but the Convoy District itself is still relatively new and we’re working to empower folks and get them to attend these planning meetings so they can work on things like this for the future.”
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
A Facelift for Chula Vista’s Third Avenue
Speaking of important streets: Phase two of three of the Third Avenue Streetscape revitalization project in Chula Vista is under way and people are starting to notice.
CityBeat beer columnist Andrew Dyer even called Third Avenue the “next 30th Street,” comparing the thoroughfare to the beer-laden North Park stretch. He pointed to a taproom on Third Avenue and said two breweries and another taproom are slated to open soon.
Dyer talked to Chula Vista’s principal planner Scott Donaghe, who said the city is working hard to woo the craft beer industry.
“I think the thing that’s different about Chula Vista is from the mayor and city manager on down there’s an open-arms policy towards these kinds of businesses,” Donaghe told Dyer. “Not just craft beer, but craft businesses.”
The city also tore down the dilapidated building that housed the Heritage Museum. The museum was recently reopened in a section of the Civic Center library. (The Star News)
In its most recent newsletter, the Third Avenue Village Association wrote that the removed building has opened up better views into Memorial Park. The association is showing off Third Avenue’s face-lift during a new craft beer and music festival it’s holding there in May.
Zaha Hadid’s Mark on San Diego Will Be Made
Fans of modern architecture have been mourning the loss of Zaha Hadid, an architect regarded as a leader in the field. Hadid died of a heart attack March 31. News of her passing has been making the rounds and, locally, the story about Hadid’s proposed design of a home in La Jolla resurfaced.
I called James Brown, the principal of Public Architecture + Planning, a local architecture firm that partnered with Hadid’s firm for the project, and asked him to fill me in on the history of the project.
“La Jolla’s not an easy community to work in, especially for architecture that’s slightly unusual,” he said.
Taal Safdie, a principal at the firm, said the home is in the last phases of design and crews will likely begin construction in the next few months.
“As someone from her office put it, the best thing they could do is make sure to see Zaha’s projects completed,” Safdie said. “So yes, things are still progressing.”
New Head at the NAT, Lots of Love for Seaport Village and Other Arts and Culture News
• There’s a new leader at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Judy Gradwohl is taking the reins from Michael “Mick” Hager, who’ll be leaving his post at the end of June after 25 years as the head of the Balboa Park institution that my 3-year-old son insists on calling “the dinosaur museum.” (U-T)
Some murals have been replaced or taken down since the Murals of La Jolla project first launched in 2010, but the group has put up 23 murals throughout downtown La Jolla.
• The San Diego Art Institute’s “Sweet Gongs Vibrating” exhibition is getting some attention for its use of interactivity. CityBeat’s Seth Combs singles out artist Cooper Baker’s sculpture that responds to sound and the U-T’s Karla Peterson describes a handful of works in the show.
The show was organized by SDAI’s current curator-in-residence Amanda Cachia and is on view through May 28.
• The San Diego Opera made the first of four stops on its listening tour. The U-T reports that the majority of opera fans at the meeting gave a thumbs-up to the idea of mixing traditional, grand opera at the San Diego Civic Theatre with smaller productions at nontraditional venues around town.
Last fall I followed around the opera’s new leader as he toured a warehouse in Barrio Logan and talked to him about his plan for taking opera to different places
• The dilapidated California Theatre building at Fourth Avenue and C Street downtown is getting closer to its demolition date. The Readers reports on plans to tear the building down and turn it into a 40-story residential building. Historic preservationists oppose tearing down the building, as does a local business owner who tells the Reader she’d prefer to see the space turned into an arts venue.
VOSD’s Ry Rivard wrote about the plans for the building last year.
• The U-T talks to Lux Art Insitute’s metal-bending artist-in-residence.
• There’s a new mural by Parisian artist Sebastien Walker in Carlsbad. (press release)
• In early March, U-T columnist Logan Jenkins reported on a faction that wants to see a sculpture in the likeness of Spanish explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa be erected in Balboa Park. He’s the park’s namesake, of course, and though the guy’s gets a bad wrap when it comes to his treatment of the local indigenous population, people Jenkins talked to in the story argued otherwise. A columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network makes a case for why a Balboa bronze is a bad idea.
“Present day efforts to build a monument to a bloody conquistador such as Balboa need to be immediately dismissed as the kind of delusional behavior that results from historical denial,” he writes.
• OK, so, I somehow got added to the Save Seaport Village email list and I get at least a few emails a day bemoaning the Port of San Diego’s move to seek proposals to redevelop the seaside tourist destination. (U-T)
KOGO recently posted a poll asking people what they think of the Port’s plan to replace Seaport Village and, at last check, a whopping 86 percent agrees with the neverending stream of emails in my inbox: They want to keep things the way they are.
• San Diego Magazine gives us a glimpse of a new vacation rental in Barrio Logan.
• The Pacific Standard Time initiative was launched in 2011 as a way to finally put Southern California on the map in terms of its importance and place in the art world. The huge collaboration of arts organizations and institutions, which includes a handful in San Diego, will be back for its third iteration in fall 2017. It’ll be focused on Latino art, and one of the institutions behind the effort, the Getty Foundation, recently announced over $8 million in grants to support exhibitions exploring art from Latin America and art by Latino artists in Southern California. (KPCC)
• This week, one gallery announced its closing and another opened a new project space. TPG2, an auxiliary gallery in Hillcrest operated by the crew behind Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla, is closing. The owners told me in a Facebook message that they chose not to renew their lease and instead want to focus on new projects. Meanwhile, over the weekend, Quint Gallery opened a new project space at 5171 B Santa Fe St. in Bay Ho.
• The U-T has a story on 40 plein air paintings by 20 San Diego County artists showing in Carlsbad.
• The Los Angeles Times says there’s a show on view that makes the pain of crossing the border worth it.
• There’s a new video about the “Greetings San Diego” mural on the outside of the Belching Beaver tasting room in North Park.
• Pacific magazine talks to the featured artists in this year’s ArtWalk.
• Yarn art is cooler than it sounds (btw, the artist in the article lives in San Diego). (BuzzFeed)
• Park Boulevard medians near Balboa Park now sport succulents, cacti and other low-water plants thanks, in large part, to the efforts of the Friends of Balboa Park nonprofit. (press release)
Food, Beer and Booze News
• The National University System Institute for Policy Research just released a new study looking at the economic impact of San Diego breweries.
• The San Diego Food System Alliance is launching a new dinner series asking local chefs to show “creativity to transform ignored or un-coveted food that would otherwise become waste” into something yummy. (press release)
• Despite the less-than-stellar start to the Padres’ season, I’m sure a few folks still plan to attend some games. Modern Luxury San Diego surveys some eateries near Petco Park where fans can grab a pre- or post-game bite.
• These local dudes have figured out a creative use for spent coffee grounds. (Kickstarter)
• A new fish taco restaurant is slated to open on Logan Avenue in Barrio Logan. (Eater San Diego)
• Fresh & Easy didn’t work out in North Park, but perhaps this locally owned grocery chain will.
• A new(ish) distillery in Spring Valley is celebrating its grand opening this week.