As stated in the last issue, North Park is big, active and well organized. That’s because of all the big, active organizations in North Park. To do them justice, the installment on the area’s community organizations comes in two parts. The first, which published on May 9, focused on the area’s land use organizations: the area’s community planning group and its maintenance assessment district. In this issue, the organizations representing businesses and their neighboring residents get their turn.
—Hutton Marshall, Uptown Editor
North Park Main Street (NPMS)
This is the first Main Street organization touched upon in this series (oh boy!). Evolving out of the existing business improvement district in the neighborhood, NPMS was one of two Main Street organizations created by the City of San Diego in the mid-’90s. The NPMS still supports the same basic mission of nurturing local business and facilitating community improvements, but it does so through the lens of historical preservation. That often means weighing in on what businesses come in and how they do it, primarily to ensure cohesion into the historic character of the community. Encouraging new businesses to reuse existing buildings (i.e. North Park Theatre) rather than rebuilding is another example of this.
The rapid growth of North Park’s commercial district is apparent even to those who have only been in the area for a few years. The University Avenue/30th Street intersection now draws revelers from far and wide on weekend nights, and it seems a new craft beer bar opens up in the area once a month. NPMS Executive Director Angela Landsberg said the burst of economic activity signifies the return of North Park to its previous position a premiere commercial destination in San Diego, as it was before the Mission Valley malls were constructed in the ’60s.
While the new influx of business and their resulting customers is certainly a sign of economic prosperity, a change of this nature doesn’t come without aftereffects. Landsberg said she strives to create a business corridor that works both for the business owners and the residents that surround it. We all know that the late-night bar crowd isn’t always the quietest and cleanest. Landsberg said she encourages property owners to bring in businesses that will respect and have a vested interest in the community. She also said the NPMS makes it a point to work with residents on concerns they might have.
Beautification and landscape improvements also keep NPMS busy. The NPMS actually hopes to establish a Property Business Improvement District (PBID) this year around North Park’s main commercial district to bring in money for landscaping projects, beautification improvements and trash disposal. Establishing such a PBID requires a vote by the property owners in the proposed zone, since they’ll be the ones being assessed. This differs from a BID, which assesses business owners.
In the past, organizations have run into trouble establishing such districts because of large corporate entities in the area. The size of the vote a property owner gets depends on their square footage in a zone. Outside corporations often don’t vote in favor of being assessed for community improvements, because unlike local businesses, they don’t have a vested interest in that specific community.
However, Landsberg said she was very happy to see CVS — one of the largest property owners in the proposed PBID — come out in support of the assessment. She said this is the type of corporate investment the community needs to thrive.
Beyond that, the NPMS is preparing for some major transportation and parking changes in North Park via the SANDAG Bike Corridor and other transportation projects. While their impacts have yet to be set in stone, Landsberg reminds the community that the multi-level ACE parking lot on 30th Street and North Park Way costs $1 a day prior to 6 p.m., increasing to $1 an hour afterward.
Anyone interested in learning more about North Park Main Street or the community in general should visit NPMS’s incredibly informative website, northparkmainstreet.com.
North Park Community Association (NPCA)
Compared to Main Streets, community associations are familiar subjects in this series. Structurally, the NPCA is a bit more formal than many, in that it’s a 501(c)3 nonprofit, but it still fits the mold of the typical community association: a broad-scoped organization representing the interests of residents in the community.
Financially, it’s backed by donations and its meager membership dues ($15 for individuals/ $25 for families). Although it’s got roughly 400 members, not all pay dues. Luckily, the NPCA’s overhead is manageable. Most of its revenue goes toward its annual summer concert series held at Bird Park, which runs this year from June 14 to August 9, beginning with the Bill Magee Blues Band.
The association also just finished up a large, expensive overhaul of its website and branding (a worthy expense in my opinion). Visit northparksd.org to see its new look for yourself.
Anyone involved with the NPCA also knows that there’s another big change happening internally. Its esteemed leader and board president, Nikki Berdy, recently resigned to return to the East Coast. Not to make this sound like an obituary, but she was a strong leader for the NPCA, and filling her shoes will be a considerable challenge. She’ll be missed.
NPCA Vice President Edwin Lohr said that the group will host their annual elections near the end of May. He’s optimistic someone will step up to the plate to fill Berdy’s position.
Lohr said that advocating for residents’ interests will continue to be a top priority going forward, especially important in the wake of rippling effects from North Park’s exploding business community.
Not unrelated to this phenomenon is what Lohr sees as a need to ramp up the NPCA’s neighborhood watch program. Lohr said with a more active nightlife inevitably comes a residual crime increase. He said expanding the community watch (i.e. recruiting more volunteers) is necessary to mitigate these impacts.
If you’d like to get involved with the NPCA or the community watch, you can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-413-NPCA.
Check back in next week when we delve into the community organizations of Old Town.