By Hutton Marshall
Outgoing Adams Avenue Business Association president looks back on tenure
Earlier this year at the annual members meeting of the Adams Avenue Business Association (AABA), Ed Badrak ended his tenure as the nonprofit’s president, stepping down after seeing the organization through a lengthy period of transition.
Hailed for overseeing the AABA’s board as the business district grew more adept to reaching younger audiences through online outreach and creative fundraising efforts, Badrak received a standing ovation from the audience in attendance, as well as commemorations of service from local elected officials.
The 63-year-old bachelor, a lifelong actor and singer, never fails to entertain. He now rents out his University Heights home and resides on his 35-foot boat, Heron, docked at Shelter Island. There, on a sunny Friday afternoon, he reminisced about his time at “the best [Business Improvement District] in the city.”
A Navy veteran from Philadelphia, Badrak first moved west to be a part of the San Diego Opera. Through acting, he found himself on the leading end of several unions — his first foray into civic engagement. He also served as president of the United Veterans Council, and during his time there he helped see the Veterans Day parade begin again in San Diego after a 20-year hiatus.
Closer to his Adams Avenue home —where he operates his mortgage lending business — Badrak got involved with the North Park Planning Group as redevelopment money was coming into the neighborhood during the early 2000s before joining the AABA board seven years ago. As Badrak tells it, after just two years on the board, the organization began to destabilize. Amid losing longtime board members and staff, he was voted in as its president.
“My whole thing was to be the transition guy — to help the avenue find its new voice for the next 20 years,” Badrak said.
During the next five years, the AABA would develop an online presence that’s now the envy of many larger business improvement districts. Its annual Adams Avenue Street Fair is often now referred to as the largest, free two-day music festival in Southern California.
“We may not be the richest BID, but everyone likes to talk about us,” he boasted.
As he spoke about the AABA, Badrak literally listed every board member by name, commenting on the quality he liked best in each one. He said he’s happy to be stepping down and handing the reins over to a new generation of business owners.
“When you look at the board today — I’m am so proud of these young business folk coming in and saying ‘I wanna be a part of shaping this neighborhood’s future,’” Badrak said. “They’re opening their own business at times when no one is opening businesses.”
The AABA is unique in that it extends through several different neighborhoods: Kensington, Normal Heights, Greater North Park and University Heights. Badrak said one of the AABA’s challenges — and one of the reasons he was chosen to lead the organization — was bringing people together.
“Hell, I’m not creative, but I created an environment where we could all work together,” he said.
Finally, to residents, or really anyone finding problems with their current surroundings, Badrak has two simple rules.
“You can’t complain without showing up and making your voice heard, and you can’t live here without owning what’s going on.”
—Contact Hutton Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org.