Hillcrest Town Council looks to the future

By Mary McKenzie

What is your vision for Hillcrest?

Community members were asked to address this question at the June 13 meeting of the Hillcrest Town Council (HTC), held at the Joyce Beers Community Center in the HUB shopping center.

Benjamin Nicholls, executive director of the Hillcrest Business Association, calls the lack of affordable housing as the top issue facing the neighborhood. (Photo by William Pontius)

Benjamin Nicholls, executive director of the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA), opened the discussion with a brief analysis of the state of doing business in Hillcrest. Businesses follow customers, he said, and first-time homeowners or renters are moving or shopping elsewhere because of the lack of affordable housing in the neighborhood.

Affordable housing is the main challenge facing Hillcrest, Nicholls said.

The HBA, he added, is focusing on two efforts to improve the quality of life in Hillcrest. First is the “New Normal,” which debuted as a pilot project last year. In this proposal, Normal Street would be transformed into a park-like setting with fewer traffic lanes, more pedestrian space and additional bike lanes. The plan is awaiting approval by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), he said.

“Hillcrest Clean and Safe” is a more recent program focusing on the extension of the East Hillcrest Maintenance Assessment District. This expanded district would levy a special assessment on willing property owners on the east end of Hillcrest to pay for enhanced security, cleaning and gardening services.

(l to r) Andrew Dugger, HTC’s Neighborhood Improvement Committee chair, board member David Vance and the chair, Kath Rogers

The HTC also heard from public representatives in Hillcrest.

  • Jessica Meir from U.S. Rep. Susan Davis’ office announced a second Town Hall meeting at San Diego State University on June 19.
  • HTC Vice Chair Ben Cartwright gave a report on behalf of state Sen. Toni G. Atkins, who is supporting a sock drive for homeless veterans now through July 10. To find drop-off locations, google “Socks for Stand Down.” Or you can bring new socks to the HTC Summer Social on July 6 at 5 p.m. at Uptown Tavern, located at 1236 University Ave. in Hillcrest.
  • Brittany Bailey from Councilmember Chris Ward’s office was asked about the recent volatile debates about the city’s fiscal year 2018 budget. Controversy surrounded funding of a special election in the fall, which the City Council opposed. Mayor Kevin Faulconer overrode the council’s decision to not approve money for the special election, but the money will remain undispersed unless the council changes its mind. The office and programs budgets were cut for two council districts whose representatives opposed the mayor’s decision, including Ward’s District 3 comprising Downtown and most of the Uptown neighborhoods.
  • Nick Serrano spoke on behalf of Assemblymember Todd Gloria. Gloria is sponsoring #Gloria100, an effort to encourage the adoption of pets from Humane Society locations in San Diego County. From June 16-19, the first 100 adoptions will have fees waived. On June 30, Gloria will be co-sponsoring a seminar for citizens seeking to serve on state boards and commissions, which is being held at 5:30 p.m. at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.

The meeting adjourned after a brief discussion of the attendees’ vision for Hillcrest. The beautification of University Avenue was paramount in the responses. Maybe murals? All suggestions will be summarized in a report to enable HTC to share the results with the area’s elected leadership.

If you have ideas or are just interested in helping Hillcrest become the gem of the city, HTC welcomes you to attend the next meeting on Aug. 8. Or join the HTC at the social on July 6 at Uptown Tavern. If you have any comments or concerns, contact Chair Kath Rogers at

—Mary M. McKenzie is the secretary of the Hillcrest Town Council.

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