Community-focused grassroots group enhances quality of life
By Luke Terpstra | SDUN Guest Columnist
“To provide a voice and enhance the quality of life for Hillcrest renters and homeowners, and to support actions that benefit our neighborhood.”
This has been the Hillcrest Town Council’s (HTC) mission statement since the beginning, and this article would not be complete without starting at the beginning where all the pieces of the puzzle came together. The first meeting was Jan. 9, 2007 when a very grassroots group began to put together their voice.
What makes activists gather, stand and speak? For the first meeting of the HTC it was neighbors’ concerns for graffiti, crime and inappropriate development that was changing the character of Hillcrest.
Change is a natural thing. It is to be expected and appreciated, however it does not get a free pass. This was of major concern to the early council members. The newly formed HTC joined other organizations that backed the Interim Height Ordinance (IHO). The IHO would limit height in Hillcrest to 65 feet until everyone could participate in a comprehensive update of the Uptown Community Plan. The IHO was passed by the San Diego City Council in July 2008, and has since been extended twice.
The Uptown Community Plan is in the process of being updated. In August 2007, a group of concerned citizens – later established as the nonprofit Save Hillcrest – won a lawsuit aimed at stopping a high-rise development at 301 University Ave. The developers had failed to provide an Environmental Impact Report and their approvals had been invalidated.
Hillcrest has a rich character. In 2007 (as Hillcrest was celebrating it’s centennial year) the American Planning Association announced that Hillcrest had been designated one of the Ten Great Neighborhoods in America. That didn’t just happen; it was because our neighbors, business members and LGBT community care, and we think every day about what we are doing for and to our neighborhood.
The HTC listens to the community through conversations that we have with our neighbors, through the “contact us” feedback section on our website at hillcresttowncouncil.com or during our meetings in the public comment period. In the week before each HTC meeting, an e-blast flyer is sent out to the “HTC list,” informing neighbors about who is going to speak at the meetings and issues that may be discussed. If you would like to be on the email list, you may contact us on the website or give any board member your address at a meeting. The list is only used for announcements.
The organizational structure of the HTC starts with the board of directors: five community-building minded people who live within the boundaries of the HTC are elected or appointed every year in March. In 2013, we will be filling three board positions. We rely on new board members for fresh ideas and renewed interest. If you are interested in talking about how you can serve, contact us.
The Steering Committee meets on the last Monday of every month to plan the HTC meeting. This is where ideas are born and decisions are made regarding who we might invite to be guest speakers. The Steering Committee meets at 6:30 p.m. at Ortega’s, A Mexican Bistro at 141 University Ave., whose owner graciously allows us to meet in the upstairs dining room, and we thank him.
Among some of our long-standing sub-committees is the Development Committee, where interested members keep an eye on projects that show up on the horizon. They also have assembled design principles, which will be used to update the current Uptown Community Plan.
We have a Neighborhood Improvement Committee (NIC), which began as the Hillcrest Clean T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More), originally created by the Hillcrest History Guild. They still store all our cleaning equipment for us, and we thank them. If anyone has any free storage space to store our cleaning supplies, that would be great. Please contact us.
Everyone knows the Clean T.E.A.M. by the orange T-shirts they wear, along with the brooms, dustpans and rolling barrels they use to clean the streets. When you see them please thank them for their help in keeping Hillcrest clean. They organize quarterly community clean ups and partner with San Diego LGBT Pride every year for an after-Pride clean up along the parade route. San Diego Pride generously donates money to the HTC, which helps us continue our work.
In addition, the NIC presents the popular L.I.O.N. awards (Let’s Improve Our Neighborhood) a few times a year to recognize enhancements to Hillcrest properties.
The HTC also enlists the help of neighbors as representatives. For example, we have a representative for the Uptown Community Plan Update who serves on the Development Committee and we have two representatives who were elected by the HTC to serve on the Uptown Parking Advisory Board. The parking board chose one of our representatives to be their president and chose the other to be their secretary. Finally, we have two representatives who serve on SANDAG’s Uptown Regional Bike Corridor Advisory Group.
These volunteer representatives serve honorably on their boards and groups and also keep the HTC informed on their progress. Other ad-hoc committees are formed at the board’s discretion to focus on a particular issue or problem.
We celebrate HTC’s successes like saving Filbert’s Tree from the chain saw at Richmond Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, opening the second lane at Tenth and Robinson avenues to minimize the bottleneck of backed-up traffic, the Clean T.E.A.M. marching in the Pride Parade and the L.I.O.N. awards. We also celebrate the fact that the HTC was formed, organized and continues its forward march with the help of activists and volunteers who love their community. It is their help and commitment that motivates the HTC to carry out its mission.
The HTC meets the second Tuesday of every month (except December), at 6:30 p.m. at the Joyce Beers Community Center on Vermont Street in the Uptown Shopping Center. We serve coffee, cookies and community spirit. There are no fees or dues, however we do “pass the hat,” and if you feel like putting in a couple of bucks it would be much appreciated.
—Luke Terpstra is the current board chair of the Hillcrest Town Council. He moved to Hillcrest in May 1995 with his husband David from Vashon Island, Wash. Luke can be reached at email@example.com.