We now take a look at University Heights for this week’s installment of our community organizations series, where we continue to travel neighborhood by neighborhood to highlight the organizations they are comprised of.
The area was founded in 1888, named for both its proximity to University Avenue and as the future site for the University of Southern California College of Fine Arts, but construction for that was fell through because of a recession. The San Diego Normal School — an early incarnation of San Diego State — then planted its roots there in 1897.
Today, the neighborhood bundles itself around an active business district on the north end of Park Boulevard. Coffee shops and hipster watering holes have made the corridor a popular weekend spot, and its quaint residential area has a number of historically designated homes. Those involved in the community say that this is quite a different neighborhood than the one that existed three decades ago, prior to the formation of the now-active organizations below.
—Hutton Marshall, SDUN Editor
University Heights Community Association (UHCA)
Among the most active community associations in Uptown News’ coverage area, the UHCA has long advocated for community involvement, creating safe residential areas and fostering ties within its close-knit boundaries.
Like most community associations, it connects residents directly to their elected officials; however, due to the revenue generated from its membership dues, the UHCA is able to tackle several initiatives in the community as well.
The two operations that appear to take a large portion of its volunteers’ time and resources are its newsletter and its community watch.
The newsletter is an immense operation compared to most. It produces 4,000 issues each month in newspaper format rather than a single piece of paper commonly seen.
Its neighborhood watch appears equally well organized, dividing the area into zones with semi-autonomous groups of volunteers coordinating in each one. Longtime members of the UHCA said their efforts have transformed the neighborhood, closing down drug houses and turning Park Boulevard into the welcoming community we see today.
It also puts on several regular events, such as a floral garden tour in May (see “Briefs” on pages six and seven) and a caroling event around the winter holidays.
As for its 2014 goals, its leadership has long desired official non-profit status, and President Bernie Horan said he hopes the UHCA will be officially designated as a 501(c)(3) this year. This would allow them to apply for state and federal grants, as well as accept tax-deductible donations, both of which would enable them to tackle larger projects and events.
The association has also been vocal in the area’s community plan updates. University Heights is in a unique position in that it is split between two community planning districts, North Park and Uptown. UHCA members have voiced their desire to have University Heights — as far east as Texas Street —wholly adopted into the Uptown planning area, but this has grown into a contentious issue with many implications. It is unclear whether the UHCA’s efforts to change the planning boundaries —ultimately the decision of the City Council — will be successful.
The UHCA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-301-0835. For more information, visit uhsd.com.
University Heights Community Development Corporation (UHCDC)
When the University Heights Community Association got off the ground, they wanted an official funding arm to be able to apply for grants and receive donations to fund community projects, thus they oversaw the creation of the University Heights Community Development Corporation, a 510(c)(3) non-profit organization. This was done in 1985, and since then, the UHCDC has become a markedly independent organization with its own agenda.
It now oversees the larger events in the neighborhood, such as the Taste of University Heights event, the University Heights Arts Open (which is now done in conjunction with the Taste of UH event), the summer concert series in Trolley Barn Park and its newest project: the weekly University Heights Open Aire Market.
In addition to those three events, the all-volunteer nonprofit also manages the community parking district, the area’s historical society and the Maintenance Assessment District; the latter of which is technically an independent organization.
The community-parking district is a subsidiary of the Uptown Community Parking District. Technically, its borders only surround the north end of Park Boulevard where a parking space after 5 p.m. is a rare find, but the UHCDC said it seeks to improve parking in other parts of University Heights on a regular basis.
The Maintenance Assessment District is also contained within the dense business corridor at the end of Park Boulevard. Though it is administered by its own board of directors, UHCDC president Christopher Milnes said the two organizations work very closely with one another.
Like the UHCA, the UHCDC does an impressive amount considering there isn’t a single person on its payroll.
Between the Heights Community Association (BeHi)
This group is perhaps too informal to be considered a community organization, but the advocacy they promote embodies what this series hopes to highlight.
Created by a small group of residents, the purpose of BeHi is to draw attention to what they claim to be a neglected neighborhood in the North Park area.
The area is roughly confined between Texas St. and the 805, and requests the City officially recognize them as University Heights.
If you look at the area as its own entity, it lays east of University Heights, west of Normal Heights and north of North Park. The group claims it was unfairly cut out of University Heights during the last round of community plan updates, which took place in the 1980s.
Staff in the City Planning Department said neighborhood lines (which are distinctly different from planning boundaries) often change too frequently to be clearly defined, so the neighborhoods recognized in the community plans are not set in stone.
BeHi members said that they deserve to decide which neighborhood they want to be included in, which City staff has agreed with, but this could complicate the effort by the UHCA to have University Heights wholly adopted into the Uptown planning district, as it would extend University Heights much further east into North Park’s territory.
It’s a complicated problem, but BeHi serves an important role in ensuring the issue gets addressed.
For more information, visit betweenheights.mynetworksolutions.com or weareuniversityheights.weebly.com.