Community celebrates increased parking solutions in Hillcrest
Vince Meehan | Uptown News
The Uptown Community Parking District (UCPD) held a public ribbon-cutting event on June 6, which included the announcement of its new shared-use agreement with the DMV as well as the unveiling of its new “Park Hillcrest” trolley design.
In the long sought-after agreement, the DMV will now make its parking lot — located at 3960 Normal St. and consisting of 158 parking spaces — available for free when it is closed for business.
The trolley is an integral part of the Park Hillcrest project, as visitors who now park in the DMV lot after-hours can also climb aboard the free trolley, which will take them to various destinations along University Avenue as it circles Hillcrest every ten minutes, moving from the DMV parking lot to a $5 valet parking lot at the corner of Fifth and University avenues.
Among those in attendance at the ribbon cutting were State Senator Marty Block, Council President Todd Gloria and UCPD COO Elizabeth Hannon.
Block’s local San Diego office worked countless hours to help secure the additional free parking spaces for the community.
“Christopher [Ward, Block’s local chief of staff] worked diligently negotiating the terms with the DMV, following up and crafting an agreement that is a win-win for the community, the DMV and the parking district,” Hannon said.
“I’m really happy I could help in making this unique partnership a success,” Block said at the ribbon cutting. “The way I saw it, this is state property, and I’m a state senator, so who better to see it through?”
Block added that in today’s economy, the city needs to make the most of its money and shared-use agreements are the way to go.
“As far as I know, this is the first to be initiated by a community group, so that says a lot about the commitment of the people here,” he said.
Gloria echoed Block’s statements regarding the commitment of Uptown’s community groups.
“Parking is by far the most controversial issue I deal with on the city council,” Gloria said with a chuckle. “I never would have guessed it, but it’s true. Downtown has the same parking concerns and they only dream of having a trolley like this. That’s because outside of funding, community support is the most important thing you need and they just aren’t as organized.”
Though the Park Hillcrest trolley had already been in operation for several months, with the impending news of the DMV agreement, it was decided it would get a new design. Thanks to the HBA, which holds a seat on the UPCD, the trolley now features a “wrap” similar to those found on Hillcrest’s street-side electrical boxes. This wrap, comprised of a vinyl printing material from 3M called ControlTac, also includes photos taken by John Thurston Photography.
“The trolley is the talk of the town and is truly a work of art,” Hannon said.
The new wrap consists of images taken of various people from within the local community, photographed from the knees down and splashed across the sides of the trolley. It also has three full figures on the back end of the trolley.
“I wanted to represent motion moving forward and also convey our tagline of ‘get on. get off. everyone is doing it!’” Thurston said, explaining the concept of his design. “Plus, I wanted a variety of people to signify the diversity of Hillcrest.”
Those profiled include Thurston’s partner Chet Sewell, drag queen Glitz Glam, and John Magnatta of SoNo Trading Company, among others.
The “below the knees” concept created some unintended challenges that had to be solved with some creative thinking.
“I shot my dear friend Andrew Spurgin, who is a well known chef in Hillcrest, but the image didn’t make it clear that he was a chef,” Thurston said. “I put a meat cleaver in his hand as a prop, but with his apron and industrial shoes, he looked more like a mass murderer than a chef!”
Thurston said he solved the problem once he remembered he had a chain of sausage links in his fridge, which he had Spurgin drape past his knees for another photo. That did the trick.
Gloria said that he hopes the success of the trolley and shared use agreement will serve as an example for other communities to follow.
“I’d love to see the day when communities like Downtown, Golden Hill, and South Park all have trolleys that link up,” he said. “That way if someone from the East Village wants to go to Little Italy or Hillcrest for diner and drinks, they can hop on the trolley and not have to worry about driving.”
A special guest attending the event was nine-year-old Lily Gladd.
“The trolley has a wheelchair ramp in the back and I thought I should feature a disabled person in my design,” Thurston said. “As it turns out, my partner is a special needs teacher at Gage Elementary School and he told me about one of his students named Lily, saying she’d be a great model for the shoot.”
Thurston said he later learned that Old Town Trolley, operator of the Park Hillcrest Trolley, name each one using a women’s name like a ship.
“By chance, they had named our trolley Lily and I just about fell over when I heard that,” he said. “It was just so meant to be.”
In a poignant moment during the ceremony, Lily reached out and touched her image on the side of the trolley with a smile as Thurston beamed.
“I just about lost it there,” said Thurston. “I thought for sure I was going to cry.”
“Lily’s image will remind everyone that the Park Hillcrest trolley is accessible to all,” Hannon said. “We are most grateful to Lily and her parents, Ian and Bernadette Gladd, for her participation in this community-wide project.”
The DMV is available for public parking from 6:30 p.m – 3 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and from 7 a.m. – 3 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays. The Free trolley operates from 5 – 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 9 a.m. – 2 p.m on Sundays. For more information, visit parkhillcrest.com.
—Uptown Assistant Editor Morgan M. Hurley contributed to this report.