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San Diego upstart

August 23, 2008|Irene Lechowitzky | Special to The Times

RESIDENTS OF San Diego's East Village, just a pop fly from the Padres' Petco Park, don't have to go to the ballgame to be part of the action. Festive crowds fill the streets on game days, and some condos have balconies and decks with views of the field.

Home mostly to young professionals, the area has a collegiate feel to go with its hip urban setting.


The history of the East Village is intertwined with that of San Diego, incorporated in 1850. Downtown became the heart of the city, with banks, shopping and theaters, while the adjacent East Village went industrial, with warehouses and a power facility.

By the 1980s, the East Village, then known as Centre City East, was aging badly, with shuttered businesses, few residents and a large homeless population. The Centre City Development Corp., a nonprofit agency created by the city, began to revive downtown, starting with the Gaslamp Quarter and the waterfront. The East Village got its turn at bat with the planning and building of Petco Park. Opening in 2004, it kicked off a building boom in the neighborhood.

What it's about

The East Village is downtown's largest neighborhood, anchored by the ballpark at its southern tip. There are bars and restaurants in reclaimed warehouses and on the ground floors of condo developments.

"The East Village is a brand-new neighborhood," said Mike Ciampa, broker-owner of 92101 Urban Living, a real estate agency. "Three and a half years ago, it did not even exist."

Construction cranes, once the official bird of the East Village, are down to a handful, as many residential projects have been completed.

The area "exudes the same dynamic as Soho," said Jon Mangini, owner of Basic Urban Kitchen & Bar, "a Soho that's still in the works." Mangini cites the contrast of the newer buildings' "modern feel" with aged warehouses that "boast phenomenal, raw architectural elements" as an essential part of the neighborhood's mix.

Insiders' views

"I like living in the East Village," said Brandon Buzarde, a Texas transplant, "because you can walk everywhere." Buzarde, manager at the East Village's Fit Athletic Club, has a 900-square-foot loft that he calls a "cracker box" because it's one-third the size of his Texas home. But, he added, "I have a patio the size of my apartment, where I spend most of my time entertaining."

Heidi Olden, who since opening the neighborhood's Urban Calm spa has "spent more time" at work than at home, said: "I feel as though I live here. The East Village has a small-town feel. . . . I can't go to the local coffee shop without seeing someone I know."

Good and bad

The East Village is close to a number of San Diego hot spots: Besides the trendy Gaslamp next door, with its glitzy night life, there's Little Italy, the waterfront and Seaport Village, and Balboa Park with its museums, zoo and Old Globe theater complex.

Like many urban areas, some roads are bumpy and need repaving, and parking can be a bear. And with Petco Park right down the street, game days are especially trying; traffic clogs the streets, as do Padres fans and tourists.

Housing stock

Buyers seeking new construction have a choice of mid- or high-rise complexes, Ciampa said. Housing options include tiny lofts and midsize units, with a smattering of sky-is-the-limit penthouses.

For example, a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 826-square-foot unit with a balcony and city views near Petco Park is listed for $359,000, while a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,199-square-foot view condo with floor-to-ceiling windows is priced at $599,000. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom, two-floor "fully furnished" penthouse with a 30-by-27-foot balcony overlooking the ballpark is listed for $3.32 million.

Homeowners association fees run from $250 to $850 a month, and amenities can be bare-bones or include doormen and concierge service.

Making the grade

Public schools serving the East Village include the San Diego High Educational Complex -- one campus of six small schools that scored from 560 to 783 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2007 Academic Performance Growth Index. The middle school is Roosevelt, which scored 668. The primary school, Sherman, which was closed for a few years, is reopening on a new campus in the fall. Other options include charter and private schools.



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