Aug. 22 2012 04:01 PM

10 disgraces of San Diego spaces

D.A. Kolodenko

There may be more pressing misuses of our public and private spaces, like lack of adequate homeless shelters, but these are my 10 pet peeves of the last 10 years. The dominant theme: carelessness.

1. Hob Nob Hill gets re-branded as "HNH": Until recently, one of the oldest restaurants in town still had a mid-century exterior with 1960s-style red-and-white signage. I drove by last week, and the signs we've been looking at for more than 30 years are gone and replaced with cheap, brownish, fluorescent signs that say "HNH." Hip re-branding is the last thing a place that gets its clout from old-school authenticity needs. Shame on you, Hob Nob Hill. Your new sign and acronymization are a travesty.

2. Hillcrest gets a new fake neon sign: Those charming signs over our old trolley-line neighborhoods can get worn out. The one in Hillcrest, erected in 1940, was refurbished to much fanfare last year, but the warm pink neon has been replaced with ugly, plastic, bluish-white fake neon. There had to be a better way to make it more energy efficient without sacrificing the historical accuracy of the original. That's San Diego's modus operandi: Replace the real thing with a tacky replica or homage. You'd think Hillcrest would have better taste.

3. Sports Arena endures stupid corporate renamings: The Sports Arena endured as such for almost 40 years. Then, in 2004, the iPayOne real-estate company bought the naming rights and renamed it the iPayOne Center, which nobody ever called it. Then iPayOne had trouble paying, and, for a moment, it was the Sports Arena again. But, of course, a new corporate sponsor was found in Valley View Casino, and now we're supposed to call it the Valley View Casino Center. But there's no casino in there. San Diegans call it the Sports Arena.

4. Starbucks invades O.B.: Technically, it happened 10 months before SLAMM became CityBeat, but it doesn't seem that long ago, so I'm including it. Not even the largest neighborhood protests that Starbucks had ever faced could keep it out. The opening of the Starbucks in Ocean Beach at least didn't lead to total chainification—OBceans believe that's because other mega-corporations saw the massive protests and got scared off.

5. True North opens: Saturday night. 30th and University. Somebody's gonna vomit on, or pick a fight with, you before the light changes. Drunken simpletons and part-time bimbos now clog this uptown neighborhood to flatter themselves that they're in touch with the streets. Back on March 23, 2009, it wasn't like this. It was the day before the opening of True North Tavern, with its multiple giant TV screens, loud music, meh food and all-around copious lameness spilling out into the street—which single-douchedly ushered in the obnoxious Gaslampification of North Park.

6. Chick-Fil-A brings anti-gay chicken to San Diego: Since the first location opened across the street from the Anonymous Corporate Entity Arena, there are now nearly a half-dozen Chick-Fil-As in San Diego. Santee's—or "Klantee," as we called it growing up—will open any minute now. The East County community is unbothered by the infamous homophobia of Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy. Fast-food chains in general are eyesores; Chick- Fil-A is just the most hateful. Let's see them try to open a Hillcrest location.

7. Walmart wins the right to ruin Sherman Heights: Remember the Imperial Avenue Farmer's Market, with its piñatas, baby chicks, food stands, hand-painted signs, cheap produce and knickknacks, and Mexican families chilling at the picnic benches? It's been demolished to install a Walmart. The local community battled, but Walmart prevailed. Goodbye, Sherman Heights. You were one of the last bastions of difference. It will be sad to watch you sink into the ocean of identical details drowning the soul of our nation.

8. California abandons Palomar Mountain State Park: The only thing keeping the majesty of Palomar Mountain State Park open is the generosity of donors. Bless you, donors. The governor argued that budget constraints forced the cut-off of funding for Palomar, along with 70 other state parks, last year. Why the hell do we have to close our state parks? What's going on here? Palomar Mountain is as close to heaven as you're gonna get in San Diego. Go hike up there and you'll see. Hey, and be a donor: save_palomar.html

9. UCSD's continued expansion into a science-fiction nightmare: It's been a growing monstrosity for decades. Where there once stood mighty eucalyptus groves and quaint '70s wooden ranch architecture, there are now mostly big gray concrete boxes. Nothing's human scale. One of the last campus sweet spots, the charming University Center, with its 1950s Camp Matthews bungalows and grass field, was leveled a few years ago to make way for the giant, hideous Jacobs School of Engineering building. Wanna feel like a cyborg sent for reprogramming in a dystopian future? Borrow $80,000 and get a degree from the University of California.

10. Pernicano's in Hillcrest is still there: The dead shell of the once-hip mid-century nightspot didn't change at all in the last decade. But who among us thought this blighted monument to one man's stubbornness would still be standing in 2012? It's such a horrible eyesore that it's almost beautiful. Or maybe I just can't tell ugly from beautiful anymore. 

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