By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
2017 was a busy year at the Mission Times Courier. We welcomed our new sales associate Heather Fine; increased coverage of local restaurants with reviews by Frank Sabatini Jr.; stepped in as interim newsprint outlet for our sister publication Mission Valley News for a few months while that paper made changes in its distribution plan; and, of course, continued our hyper-local coverage of news from the Navajo neighborhoods of Grantville, Allied Gardens, Del Cerro and San Carlos.
We looked back at our year of coverage and have decided to share the Top Five news story topics, based on the number of related articles that appeared in the paper, as well as a subjective determination on which issues affect, or will affect, our readers the most.
New grocery stores — In 2015, one of the biggest stories was the closing of Albertsons on Waring Road. In 2016, that story morphed into attempts to make up for the absence of a local grocer in Allied Gardens, with a farmers market held in the parking lot in front of the vacant former grocery store. In 2017, that storyline continued with a positive twist, as not one but two new stores moved into the building.
In February, the real estate management company that operates the shopping center at 5185 Waring Road announced that it was in talks with bargain chain Grocery Outlet, Inc. to open a store there [“New grocers may be coming to Navajo area,” bit.ly/2Bok1Hx]. In March, it became official and it was also announced that the former Albertsons space would be split in two and a Dollar Tree would also be moving in [“Grocery Outlet, Dollar tree to replace Albertsons,” bit.ly/2zvwNVb].
In July, we shared details of Grocery Outlet’s owner-operators Chris and Gay Holbrook; and in August we covered the store’s grand opening [“Date set for Grocery Outlet grand opening,” bit.ly/2ALaMoD and “Grocery Outlet opens to good reviews,” bit.ly/2niFO1g].
Dollar Tree held its grand opening the last week of November, thus completing the storyline of the store closure, to the long absence of a store, to new stores moving in.
In addition to the many articles we wrote about the saga of the former Albertsons building, this was chosen as a top story because of the many phone calls, emails and letters to the editor we received from residents who were concerned about not having a nearby grocer and then elated to have one again.
Grantville Development — Because of its complexity and potential for bringing measurable changes to the area, no issue was covered more than current and future plans to develop the Grantville neighborhood.
In January, we published a story about a proposed project by Affirmed Housing, to build a mixed-use complex for low-income veterans [“Grantville may host more veteran, low-income housing,” bit.ly/2isRFIA]. In November, we reported a similar story about another low-income housing project proposed for Grantville, this one for seniors with medical needs [“Grantville senior housing project proposed,” bit.ly/2Agslfo].
The plan for transforming Grantville was explored in another November article, as well [“Grantville transforming, but slowly,” bit.ly/2BBUtI2]. The article touched on how current developments already underway, or approved to be built, match up with the city of San Diego’s vision of Grantville becoming a more densely developed area, anchored by the trolley station. Featured in that story were Grantville landowners concerned about the area becoming less attractive to developers if it becomes saturated with low-income housing.
Of course, realizing the city’s vision for Grantville won’t happen unless the flooding of the Alvarado Creek is addressed.
An article in May focused on the budget priorities of the Navajo Community Planners, Inc. (NCPI), which include funding plans to fix the storm water problem at Alvarado Creek, as well as a realignment of Alvarado Canyon Road [“Little movement on NCPI budget priorities,” bit.ly/2Aqp39V]. Both projects are vital to opening Grantville’s potential for development.
In September, we published a story on a city study about fixing the flooding problem, which is the first step in getting that project underway [“Decision time,” bit.ly/2AjMmSl]. The Grantville Trolley Station Alvarado Creek Revitalization Study puts the project at the threshold of funding the project, if the property owners agree to conduct an environmental impact report. As reported in the story, not every property owner is on board and the negotiations are ongoing in reaching a deal to look at solving the flood problem.
Lake Murray Fireworks — Probably the most feel-good story of the year was the return of the Lake Murray Fireworks and MusicFest, held again this year on the Fourth of July for the first time since 2011.
The popular annual event went on a five-year hiatus after environmental concerns were raised by water agencies. Once those legal questions were addressed, fundraising for the event began again.
An article in the April issue chronicled the history of the Lake Murray Fireworks and the event organizers’ effort to raise the money to bring it back [“Final funding push,” bit.ly/2i7fVff].
By June, festival organizers had raised the $76,000 needed to hold the event and we published a follow-up about the final details of the event — which bands would perform; the need for volunteers; how to deal with parking, and the festival’s attention to keeping Lake Murray Park and the neighborhood clean [“Fireworks show is a go,” bit.ly/2kej1lZ].
In our July issue, neighborhood columnists Mickey Zeichick from the San Carlos Area Council and Jay Wilson from the Del Cerro Action Council wrote about how successful the Fourth of July event was.
“If you were out of town and did not see or experience the Lake Murray Fireworks … you missed a first-class event right here in our own backyard,” wrote Zeichick [“San Carlos Area Council news,” bit.ly/2jz9MZW].
Festival organizers are already looking forward to putting on another Lake Murray Fireworks and MusicFest in 2018.
ColRich — A relatively small housing development proposed for the strip of open space next to the Chevron station along College Avenue generated several stories — mostly written by Del Cerro Action Council (DCAC) secretary Jay Wilson [“News from the Del Cerro Action Council,” bit.ly/2jUxAHF].
In April, developers of the 24-home ColRich project presented their plans to NCPI [“Development proposals dominate NCPI meeting,” bit.ly/2AROBgl]. The proposal was met with harsh criticism from Del Cerro residents, who complained about the project’s sketchy traffic plan that would tempt illegal U-turns on College Avenue and not provide easy access for emergency vehicles.
When the project went before NCPI for a vote in May, it was not approved by the planning group [“Planning group narrowly rejects ColRich,” bit.ly/2jhVD3T]. While Del Cerro residents and NCPI representatives opposed the plan for the reasons stated above, proponents of the project, like NCPI chair Matt Adams, emphasized the dire need of housing in San Diego.
In June, a group of Del Cerro residents gathered to discuss how to fight the project at the Planning Commission and DCAC sent a letter requesting an extension for public comments on the project, which was granted. However, the Planning Commission did eventually approve the project in a 5–0 vote.
The San Diego City Council still must vote on the ColRich project, however comments from Councilmember Scott Sherman in the November DCAC column hinted that the project will likely pass, which it did. You can read more about the council’s decision in Wilson’s column on page 13 in this issue. [“Del Cerro Action Council news”]
Rec Councils — A relatively recent story about the fate of the recreation councils, which run and help fund the city’s recreation centers, makes our list because of the potential impact any changes to them could have on some of the Navajo area’s most popular events.
In October, Terry Cords, who chairs both the Allied Gardens and San Carlos recreation councils, penned an op-ed informing us about the city’s plan to end recreation councils throughout San Diego and have the funding and management of recreation centers be hadled centrally through the parks department [“Guest Editorial: Save our recreation councils,” bit.ly/2nZPZYW].
Cords argued that the many programs offered at Navajo-area rec centers were in part because of private funding to the local rec councils and that those programs and special events could be in jeopardy.
In November, we reported that City Attorney Mara Elliott’s plan to dissolve the rec councils was put on hold by City Council when it delayed its decision on the matter to give time for a compromise to be reached [“Fight over rec councils heats up,” bit.ly/2nZWxa5].
You can read about the City Council’s decision on rec councils and reactions to their decision on page 1 of this issue [“Rec councils stripped of funds control”].
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.