Photo Essay & Community Report, Barrio Logan, San Diego: gallery.
by Reviewer Rob
Barrio Logan has underwent much change in the last three decades. Even 25 years ago when we’d drive past it on the freeway to go see a concert in South Bay or go to Tijuana that part of San Diego on the east side of the Coronado bridge was off limits, geographically unapproachable, taboo. There was constant anti-gang police action happening there and so much criminal activity that it was nowhere you’d want to be at night. Sure some of us would venture to Logan Heights in 1990 to get our crack or heroin but those were the crazies among our crowd, the bold outliers.
Now though, Barrio Logan is and has been for several years experiencing a renaissance. It was featured in the opening scene of I Am Not A Hipster and has had lots of press detailing the art openings that draw crowds to Logan Avenue every month. If I remember Tim Mays mentioned on NPR during his Casbah 20th birthday broadcast that his girlfriend, who I think is or was a member of the San Diego band Black Honda, had a house In Logan Heights. And we all know that in San Diego to be favorably mentioned by the owner of The Casbah means you’ve arrived at the pinnacle of Unassailable Cool.
One of the writers we publish here at Reviewer is Lev Six, and he’s been excited lately about a new project he’s working on in his ample spare time. As some of you may know I have a residential tree trimming business (if you didn’t you do now) which I do in tandem with my editor-of-Reviewer duties, and ever since Lev left his ill-suited “faith-based” charity organization administration job several months ago he’s been available again so I’ve been sending him as much work as I can as a ground guy on the job site. He’s one of the most well educated assistants I’ve had on my tree job site and he learning the ropes surprisingly well. Since he speaks English too we can talk non-stop about current events and riff on what’s in the news as topics come up on the radio while we listen to NPR. Yeah things are going well. I might even have him climbing soon which would necessitate a raise.
Anyway he’s been talking a lot this past week about the non-GMO Seed Bank at Barrio Logan that he’s helping out with and seems to be pretty psyched about it so I figured I needed to check out that he’s been telling me about.
“We are San Diego’s first 100% free, 100% organic seed bank aimed at arming the impoverished neighborhoods of San Diego w knowledge, awareness and of course clean seeds,” said Daletron Casablancas, who appears to be one of Lev’s main points of contact in this very anti-corporate neighborhood-first community agricultural food group.
Dale told me more via Facebook: “The Barrio seed bank is housed in the Bread And Salt building and is the collaborative effort of Daletron’s Seed/Edibles & Tonics company -Botanica Blanco- with Bob Green’s School Of Guerrilla Arts Art School.” We’re a grassroots organization fighting the food system by activation within the neighborhood and community at large.”
Barrio Logan has a unique distinction of being one of the original, old and still intact Hispanic neighborhoods near the water in coastal San Diego. You can see turn of the century Victorian houses still maintained next to Craftsman bungalows built decades later, and small businesses conduct their bustling commerce next door to houses full of kids, parents and grandparents. There are generations of families that have lived lives here and as such the community reminds me in a macro sense of Old Town San Diego north of downtown and west of Mission Hills, where people say that descendants of the Machado and Bandini families that existed at the establishment of the California still quietly own land with small houses in Old Town. The difference being that the tourist board has not yet taken over and gentrification is only now beginning to cast a greedy eye on the real estate of Barrio Logan.
The barrio here is still very much owned by the community around it. The outside local V.F.W. hall on Logan Avenue is brightly painted in festive colors, and on this night when I walked past there were several college-age men hanging outside talking and socializing. I noticed their ages too were much younger than the old gray-heads that you’d see as regulars at a V.F.W. hall in other parts of San Diego, like the beach areas in particular. Maybe it’s because the demographics of our modern military recruiting in San Diego means that when they draw from a community such as Barrio Logan — and much of the recruits for our current conflicts are from the “minority” communities — and once their time in service is over they return here to their families and their home town. So the current crop of combat veterans are here. That’s my theory anyways.
So, it was pretty entertaining to see the art hanging in the shops and the cheerful crowds filling saloons on Logan Avenue. It was a stark contrast to the college binge crowd I was used to see on Garnet in P.B. or Ocean Beach’s Newport Avenue. They even had a vinyl store open at night here with vintage LPs for a dollar.
When I arrived at, 1955 Julian Avenue, the Roots Factory location where Bread & Salt’s repurposed industrial warehouse location is, at 8:30 the crowd was success. Photos on Facebook other people posted seemed to confirm this.
Ginger ‘Fresh Ginga’ Placek was at the Art Crawl on Logan Avenue where she was breaking down from an event in one of the spaces next to the saloon and she told me that the crowd had been great. I looked around at the group of milling twenty-something art scene hipsters and she seemed right.
Maybe in Logan it’s more about a family environment for the neighborhood and not a late night party? So I asked Dale, “Do things usually simmer down early in the barrio?” No, Dale told me, as the weather gets warmer it goes later and later. “It was an art crawl,” he said. “But who wants to walk from gallery to gallery in the rain?” Lev texted and said that there had been “very successful,” and they had “very heavy traffic until 6:30,” which was about the time I was in P.B. buying some tennis shoes while recovering from a migraine I’d woken up with much earlier, and that as a guess 400-500 people came though. I’m interested to find out more about the Barrio Seed Bank and see how things develop. Dale and his fellow organizers call Barrio Logan a “food desert” and it looks like they’re trying to do their part to improve the local nutritional community in a very basic way, through education and basic hard work.