Matthew Willingham, Marketing & Communications Manager, City Heights Community Development Corporation
Community happens when people step out of their homes. It happens when strangers shake hands, watch their kids play together, and become friends. These moments are the building blocks of a healthy, safe and thriving neighborhood, and that’s why the staff at City Heights Community Development Corporation are passionate about creating safe, beautiful gathering spaces for people in City Heights.
In October of 2018, with the help of City Heights Community Development Corporation, 75 residents came together in support of the Somali-American community as they transformed a neglected dust-patch into a beautiful shared space. It took creativity and listening to people in the community, and when it was finished, the community had transformed that formerly wasted space into one of the most popular spots around. The newly constructed space boasts tabletop ‘laadhu’ games (a Somali favorite) on solid wood picnic tables, fresh landscaping, shade and people hanging out almost around the clock. This effort also helps to increase pedestrian safety by slowing down traffic.
Just across the street, local resident and artist Haadi Mohamed led a team of local youth to create a 250-foot mural celebrating local culture. The images in the mural include a white star and an elder Muslim woman which represent the Somalian and East African culture and religion. The wall has also become a popular spot for selfies!
Mohammed shares, “I felt honored that I was, in a sense, chosen and it was also an opportunity for me to be part of history for my own community which is City Heights. This mural summarizes what this community is about, we tried to incorporate everything this community stands for.”
This community space became the first formally permitted, community-driven placemaking project under a new City of San Diego placemaking policy that the City Heights Community Development Corporation helped to pass in April 2018. The San Diego City Council unanimously passed revisions to the Land Development Code that allow for placemaking, a more streamlined and affordable permitting process in commercial corridors and a grant fund to help cover permitting costs for community–based projects.
The staff at the City Heights Community Development Corporation wishes to thank the City of San Diego who helped to make this shared space a reality and the residents of City Heights for investing in your community!