This neighborhood has been our home and place of work for thirty years. It’s been fascinating to watch this community grow as we grew our careers and family. There is an edge, an energy to the East Village that made us stop and take notice. Here we’ve been able to craft the life we imagined.
Our early years downtown included daily visits to the Farmer’s Market in the Western Metal Supply building. It was easy to buy fresh fruit and sit down to a really affordable, delicious meal with authentic Mexican or Italian food. When we decided to get married, Valentina’s the florist in the market put together all the flowers. We are passionate about travel and living downtown, we connected to inventive thinkers and doers from different countries and walks of life. We regularly heard and danced to incredible live music, shopped local and invited friends to come discover all the great mom and pops like the Victor’s, Amelias or the Sun Cafe that dotted the neighborhood.
We rented the top floor of the Simon Levi building and Rafa’s studio looked out to the bay right beside what is now Petco Park. At dinner we watched huge cargo ships bringing bananas to San Diego and navy ships headed to dry dock for repairs. There Rafael began to really establish his style and I began teaching graphic design at San Diego City College where I’ve been lucky to work with diverse students for more than thirty years. I walked to work and never had to deal with parking issues. along the route pick up groceries, get dry cleaning done and always run into friends and students.
We decided to stay and bought our own loft at the Tenth Avenue Car Garage. Next door was Beth Kennedy was my acupuncturist, friend and Wayne Buss, an architect who really believed in the East Village. They moved to the ReinCarnation project and when they sold it Beth contacted me and donated all their beautiful cacti to San Diego City College. Whenever I pass the cactus garden on campus and see them growing taller each year I think about those days. In 1998 Rafael and I put together the Urban Art Trail project. I organized the project with Jerry Selby at the Centre City Development Corp. to paint electrical boxes, sidewalk poetry and create several large scale murals. We believed and still do that neighborhood art brings diverse people together to create community. During that time our loft became a warehouse for art supplies we purchased with donations to keep it going. The idea spread to other San Diego neighborhoods and cities around the country. In 2016 Rafael was asked to illustrate Maybe Something Beautiful about the Urban Art Trail and the award winning book became a bestseller encouraging other communities to use the same model. I’m a design fellow with the American Institute of Graphic Arts and with colleagues in the San Diego chapter we did other community projects. With local artists and designers we created hundreds of artful benches in a project called Benchmark that were displayed on the streets downtown then auctioned for charity. Tweet Street is an art inspired urban bird park on Cortez Hill with colorful nesting boxes for birds. We are grateful to be part of the East Village.
Photos and text provided by Candice López and Rafael López.