By Chris Ward
There has been a lot of tension in the Hillcrest community regarding the possible adoption of a Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) by local property owners. Hillcrest means the world to our local LGBTQ+ community and the entire San Diego region. Hillcrest has been home to generations of activists and leaders that have paved a way for a fairer and more equitable San Diego. For this reason, it is imperative that residents have the correct information about what is happening in such a historic and meaningful community.
Information has been circulating on social media that claims a new neighborhood would be carved out of Hillcrest, and that our beloved Pride Flag would be removed from Hillcrest in some way. I can unequivocally say that this is false. Hillcrest will remain Hillcrest, and our Pride Flag will remain in its location.
Our Pride Flag was built several years ago with funding and support from the LGBTQ+ community. When it was built, the City required legal documents that would assign the flag to be operated and maintained by one entity – the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA). The HBA retains the Encroachment Maintenance Removal Agreement (EMRA) which establishes the legal and maintenance responsibilities of the Pride Flag, and the HBA retains the key that allows access to the flagpole. A new MAD will determine who will pick up trash and provide other services, it would not affect the Pride Flag or the key that the HBA holds. No MAD determines who operates and maintains the Pride Flag – that responsibility does not change.
Hillcrest’s neighborhood name will not change. Neighborhoods are named when the developer who subdivides the land names the community and files the map with the County; for all of our neighborhoods in District 3, this happened in the 1800’s. Branding a neighborhood does not rename the neighborhood but helps with marketing the area to visitors. As an example, we see this in the branding of parts of Downtown like “Ballpark District” and “Maker’s Quarter.” Bankers Hill has “Park West,” Normal Heights has “Antique Row” and North Park has “the Boulevard.” This is what is meant by district identity and placemaking. It is worth noting, MADs are required to have advisory boards and representatives from various groups can participate to ensure neighborhood identity is maintained.
Essentially, there are two organizations that would like to put forward MAD proposals for Hillcrest property owners to consider: the Hillcrest Business Association and New City America with its West End proposal. MADs are formed when a group of property owners who self-elect to define a boundary and pay a fee to a dedicated fund to receive special benefits like additional sidewalk power washing, trash cans and collection, litter removal, landscaping, security services, and other services above and beyond the city’s baseline. MADs apply only to extra maintenance in the area; they do not affect special events or other community activities.
Now it is important to know that both organizations are still working on the documents that are legally required to trigger the balloting process. When MADs are formed, the City provides technical assistance, the City Attorney reviews the documents, Council approves the ballots, and the voting is managed by the City Clerk. This is a service that city the provides to the potential MAD service area properties, but the city does not itself seek to create these MADs.
There have also been direct communications to property owners from both the Hillcrest Business Association and New City America for each of their eventual MAD proposals. By state and local law, only properties within the proposed boundaries of the MAD will receive information about potential MADs. This is because it is a property tax on those properties only. If you are a property owner outside the proposed boundaries you would not have received communications about these proposals.
I will continue to work closely with the Hillcrest Business Association and New City America on their two eventual proposals and make sure that at the end of the day, we are doing what is best for the community. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach email me at ChristopherWard@SanDiego.Gov or call (619) 236-6633.
— Chris Ward is a San Diego city councilman, representing District 3. He is also a candidate to represent the 78th Assembly District, which includes Uptown and Downtown communities.