Expanding Hillcrest business means century-old house must go

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SAN DIEGO -- The popular Hillcrest bar and restaurant Urban Mo’s is expanding, but that means a century-old house will have to go.

It has the local community divided.

Many are speaking out on Facebook, arguing the house adds character to the neighborhood and shouldn’t go.

“A lot of people get confused between old versus historic. What is contributing to the historic character and what is just a house, an old house?” said Hillcrest Business Association Executive Director Benjamin Nicholls.

The house next to Urban Mo’s is owned by Hillcrest Partners, LLC, and is not considered a historic property by the city of San Diego.

In an effort to keep the home from being destroyed, the owner said they will give the house away for free to any party willing to foot the bill to move the home.

Urban Mo’s has been a staple in the Hillcrest community for 23 years.

“We hope to be here for the next fifty years,” Urban Mo’s representative Eddie Reynoso said. He said expanding would be great for the community.

The restaurant also said it's helping rid a big problem in Hillcrest.

Parking is often tough to find, so adding a parking lot would be great for consumers, according to Urban Mo's.

Right now, many of their customers have to park blocks away.

Construction is already underway but will pick up in spring.

19 comments

  • Hillcrester

    re: HBA ed Nicholls comment — “A lot of people get confused between old versus historic. What is contributing to the historic character and what is just a house, an old house?” said Hillcrest Business Association Executive Director Benjamin Nicholls. Question to Mr. Nicholls — What in Hillcrest do you see as “historic”?

    re: Urban Mo’s rep comment — “We hope to be here for the next fifty years.”
    This handsome 1917 craftsman house has been here for nearly 100 years. Located on Third Avenue just north of University it’s slightly hidden by a brick addition that (seemly) could be removed. The two-story home was part of William Wesley Whitson’s original housing tract, one of San Diego’s first “suburbs”. There are only a handful of original homes left in Mr Whitson’s land tract, created in 1907. This old house is one of them. The name of that subdivision? It was “Hillcrest.”

    The owner’s offer to donate the house as long as it’s moved is generous, but this structure at this location IS part of what has created Hillcrest’s community character. It is historic, no matter what the city thinks.

    Some may say, “Just one old house. Just one old building,” until there are none. Each is a thread in a fragile patchwork that makes up the fabric of a wonderful neighborhood.

    Is a parking lot really more important?

    • Jeffsd

      Yes, parking is more important than this house. Without parking we would not have a healthy business district. Without a healthy business district we invite blight. With blight everyone’s property values fall. In the end we have businesses not generating sales tax revenue and homes producing less property tax revenue. Parking is 100% neccisarily, that house is not.

      • paul jamason (@sdurban)

        Hi Jeff, we already have parking. There are 15+ parking facilities within a few blocks of MO’s, and they’re never full according to their operators.

        There are plenty of vibrant urban neighborhoods that don’t require tearing down housing for more parking lots. Little Italy and North Park are two examples right here in San Diego.

      • ohanzi

        There is tons of parking nearby. The only shortage is people willing to pay for it. Everybody is just circling around looking for a free spot. And what is a dozen spots going to help? This place is packed to the gills nightly already, with literally hundreds of people. You can hear the roar of the crowd a couple of blocks away. Yet a few more PAID parking spots is going to save it? It is clearly just a scam to demolish the building to keep it as a parking lot for a couple of years until they can get the zoning changed and build a five-story something on the site.

  • chuck

    What a pathetic piece of “journalism”. There was no background information or real facts. Just typical emotionalism and offhand comments. I rarely watch Talking Head Videos that pose as news, so maybe there is some information in there. Hard to stomach, though, so I’ll just move along, mostly uninformed.

    • Ashley Jacobs

      Chuck, our 4pm version had the “nuts and bolts” so to speak, including who owns the house and why they plan to give it away. It also referenced why the city has not deemed the house “historic.” Thanks for watching FOX 5 San Diego!

      • christine

        “give it away”???? as if they are being magnanimous to “give it away”? a home they intend to spend 1000s to bulldoze but we will “give” it to you for free if you just come get it. Are you FOR real Fox 5????

  • christine

    What speaks volumes to me is how insanely abusive and nasty the folks on the HBIA are. look at their Facebook page and how they bully folks. What a bunch of posers and liars.

  • Tootie Thomas

    This is a nice Craftsman home that has weathered the years wonderfully but has out-lived its usefulness in it current location. It will still be a nice home or office and still carry with it its story in its next location. A growing business like Urban Mo’s who has been on that corner and a cornerstone of Hillcrest for 25 years has to be given the room to grow and meet the needs of the community, it’s patrons, and the 50+ people it employs.

    • paul jamason (@sdurban)

      Hi Tootie, I’m not opposed to Urban Mo’s growing. But I do oppose removing old houses to add another parking lot in Hillcrest, since there are many parking facilities nearby that do not fill up. If this were a suburban neighborhood, then parking lots everywhere would be expected – driving is the only way to get around. But Hillcrest is a unique, walkable urban neighborhood with many ways to patronize businesses that don’t require parking (walk/bike/bus/uber/lyft/etc).

      Why is Urban Mo’s located in a dense neighborhood if they require so much parking? There are plenty of suburban locations with huge parking lots available. Let’s keep Hillcrest’s urban character.

  • christine

    This is SUCH COMPLETE BS! They know damn well no one has the means or place to move the home to. You would have to have an empty lot zoned for an SFR. who has a spare lot they aren’t using? This is so patronizing. like “hey Preservationists you can save the house, just come get it yourselves”. ANY developer would let you take a house for free. it would save them the cost of demolition. This speaks volumes about Chris Shaw and Urban Mos. This MUST stop. Hillcrest can not afford to lose ONE more piece of history. It is almost all gone. That home is in excellent condition and should not be demolished. We need new laws that prohibit people from tearing down anything built before a certain date no exceptions. Normal street was bulldozed and now park Bllvd is being bulldozed.

    • ohanzi

      Right: there are no lots to move houses to anywhere this side of Ramona (that’s where the last “free house” that I can recall being moved to was sent too. The house had done its job for 100 years, yet Mo’s thinks they will be there for 50. Generally people without the creativity to save an old house don’t have the skill to get a new project going: look at the First and Robinson fiasco. Or the Sixth and Spruce (president Grant library house), or the Klauber house that was at Sixth and Redwood: they took that demolition all the way to the State Supreme Court, but after getting it torn down, failed at getting anything built for 25 years. The site of the Jewish Temple in Heritage Park that just HAD to be moved is still a parking lot after 40 years, same with the 1914 YMCA and the 1905 Methodist Church.

  • christine

    Heres a great video . Its video of one of the shill attorneys on the HBIA site who likes bully anyone who does not agree w/ him on what “architecture is”. Seriously the folks on HBIA are somethin’ else. And of course he is lecturing you on how you can walk away from a foreclosure. next up is City Deli. Mr Nichols says it failed because there are not enough condos in Hillcrest. So that will be the next “not historic” old building to go. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyOMG2mhnNI

  • paul jamason (@sdurban)

    There may be confusion about whether old houses add to the historical charm of Hillcrest, but there isn’t any about whether another parking lot does. There are 15+ parking facilities within a few blocks of Urban Mo’s, see the park hillcrest website. Do we really need yet another one, at the expense of the neighborhood’s walkability? Let’s keep what makes Hillcrest unique, not turn it into another Mission Valley.

    San Diego has the among the highest housing costs in the country, and less than 20% of millennials can afford to live here. So why are we tearing down houses to park cars instead?

  • Lou

    What is with the parking obsession in this town? Do any of you travel anywhere outside of this County to see that not all businesses need parking to survive? Give people credit that they will figure it out if they drive to a restaurant, concert venue, sporting event, etc. I can’t believe that a successful business feels the need to create parking a lot in the middle of a dense neighborhood. I can’t be the only one who thinks that the large parking lot at Rite Aid on nearby 6th is a horrible sight. And now Urban Mo’s wants to do the same thing? Shame on them and shame on the residents of Hillcrest if they let this happen.

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