Carlos Barragan stands inside the House of Boxing, a gym he owns and manages on Reo Drive in the Paradise Hills neighborhood of San Diego, on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Sandy Huffaker/inewsource)

More than 50 miles of roads in San Diego’s historically neglected communities are slated for repairs with funding from Mayor Todd Gloria’s “Sexy Streets” initiative. 

The city set aside $40 million for repaving efforts throughout the city and finalized its list of winning projects in December. Council District 6, home to Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, Rancho Peñasquitos and Sorrento Valley, will receive 12 miles of road improvements, the most of any district. Council District 4, which includes Encanto, Skyline Hills, Paradise Hills and Valencia Park, will receive the second most of 9 miles. 

Why this matters

San Diego estimates the city has more than $5.7 billion in infrastructure needs over the next five years. That’s far more than the $40 million the city has pledged to spend in long-neglected communities, which the city says will start seeing road repairs underway soon.

A portion of Reo Drive, in the Paradise Hills community, is among the improvement projects. Multiple business owners on that street said it and others in the area have long been in need of an upgrade.

“Sometimes Paradise Hills gets forgotten because of the larger southeast San Diego area,” said Carlos Barragan, owner of House of Boxing, a gym he’s run for 10 years on the corner of Reo Drive and Albemarle Street. 

The premise of Gloria’s “Sexy Streets” program is to prioritize infrastructure needs in neighborhoods that have been historically underfunded. The city determined the communities with the most need from a 2019 Climate Equity Index Report that ranked the city’s 297 census tracts on various health, environmental, housing, mobility and socioeconomic indicators. 

Residents in Logan Heights, Southeastern San Diego and San Ysidro were previously determined to have some of the lowest access to opportunity and the worst infrastructure and, therefore, the most need. The city identified these neighborhoods, in addition to a cluster of other communities as being “communities of concern.”

Cars ride along Reo Drive in the Paradise Hills neighborhood of San Diego on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Sandy Huffaker/inewsource)

Council District 1, represented by Joe LaCava, was determined to be the only district with no identified communities of concern. The district, which includes La Jolla, will receive the least approved infrastructure improvements with just two miles of roadway scheduled to be repaired. 

Last summer, councilmembers were invited to submit their top infrastructure requests within their districts, and requests ranged from a few hundred feet to 3 miles. Of those requests a handful from each council district made the cut onto the finalized list, amounting to 54 miles of roads. The city says residents can expect to see repairs within the next four to 24 months.

David Rolland, Gloria’s senior adviser, said the streets for which councilmembers requested improvements “were only removed if they conflicted with other public right-of-way projects, the condition of the street was not appropriate for this level of repair, or they were already programmed or planned for work on an upcoming project or funding source.”

“Additional streets were included based on an analysis of other criteria outlined in the request memo, including traffic volumes, bundling opportunities,” and other factors, he said.

The city did not immediately provide a breakdown of why each of the councilmembers’ requested projects didn’t make the final list. 

But Barragan says even though Paradise Hills is only going to get roughly five road projects, each about a block in length, he has seen new work being done to replace the sewage and water lines. “We just got to celebrate the small success,” he said.

Councilmember Montgomery Steppe said the neighborhoods of Encanto, Skyline Hills, Paradise Hills, Valencia Park and others areas in her district have struggled with transportation inequity issues for years. 

Cars are pictured driving and parked along Reo Drive in the Paradise Hills neighborhood of San Diego on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Sandy Huffaker/inewsource)

“Being among the council districts who received the most funding for street repair reflects how District Four has continuously been ignored and underfunded, but we must reinvest in our communities and its members,” Montgomery Steppe said.

About a block down from Barragan’s gym on Reo Drive, between Cumberland Street and Winchester Street, lies one of the few stretches of road Montgomery Steppe requested from Gloria’s office last summer. Only three of her 10 requests were approved, but portions of 29 roads throughout Montgomery Steppe’s district will be repaved.

Barragan said he doesn’t blame his representative for not securing more road projects. “Monica Montgomery is doing the best she can … so as a business, I’m not gonna complain.”

Residents and business owners describe the strip on Reo Drive as “the art district of Paradise Hills,” Barragan said. 

With a newly opened quaint coffee shop, a trendy new barber shop and two pastry filled bakeries, the old strip is no stranger to upgrades. Lowriders are known to ride through the strip on the weekends drawing crowds, and community members have regular clean-up events — but the crumbling state of roads nearby has at times turned visitors away.

But Barragan says he’s never been worried about how visitors perceive Reo Drive, instead he bragged about how proud he is of the community and how neighbors watch out for each other. 

“Just because we don’t live in La Jolla, we act civilized, we hold our heads straight, we teach our children to shake hands, look them straight in the eye and be men and young ladies,” he said. 

Eduardo Sanchez opened his coffee shop in Paradise Hills, 6 Grados, eight months ago. He told inewsource any kind of infrastructure improvements the community can get to “bring it up to life” and make the area look less neglected is a good thing. 

Eduardo Sanchez stands inside his coffee shop, 6 Grados Coffee, located on Reo Drive in the Paradise Hills neighborhood of San Diego on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Sandy Huffaker/inewsource)

Sanchez said the alley behind his business is a common dumping ground: people dump “everything from Christmas trees to appliances to furniture to trash.”

And he says he rarely sees the streets being repaired.

The small business located in the middle of the strip has limited access — cars must go through the alley to access his parking lot, which is blocked from the street by a curb. That’s something Sanchez said he would like to see remedied to encourage more business.

Despite ongoing challenges, Sanchez says he’s proud to see the community he has lived in for eight years getting improved. 

The city spent months comparing the list of road repair requests from councilmembers, budgeting the $40 million and finalizing a priority list. As inewsource previously reported, road repairs are not cheap: one mile of road typically costs around $800,000 for repaving, according to city estimates.

To combat the costs of overlay repairs, the city plans to combine paving projects with water and sewer pipeline projects, Rolland says. Doing so could reduce the cost to $300,000 to $350,000 per mile by leveraging funding.

Both councilmembers Cate and Montgomery Steppe said they were happy with the program, despite the list of final projects not including much of what they requested. 

“Some of our communities’ most utilized streets have been waiting years for long-term road repair,” Cate said. “I’m proud to deliver for the neighborhoods in my District and ensure these streets will finally receive much-needed attention via the Mayor’s ‘Sexy Streets’ program.”

While Barragan waits for signs of construction to begin, he says he’ll focus on the small successes he’s seen in the community.

“Yeah, we got jacked up streets, but little by little, a drop of water breaks a rock, drop by drop by drop, so we don’t stop,” he said. “We still celebrate our community.”

San Diego’s ‘Sexy Streets’ 

The City of San Diego will spend $40 million to repave more than 50 miles of roads in historically neglected neighborhoods.

Click here for a list of approved projects by district. 

District 1: 2 miles
Councilmember: Joe LaCava.

District 2: 2.5 miles
Councilmember: Jennifer Campbell.

District 3: 3.6 miles
Councilmember: Stephen Whitburn.

District 4: 9.1 miles
Councilmember: Monica Montgomery Steppe.

District 5: 4.2 miles
Councilmember: Marni von Wilpert.

District 6: 12.3 miles
Councilmember: Chris Cate.

District 7: 4.9 miles
Councilmember: Raul Campillo.

District 8: 7.7 miles
Councilmember: Vivian Moreno.

District 9: 7.8 miles
Councilmember: Sean Elo-Rivera.

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.