Uptown News Article “From Bankers Hill to Paris”

From Bankers Hill to Paris

From Bankers Hill to Paris

November 2, 2018

By Leo Wilson

On May 10, 1927, a young man left his Bankers Hill apartment and traveled to the nearby dirt airfield at Dutch Flats.

He then stepped into a newly built, fabric-covered, single-engine and single-seat airplane before taking off on a flight to St. Louis and New York City — then across the Atlantic Ocean in a harrowing 34-hour flight to Paris, France.

Lindbergh Plane

A replica of the Spirit of St. Louis hangs in the Palomar Apartments

The pilot’s name was Charles Lindbergh, and much of the world was transfixed on whether he would survive and complete the flight. When Lindberg prevailed, he became the first person to fly nonstop from New York City to Paris.

The impetus for Lindbergh’s historic flight was hotel magnate Raymond Orteig’s offer to pay $25,000 to the first aviator to successfully undertake the uninterrupted intercontinental flight. This was a very large sum of money at the time. However, when Orteig originally made the offer in 1919, it did not attract any takers, as the trans-Atlantic flight was considered too dangerous. When Orteig renewed his offer in 1924, several experienced aviators decided to attempt the flight. Unfortunately, many died or were injured in preparing for the flight; two French aviators who attempted the mission disappeared and were never heard from again.

Initially, Lindbergh was not considered as a major contender to make the flight. He was only 25 years old and was employed as an airmail pilot. Lindbergh had, however, attended Army flight school, graduating near the top of his class. Although he was made a second lieutenant, he never became an active military pilot, taking the reserve corps route instead. Despite any perceived limitations, Lindbergh decided he would attempt the flight, and was able to obtain financial backers in the city of St. Louis; in return he named his airplane the “Spirit of St. Louis.”

Lindbergh turned to a small San Diego airline manufacturer, Ryan Aeronautical Company, to build the Spirit of St. Louis. The cost to build the airplane, including its engine, was about $10,550. Lindbergh played a major role in designing the airplane.

When Lindbergh arrived in San Diego, he found that Ryan Aeronautical Company was located in a dilapidated building with “no flying field, no hangar, no sound of engines warming up; and the unmistakable smell of dead fish from a near-by-cannery [mixed] with the banana odor of dope from drying wings.” However, Lindbergh immediately developed an excellent working relationship with the Ryan Aeronautical Company owner and his workers. Lindbergh enjoyed helping design the airplane from scratch, and the Ryan workers greatly respected Lindbergh. They  worked around the clock to complete the plane as quickly as possible and the Spirit of St. Louis was completed in just 60 days.

Bankers Hill, 1918

A look at Bankers Hill in 1918

Lindbergh made some unusual design requests, such as having the cockpit placed behind the gas tank. When questions arose about how this would impair his front vision, a Ryan employee, who had been a submariner, suggested a periscope.  Lindbergh readily agreed. The close working partnership between Lindbergh and the Ryan Aeronautical Company likely contributed to the success of the flight.

While living in San Diego, Lindbergh initially stayed at the U.S. Grant Hotel.  However, he subsequently ended up at the Palomar Apartments, located at Sixth Avenue and Maple Street — only a few blocks east of where aviator Waldo Waterman made his famous glider flight in 1909. The Palomar Apartments were built in 1913, designed by prominent San Diego architects Frank Mead and Richard Requa. The building is considered one of those architects’ premier works, and reflects Requa’s early use of Moorish-style architecture.

Lindbergh, Bankers Hill

Charles Lindbergh in Bankers Hill

On May 7, 1927, three days prior to beginning his flight, Lindbergh wrote a letter on Palomar Apartments stationary stating he was delayed in taking off because of bad weather. Once the weather cleared, Lindbergh left Dutch Flats on May 10. Ten days later, Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field in New York City for Paris.  Another experienced pilot, Richard Byrd, commented that he thought Lindbergh had a 1-in-3 chance of making it to Paris. Others thought his flight was foolhardy and even suicidal.

The press was infatuated with Lindbergh and published a massive amount of information about him. As a result, millions of people worldwide were riveted in suspense for the duration of the 34-hour flight.

Today it may be difficult to realize how transfixed much of the world was on Lindbergh’s fate during his flight. During a boxing match at Yankee Stadium where 40,000 fans were present, the announcer reported — with no basis — Lindbergh was at sea and was well; the fans went wild, “refusing to be silenced.”

As Lindbergh’s biographer A. Scott Berg noted, “Everyone had a stake in Lindbergh. On May 20, 1927 — as night fell — modern man realized nobody had ever subjected himself to so extreme a test of human courage and capability as Lindbergh … Practically everybody who lived in America through Lindbergh’s flight would remember his or her precise feelings that first night.”

Finally, reports of sightings of the Spirit of St. Louis began coming in from ships offshore near Europe. Then — almost 34 hours after leaving New York City —Lindbergh landed the plane at Le Bourget airport in Paris.

To his shock, once on the ground he looked out his window and saw a jubilant crowd estimated at 150,000 people. They pulled him from his airplane and carried him on their shoulders; soldiers and police eventually were able to intervene and get him safely into an airport building.

Once inside, Lindbergh naively asked about passing through customs and immigration; French officials responded with laughter. Lindbergh was now a hero and would receive worldwide praise and accolades.

A few weeks later, he received a letter and photographs from his former neighbors in the Palomar Apartments in Bankers Hill, dated June 1, 2027.

“The Palomar family has felt a great deal of pride in all the wonderful things you have accomplished in the year since these pictures were taken and they join me in all good wishes for the future,” the letter stated.

Today a miniature replica of the Spirit of St. Louis, and a plaque commemorating Lindbergh, hang in the atrium of the Palomar Apartments. Full-size replicas of the Spirit of St. Louis exist in both the San Diego Air & Space Museum and at San Diego International Airport, also known as Lindbergh Field. The Medal of Honor awarded by President Calvin Coolidge to Lindbergh on March 21, 1927, also is on display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

— Leo Wilson is administrator for Metro San Diego CDC and is a Bankers Hill resident.


St. Paul’s Cathedral & Metro San Diego CDC Co-Hosting Meetings To Discuss Design of Cathedral’s Ground Floor Community Space — October 10th & 11th

St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Metro San Diego CDC are co-hosting two community meetings to obtain public input about the design of the ground floor community open space planned for St. Paul’s Cathedral, as part of their redevelopment project.  St. Paul’s Cathedral is seeking suggestions and ideas about how this community space can be utilized to best serve the local community, while also maintaining a safe and secure environment.   The discussion at these meeting is limited to the ground floor open space, and not any other aspects of the proposed project.

The meetings will be held:

+Wednesday, October 10th, at 1:00 p.m., in the St. Paul’s Cathedral Guild Room at 2700 Sixth Avenue

+Thursday, October 11th, at 7:00 p.m., in the St. Paul’s Cathedral Guild Room at 2700 Sixth Avenue

Leo Wilson,


Metro San Diego CDC

St. Paul's Project, Ground Floor

Metro San Diego Community Development Corporation: Board of Directors/Officers for 2018-2019

Metro San Diego

Community Development Corporation

Board of Directors: 2018-2019


Bud Alessio (General Partner /FAFC, Inc.);

Bob Daniel (Hilco Real Estate; Chair/Western Slope Community Association);

Beth Jaworski, (Past UCSD Researcher, University Height);

Alexandra Jamason, (Director of International Relations, Manchester Fifth Avenue Financial Center; Manchester Financial Group);

Susan Jester (Public Relations & Media Director/ St. Paul’s Episcopal/Anglican Cathedral;  Co-Chair on the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Council; California Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission);

Richard S. Ledford, Treasurer (President/ Ledford Enterprises; Palm Street Properties; St. Paul’s Senior Homes & Services);

Bruce E.  Leidenberger, Secretary (President/ La Jolla Pacific Group);

Jennifer Pesqueira, Vice President, Five Points/Middletown (Owner/ El Indio Mexican Restaurant; Co-chair/Five Points/Middletown Business Association);

Michael Seidel, President (Senior Partner/ E&D Ventures LTD; Co-chair, Bankers Hill/Park West Community Association);

Easton Watumull (Asset Manager/ Greenwald Company; Director/ Uptown Hillcrest Gateway Council);

Dr. Alan Spector (President/ Park Laurel HOA; Board of Directors/ Balboa Park Conservancy);

Jake Sutton (Financial Adviser/ Edward Jones; President/ Bankers Hill Business Group);

Sara Steinhoffer, Vice President, Bankers Hill/Park West (VP Government Relations/Sharp Health Care);

Glen Younger (CEO Grah Lock /Past President/ Hillcrest Business Association);



New Stop Sign On India Street (at Chalmers) Calms Traffic Going Into Five Points Business District

Five Points business leaders and local residents, supported by the Uptown Community Parking District, succeeded in their effort to have a stop sign installed on India Street, at the intersection with Chalmers Street.  The new stop sign prevents drivers from speeding north on India Street through the Five Points business district,  creating a threat to public safety.

Uptown Planners voted to approve placement of the stop sign on April 3, 2018; under a special city policy (City Council Policy 200-08) if a community planning group passes a motion supporting the placement of a stop sign, the local city councilmember then has the power to request the stop sign be installed.  City Councilmember Chris Ward did so by a letter dated June 8, 2018.  Special thanks go to Jennifer Pesqueira, of El Indio Restaurant, who as a member of Uptown Planners guided the approval of stop sign through the Uptown community planning group process.  Pesqueira is also Vice-President of the Metro San Diego CDC.


Stop sign India Street Aug 2018


Uptown Planners Agenda for August 7, 2018 — 6th & Olive Project NDP/Vesting Tentative Map & 2466 First Avenue Tentative Map Projects


Uptown Community Planning Group



August 7, 2018

6:00-9:00 p.m.

Joyce Beers Community Center, Uptown Shopping District

(Located on Vermont Street between the Aladdin Restaurant and Panera Bread)

All times listed are estimates only: an item may be heard earlier than the estimated time:


  1. Action Items: Planning: (6:45 p.m.)


  1. 2761, 2729 & 2665 FIFTH AVENUE (“6th & OLIVE STREET NDP & VESTING TM”) Process FourBankers Hill/Park West – The project proposes to demolish the existing 16-unit Park Chateau Apartments, cathedral administrative offices, and a 20-space surface parking lot, and construct and approximately a 204-unit, 262,500-square foot, 20-story, mixed use building above a five-level underground parking structure consisting of 16,910 square feet of Cathedral office space within four commercial condominiums and 204 residential condominiums. The proposed residential density includes the transfer of the remaining density potential on the built Nutmeg Site to the Olive Street Site, equivalent to five dwelling units. The project also includes landscaping and other site improvements. The project is an infill mixed-use development within the Transit Priority Area (TPA) consisting of 18 affordable dwelling units (very low-income units), and 186 market-rate units, with three development incentives in accordance with the City’s Affordable Housing Density Bonus regulations and in conformance with the criteria of the Affordable/In-fill Housing and Sustainable Buildings Expedite Program. The project site is located at 2761, 2729 and 2665 5th Avenue in the CC-3-9 and RM-4-10 Zone(s), the Community Plan Implementation Overlay Zone (CPIOZ Type A), Residential Tandem Parking Overlay Zone, Transit Area Overlay Zone, the TPA, Airport Influence Area for SDIA (Review Area 2), FAA Part 77 Notification Area of SDIA and North Island NAS, and is partially within the Airport Approach Overlay Zone. (DRS Motion by Wilson, seconded by Seisun: To recommend that Uptown Planners not support the proposed project because of (1.) the project’s excessive height; and, (2.) the lack of sufficient affordable housing.  The project should be revised to reduce its height back to the 158 feet of the originally approved project in 2011, and more affordable housing should be included. Motion approved by a 5-1-1 vote.  Wilson, Seisun, Daniel, Ellig, Mullaney voted in favor; Brennan voted against; DRS chair Nakhshab abstained from the vote, but stated he supported the project.)
  2. 2466 FIRST AVENUE TENTATIVE MAP – Process Three – Bankers Hill/Park West – Tentative Map for the consolidation and subdivision of six existing lots into one lot for twenty-one (21) residential condominiums and one commercial condominium located at 2466 First Avenue. The 0.17 acre site is located in the RM-3-7 and CC-3-4 base zones.


PROWLER ALERT: Bankers Hill Prowler/Peeping Tom Last Seen at Fifth Avenue & Hawthorne Street

Below is a prowler alert regarding an an individual spotted around Fifth Avenue and Hawthorne Street.  Please be on alert, as this type of an individual will often continue this type of activity unless caught.

There also are reports of repeated trespassing and petty thief by transients throughout Bankers Hill; as well as abusive conduct towards Bankers Hill residents and businesses.  Several days ago I had to break up a fight between two transients taking place in the middle of Sixth Avenue. Most these actions go unreported because calls to the police are subject to holds that can last 45 minutes to over an hour.  Its an unsatisfactory situation, and needs to be effectively addressed.

Although it is hot, it is important to lock your doors, and do no leave your windows open unless they are secured.

Leo Wilson,

Metro San Diego CDC



Uptown News Article: “The fall of the historic Elks Lodge” — July 13, 2018

The fall of the historic Elks Lodge

The fall of the historic Elks Lodge

July 13th,2018

By Leo Wilson


One of the defining events in the history of Bankers Hill was the demolition of the Elks Lodge in 2001. Even though the Elks Lodge was a designated historic landmark — and one of the most impressive historical buildings in Bankers Hill — the destruction was still allowed to occur. The concern and outrage resulting from the loss of the landmark prompted the beginning of a new phase of Bankers Hill community activism.

The building the Elks Lodge called home, located on the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Nutmeg Street, was built in 1904. Designed by prominent architects William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill, it was considered one of their finest collaborative works. Along with the Marston House, it was one of the few all-brick buildings in San Diego at the time.

The former Elks Lodge, located on the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Nutmeg Street


The former Elks Lodge, located on the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Nutmeg Street (

(Photo courtesy of Save Our Heritage Organisation)

The building was often referred to as the Bertha B. Mitchell residence, after its first owner who resided in it until the mid-1920s. Following her departure, it subsequently was used as a medical clinic, restaurant, and for residential housing before it became the Elks Lodge in the 1950s.

The Elks Lodge was often used for events and became a well-known dance hall. Many older Bankers Hill residents still remember attending events in its hall.  After many years of active use, the building began to show its age, suffering significant wear and tear.

The Elks Lodge was put up for sale, and eventually Mayfair Homes agreed to buy it and opened an escrow. Mayfair Homes proposed to tear down the Elks Lodge and replace it with condominiums.

To prevent the Elks Lodge from being demolished, the Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) requested that the city of San Diego’s Historic Review Board (HRB) determine whether the building was historic. Even with some alterations to the building and opposition by city staff, the HRB designated the Elk Lodge’s building as a historic landmark in May 2000.

Despite the Elks Lodge’s historical designation, Mayfair Homes proceeded to close its escrow in June 2000 and took ownership of the property. It then submitted an “economic feasibility study” to the city which claimed there was no economically feasible way that Mayfair Homes could develop the property without demolishing the now historically designated Elks Lodge.

On October 26, 2000, the HRB — with several new members appointed by Mayor Susan Golding — accepted the economic feasibility report and supported the Elks Lodge demolition, despite historically designating it a few months earlier. The HRB recommended a historic plaque be placed at the Elks Lodge site memorializing the demolished building.

Elks Lodge, Plaque

All that remains of the Elks Lodge is a historic plaque.

 (Photo courtesy of Leo Wilson)

On November 7, 2000, Uptown Planners voted to reaffirm its previous position, passing a motion by an 11-0-1 vote opposing the demolition of the Elks Lodge and supporting its adaptive reuse. The San Diego Union Tribune also ran an editorial supporting the preservation of the Elks Lodge.

The battle to save the Elks Lodge climaxed at a San Diego City Council meeting on January 9, 2001, where the final decision was made about the fate of the Elks Lodge.

At the meeting, several well-known architects and developers came forward and stated it would be economically feasible to build a development project on the project site while still preserving Elks Lodge.

Cheryl Wilson — the CEO of St. Paul’s Manor Senior Homes & Services — and architect Jim Kelly-Markham presented a detailed proposal by St. Paul’s Manor to build senior citizen housing on the project site. This proposal would still preserve and adaptively reuse the Elks Lodge building for administrative offices. They requested the City Council

continue the item, which would allow them and other developers to work with Mayfair Homes in an effort to come up with an acceptable project plan that would save the Elks Lodge.

Mayfair Homes opposed the continuance, stating they had been working on the project for many years, and that it was too late in the process to modify the project design. This argument ignored the fact that Mayfair Homes had not yet closed escrow or obtained ownership of the property until a few months before the City Council meeting in mid-2000, after the HRB had historically designated the Elks Lodge.

Despite the compelling testimony that an economically feasible project was possible without demolishing the Elks Lodge, the City Council refused to continue the item.  Instead, the City Council voted 7-1 to support the Mayfair Homes project, including the demolition of the historic Elks Lodge. Sadly, the motion was made by then-City Councilmember Toni Atkins, who at the time represented Bankers Hill.

When the Elks Lodge was demolished in 2001, a major piece of Bankers Hill history was torn from the community, and we were left with only a historic plaque to remember it.

The demolition of the Elks Lodge came as a shock to the Bankers Hill community; a suspicion developed that all the historic buildings in the community might now be in jeopardy. Our neighborhood felt as if we were being targeted.

One of my good friends echoed the general unease when he exclaimed: “I wasn’t worried until they tore down the Elks Lodge.” It was the catalyst for many people in Bankers Hill becoming civically involved in their community.

Many new community organizations were subsequently formed in Bankers Hill; community members also became more involved with Uptown Planners. As a result, preserving historic structures is now a focal point of the community planning efforts in Bankers Hill.

While welcoming new development, Bankers Hill also works to preserve its existing historic buildings. Through these efforts, Bankers Hill is a mix of both old and new buildings — one of the city’s most distinctive historic communities.

—Leo Wilson is administrator for Metro San Diego CDC and is a Bankers Hill resident.

Saving the Quince Street Pedestrian Bridge – Uptown News Article

By Leo Wilson

One of my earliest memories of Bankers Hill was walking across the Quince Street Pedestrian Bridge. It was a rickety, old, wooden bridge that sparked safety concerns. Several years later, it appeared that I would never walk over the bridge ever again.

The Quince Street Pedestrian Bridge was closed because of safety concerns and was facing demolition. Thankfully, this did not happen, in large part because the local Bankers Hill community rose up to save this treasured old bridge.

Quince Street Pedestrian Bridge (Photo by Leo Wilson)

The Quince Street Pedestrian Bridge was built in 1905. It is one of the few remaining wood trestle bridges in San Diego. The bridge — designed by a city engineer named George A. d’Hemecourt — is 236 feet long and 60 feet tall.

As with the Spruce Street Bridge, the Quince Street Pedestrian Bridge was built to provide access to the Fourth Avenue trolley for those who resided across a canyon in western Bankers Hill.

For over 80 years, the Quince Street Pedestrian Bridge was a neighborhood landmark. However, in July 1987, it was declared unsafe and closed. A city inspector found that it was infested with termites, with some of its wooden structure rotting.

The unannounced closure came as a shock to the Bankers Hill community, as did a consultant’s report to the San Diego City Council that the bridge was little used and unnecessary. The consultant recommended the bridge should be torn down and not replaced.

The Bankers Hill neighborhood rallied to save the bridge; over 1,000 people signed petitions to preserve it. Local residents pointed out the bridge’s deck planks had already been replaced in 1974, and the bridge’s trestle bases were reinforced with concrete in 1981.

More importantly, they stated the bridge was a Bankers Hill landmark that needed to be preserved. Elinor Meadows, who lived a short distance north of the bridge, was a leader in this preservation effort. According to a Nov. 28, 1987 article from the Los Angeles Times, she placed a sign on the bridge which read:

“I am an old bridge. I was the pioneer structure across a lovely canyon. I have carried my share of walkers. I have provided a place to view the bay, a quiet place to pause, to stop and think. I have seen many changes. The bay is busy, the air is heavy, the streets are crowded. My people need me more than ever. But where are they? No one crosses me now. It’s enough to make an old bridge weep.”

In November 1987, the San Diego Historic Site Board designated the bridge as historic landmark, potentially saving it from demolition. The city agreed to restore the bridge at a cost of about $250,000. The original cost to build the bridge in 1905 was $850.

After a two-year restoration, the Quince Street Pedestrian Bridge opened again in 1990. About 70 percent of the wooden bridge was replaced, including support beams, decking and handrails. The replacement wood was pressure-treated Douglas fir. The bridge has remained open, except for about five months in 2011, after a eucalyptus tree fell on it.

If it hadn’t been for Elinor Meadows and other Bankers Hill community activists back in 1987, the Quince Street Pedestrian Bridge would likely have suffered the fate of the hallowed Vermont Street Pedestrian Bridge, which was torn down in 1980, despite the city’s pledge to preserve it into the next century.

— Leo Wilson is administrator for Metro San Diego CDC and is a Bankers Hill resident.

Published in Uptown News on May 18, 2018