Group’s work to beautify City Heights includes COVID-inspired mural

Sandra Escobar created the mural in City Heights named "6 Feet Apart"
Sandra R. Escobar’s mural called “6 Feet Apart” is located in the alley of Super Cocina in City Heights. The mural was commissioned by the nonprofit Love City Heights for its The Avenue Mural Project. Photographed on June 29, 2020.
(Kristian Carreon / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Despite pandemic putting painting on hold for several months, the Love City Heights group recently unveiled 25th mural on University Avenue.


“I guess social distancing is not happening in my head,” Sandra R. Escobar said, laughing.

The contemporary artist was describing her recently painted, coronavirus-inspired, 21-foot-high mural in City Heights titled “6 Feet Apart.” It was done in collaboration with the nonprofit group Love City Heights.

Ironically the mural depicts everything but social distancing, she said. The faces painted in bright greens and yellows are squeezed together, with some sharing body parts.

“It’s the humor behind it.... You’re not allowed to squeeze,” said Escobar, who is from Colombia. “My hope is that this brings people hope that all of this will be over one day.”

The mural is part of The Avenue Mural Project, an initiative lead by Love City Heights. The group commissions local and international artists to paint murals outside businesses along a 2.5-mile stretch of University Avenue.

Love City Heights’s goal is to complete one mural a month, but restrictions on public gatherings put two other murals in the works on hold, organizers said.

Mural "6 Feet Apart" by international artist Sandra R. Escobar outside Super Cocina in City Heights.
The new mural named “6 Feet Apart” created by international artist Sandra R. Escobar. It was commissioned by nonprofit Love City Heights for its The Avenue Project. Photographed on June 29, 2020.
(Kristian Carreon / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The organizers did not plan to complete any murals during the pandemic, but when Escobar proposed a COVID-19 inspired mural and a blank wall became available, the group agreed to move forward.

Six Feet Apart is the group’s 25th mural in the community. The vibrant mural is located outside the Super Cocina restaurant on University Avenue between 36th Street and Cherokee Avenue.

The founder of Love City Heights, Carlos Quezada, said the organization was looking for a way to capture the coronavirus pandemic and creatively remind people to keep six feet apart.

“It’s ironic, but it also makes a statement,” Quezada said.

Love City Heights works with local businesses and property owners to paint the murals. The organization purchases all the supplies and pays artists a stipend for completed work.

The mural project is an effort to create a drive-thru gallery down University Avenue that would not only beautify the neighborhood but also slow traffic through the corridor, Quezada said.

The majority of the murals the group has completed are between I-805 and I-15. Businesses in that area are mainly small, family-owned businesses and automotive shops.

Quezada said the group’s initiative has been well received and supported by most businesses in the neighborhood because the murals help engage community, local artists and business owners.

“If we have a lot of concrete and a lot of walls, as opposed to beaches and parks, that’s what we use as tools to make our community better,” Quezada said.

Love City Heights placed an artist mentorship program on hold because of COVID-19 and canceled its annual Love City Heights Day, a block party with art vendors, music, and annual self-guided tours of the murals.

Quezada said the group plans to continue working on other murals as long as artists feel comfortable painting outside.

The organization in the meantime has partnered with local businesses to provide meals to essential workers and congratulatory meals to 2020 high school graduates of schools in the neighborhood.