By Ron Donoho / Photos by Jeff "Turbo" Corrigan
When Cam Fomby opened his Golden Hill bar/restaurant three years ago, he had "six beer taps and a toaster oven I'd just bought from Target."
Today, counterpoint (that's the name of the restaurant), serves wine and craft beer and is applying for a full liquor license. It has a complete kitchen, two artsy floors that seat 72 guests and an outdoor patio.
Chances are, you've never heard of counterpoint.
"I hear that all the time," says Fomby, a Midwestern-born Marine who has the soulful eyes of a poet, not a grunt. "I go out quite a lot in downtown San Diego. And I talk to a lot of people, which is what you are supposed to do in a bar.
Let's be more neighborly, San Diego. Golden Hill's western border is downtown's East Village. This 'hood on the hill is south of Balboa Park. Do not confuse Golden Hill with South Park (to the north) or Sherman Heights (to the south of State Route 94).
It is an architecturally eclectic neighborhood that slopes through the 92102 ZIP Code. Many of Golden Hill's homes and apartment buildings were built before 1900. There are patches of neglect. the area is gentrifying, but at a brick-by-brick pace.
The leading proponents of change are Mike Burnett and Craig Abenilla, owners of local architectural firm Foundation For Form. The pair designed and built the mxd830 apartment complex at the corner of 25th and F streets. That building houses Fomby's counterpoint bar/eatery and won a coveted orchid award in 2009 from the San Diego Architecture Foundation.
Across the street from mxd830, Burnett and Abenilla are nearly finished building another mixed-use property, called You Are Here. The site formerly housed a run-down gas station. Soon, it will offer 5,000 square-feet of commercial space and two dozen residential units.
"We're members of this community first, and developers second," says Burnett. He wants you Are here to be a positive gateway into Golden hill (it stands at the exit into the neighborhood from the 94).
Community activists like Burnett envision 25th Street becoming very much the Main Street of Golden hill, spanning from the 94 to Balboa Park. (Back in 1910, streetcars were a fixture along the route. Public transit in the area was boosted back then by the 1915 Panama- California Exposition.)
Influx Café (Broadway and 20th) is a gathering place of note for artists and musicians, as well as attorneys and architects. Some other attractions in the hood, with addresses on 25th Street, include:
Turf Supper Club. This classic eatery offers big-pour drinks, old-school charm and was one of the first local restaurants to offer indoor, cook- it-yourself grills.
Krakatoa. Breakfast and lunch is served at this earthy café/diner that has an outdoor patio and was converted into a cool hangout from an abandoned residence.
Pizzeria Luigi. This pizza place has been featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive- Ins and Dives. Proprietor Luigi Agostini says the area reminds him of his hometown of Varese, Italy, where everybody knows each other, and everybody frequents local, independent businesses.
"Golden hill really is about people before anything else," says Fomby. "Mike [Burnett] and Craig [Abenilla] are making a stand with their projects. And I think people are starting to believe that Golden Hill is a viable place."
Have you heard of the Habitat House? It's not a charity home built by Jimmy Carter's nonprofit Habitat for Humanity. It's a Golden Hill residence at the corner of 21st and Broadway that's been converted into an art gallery/recording studio/small-band venue. It's off the radar, but fans believe it should be labeled legendary. This past November, Canadian sister-group Tegan and Sara made Habitat House a stop on their Spotify Big Green Bus Tour. The band sat on couches near a pair of windows. Fans plopped down on the wood floor or stood in the cleared-out living room as the acoustic show was recorded. Indie-credible.
A Degree Of Success
Survey says: UCSD gives students a bang for their buck
It's difficult to attend college and maintain a steady income (unless you're a professor). But the school you attend can pay off in the long run, and a pair of national surveys says the University of California, San Diego rewards students who invest in degrees there.
Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine recently ranked UCSD the 10th best value public university in the nation for the second consecutive year, based on cost and financial aid, average student debt, competitiveness, graduation rates and academic support.
The folks at PayScale.com ranked more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the country to see which have the greatest returns on students' investments. UCSD locked in the number-four spot in the "public in-state university" category. San Diego State University came in a little late to the party, with the number-62 spot.
Harvey Mudd College, two hours north of San Diego, topped the PayScale.com list as the "best of the best," beating out Stanford, Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth and Duke (4th-8th positions, respectively). Of the 1,248 total schools surveyed (private, public in- state and public out-of-state), USCD came in with a solid number-40 ranking.
PayScale.com says the typical starting salary after graduating UCSD is roughly $48,000; with a mid-career salary average of $97,000. Not too shabby. That makes up for spending 4-6 years eating Ramen noodle dinners and relying on public transportation to get around town. payscale.com/college-education-value