Neighbors, business owners, schools, community artists, non-profits, contractors, and representatives from the City of San Diego worked together to transform this misused space into a safe gathering place, celebrating local culture and identity, and improving the overall ecological health of the area. Using a participatory design process, engagement included an intensive week of community input and design workshops, community art making days, design development, permitting, budgeting, material procurement, and a 4-day community build.
The site of the Manzanita Gathering Place is a 1,500 square foot lot, sitting within ¼ mile of 4 schools and surrounded by residential and mixed-use development in the urban community of City Heights. Owned by the City of San Diego, this undeveloped paper street served as a dumping ground for old electronics, furniture, shopping carts, feces and needles. The heavily degraded lot was filled with invasive plants, overgrows brush, and eroded slopes. Additionally, a barricade of razor wire fencing prevented access by the neighborhood, supporting encampments of drug users, and hindering ecological health or veneration of the adjacent Manzanita Canyon trail system.