Downtown Built Environment at Night

The built environment is a substantial part of how people value cities today

What is it about the built environment that makes the core city newly valuable to millennials? You know the profile: this part of the city is typically dense, walkable, bikeable, mixed use, mixed age, mixed-type building stock. These are the kinds of neighborhoods we forgot how to build for the past 50 years. Then all of a sudden, we woke up to a back to the future moment.

Read this great new article by Carol Coletta in the City Observatory.

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job fair

New York Tech Startups & Why We Care

Urban Theorist, Richard Florida, evaluates the startup scene in New York and how it may apply to other cities, in his article: Is New York the New Model for Startup Cities? which you can read here at CityLab.  It’s well worth the read. It’s thorough and yet, to the point. It reviews findings of a recent study on New York startups and includes research on venture capital funding in New York’s burgeoning startup scene.

Florida stops short of saying that New York is a perfect model for other urban cities in the country, but here’s an excerpt from the article:

That New York is the most reproducible tech hub in the country is a bold claim on several levels. For one, New York is a unique place. It is one of the largest, most diverse, and arguably most economically powerful cities on the planet. Aside from perhaps London, it is hard to think of any other city with these kinds of assets. And of course, the Bay Area remains the world’s leading center for tech startups by a large margin, attracting roughly $13.5 billion dollars in venture funding, four times the level of New York.

New York, Bay Area, London, sure those are great cities. But, after Forbes ranked San Diego the #1 city to launch a business in 2014, we’re pretty sure it’s only  a matter of time before San Diego is on the list of models for the rest. We encourage you to read Florida’s article and let us know what you think. One thing is certain: tech startups are creating a fantastic new urban ecosystem, one city at a time. That’s exactly why we are building IDEA1.

Photo credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri
SDCC Book Fair

Literacy, Arts, and Cultural Convergence at the SDCC International Book Fair

Project Director Virginia Escalante gives us the inside scoop on this year’s event.

This week, we are excited to be in the midst of yet another big event for arts and education in East Village. Culture, academia and creativity converge once again for the San Diego City College International Book Fair. The book fair will showcase literature, arts and music from both sides of the border, serving as a culture nexus and providing a site for cultural exchange and growth in downtown San Diego. We had the opportunity to get the inside scoop from project director and City College Professor of English, Virginia Escalante, and get a behind the scenes look at this year’s book fair.

Project Director, Virginia Escalante

Project Director, Virginia Escalante

A long-time facilitator for cultural interaction and expansion, Virginia has constructed her approach to teaching and working from experiences on both sides of the education system. She attended USCD for her master’s and is currently in the process of completing her doctorate degree in Communications. She describes how the challenges she faced as a grad student have helped to make her a better teacher and to more aptly prepare students for transfer to universities: “Now that I’m familiar with the expectations of the UC system, I am better at developing and deploying pedagogy that builds our students’ critical thinking and academic writing skills so that they succeed when they arrive at that level.” The book fair plays an important function in this pedagogy, exposing both students and residents to the work of national and international authors and artists – in their words, to “provide insights into both local and international cultures and experiences.”

Through it’s diverse and exciting lineup, the weeklong event will certainly accomplish its goal. Our very own Pete Garcia discussed his published novel, From Amigos to Friends, on Monday – a presentation that Virginia predicted to be “especially topical given that he was an unaccompanied minor who came here from Cuba and in light of the recent migration of more than 66,000 children from Central America.” She lists a number of other poignant speakers who have presented or will be presenting throughout the week: “Maceo Montoya, a gifted artist, author, and Chicano Studies professor, City College counselor Ray Wong, the author of I’m not Chinese:  The Journey from Resentment to Reverence, Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between Us, back by popular demand because her memoir resonates with many of our students, Zohreh Ghahremani, whose books speak to the Iranian-American diaspora, Lysley Tenorio, and Ella deCastro Baron, Judy Patacsil, and Morivi Soliven, the latter of whom won the Philippines’ equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.” The culmination is a resonating message of diversity, multiculturalism, and the power of expression through the written word and the arts.

Virginia has also reached critical acclaim in the literary world. A former journalist for The Los Angeles Times, she is a Pulitzer Prize recipient for her contributions to a series on ‘Southern California’s Latino Community,’ which received the award’s gold medal for meritorious public service in 1984. The journey through academia and literary success eventually lead her to take on a role where she could apply her skills and experiences and create a forum for others to do the same: project manager of the SDCC Book Fair. Virginia explains that she was compelled to volunteer for the position because the fair is such an integral part of the school’s curriculum. It provides students with the opportunity to meet and interact with the authors, “which enriches their understanding and appreciation of the literature.  The students are highly motivated and engage more enthusiastically with their readings when they know the authors of their texts are coming to campus.  The fair also serves as a resource for faculty who strive to enhance their own as well as their students’ intellectual development.  Other members of the community also welcome the opportunity to meet and converse with the authors who often answer questions the readers may have about their books, their writing process, or experiences.”


San Diego City College

San Diego City College


Students and faculty of City College are not the only attendees at the book fair. The event will draw various members of the community including artists; East Village residents; librarians; teachers and students from other schools; members of various organizations; mothers who bring their children; retirees; and other avid readers. The diverse crowd reflects downtown San Diego’s thriving literary culture, owed in part to the Central Library’s role in promoting literacy and literature in the area. Virginia cites a number of other programs that have helped to foster this culture, including So Say We All, (a non-profit based in East Village that conducts writing workshops, publishes books, and hosts other programs), and the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, which sponsored a panel on the freedom to write for the book fair. Virginia says of the many opportunities and relationships, “I look forward to creating or strengthening more of these types of partnerships or collaborative efforts in our area.”

The creative class has been established as the backbone of the culture in East Village, and will continue to be a crucial element throughout the process of identity building. Virginia says that I.D.E.A. District’s potential role in this could also be beneficial to students:  “It’s very impressive, and its emphasis on the “creative class” is quite interesting. I hope that our City College students can somehow become involved or be provided with opportunities to learn about the development of a project of such a huge scope as well as its impact.” Collaboration has proven to be a vital piece to the recent explosion growth in terms of culture, technology, education, and more in the downtown neighborhood, and Virginia has seen City College expanding along with the rest of the city: “Our new Arts and Humanities Building now houses the City College Center for the Literary Arts whose program includes the book fair, Spring Literary Series, our City College Press which publishes books, and our City Works Journal, all part of efforts to support and nurture literature and creative writing by students, faculty, local, regional, and national authors.”


Schedule of Events

Schedule of Events


The SDCC Book Fair and other similar events and programs have a powerful potential to engage the entire East Village Community in a collaborative, intellectual dialogue. It’s already happening as we speak, but Virginia explains that there is still plenty of room for the book fair to expand and evolve: “If the book fair grows to its full potential, more members of the creative class could be involved in helping to design a multiplicity of spaces where readings and other events could be held in proximity of each other, maintaining the cohesiveness of the fair. One of the book fair’s traditions has been to include other cultural forms such as music, art, photography, and film, so those possibilities could also be increased, further developing a rich, uplifting environment that supports and nurtures a variety of creative endeavors and increases participation in or access to cultural events.” This is the synergy that is playing a major factor in the development of East Village’s personality.

As this personality grows more distinct, one of the commonly shared goals is accessibility. Virginia lists the resources that make up the city’s “vibrant, multicultural community in music, art, literature, film, and other forms,” which include art spaces, eateries, music venues and more, and expresses the need for affordability – which is precisely why the book fair is a free event. In the future, she hopes to see more affordable cultural events that will serve all segments of the community: “The arts should be accessible to all rather than the sole purview of the affluent.” The forums for cultural events are certainly multiplying here in East Village – for example, RADLab’s Quartyard – public spaces that create a community environment and are sustainable and accessible. Now, it’s just a matter of cultivating them as a neighborhood and helping them to thrive.


Learn more about the SDCC Book Fair.


By: Julie Riggert
Quartyard Founders

Quartyard Project Sparks Momentum in the East Village

Meet the entrepreneur-architects behind East Village’s exciting new community space.

San Diego’s East Village continues to thrive in an exciting era driven by an influx of innovation, technology and cutting-edge design. As the city cements its status as a hub for startups, entrepreneurs and culture-makers, a defining trend permeates the atmosphere. This trend is the confluence of ideas and identities – more specifically, a hybrid of creative design and entrepreneurial spirit and the synergy that comes with it. The resulting infrastructure developing in the East Village is branded by projects that are unprecedented, aesthetically striking, technologically advanced and economically and environmentally sustainable.

One such project and future hot-spot that we’re looking forward to is Quartyard, which is slated to break ground tomorrow on Wednesday, October 1st on the corner of Park and Market. This project embodies the confluence between artistry and entrepreneurialism, masterminded by the founders of RAD Lab (Research Architecture Development Laboratory). These entrepreneur-architects, all graduates of the NewSchool of Architecture and Design, epitomize a new breed of thinkers who have surpassed the barrier between design and business and united the two under one, integral hybrid model. We were able to chat with co-founders Philip Auchettl, David Loewenstein, and Jason Grauten to get some insight into the Quartyard project and also learn more about the unexpected challenges and their collaboration with I.D.E.A. District.


empty lot

future lot

Before and After: The October 1st groundbreaking will initiate the space’s transformation from a vacant lot into a sustainable outdoor urban park built entirely out of retrofitted shipping containers. This community plaza will house both permanent and daily tenants and will offer rotating food trucks, art and fashion shows, film festivals, education events, local farmers markets, craft beer tasting events, fundraisers, pet-friendly events and more. (Click for more details on the transformation.)


Quartyard started out as a yearlong thesis project for Philip, David, Jason and their fellow founder Adam Jubela at the beginning of their final year of at NewSchool. The architects had worked on projects together in the past, but they saw the upcoming thesis year as an opportunity to take on a design-build project, an idea that they had always wanted to bring to fruition. Together, they came up with the concept of taking over vacant lots of property and implementing temporary architecture on them, creating a functioning space that would also serve as a placeholder for future development. Philip explains that the goal was to make use of these spaces and find something that they could implement “temporarily, economically and quickly.”

When their proposal received the green light from NewSchool, the team began their search for the ideal location. With the help of Civic San Diego and the City Council, they mapped out 35 different properties in a variety of neighborhoods, but it became increasingly clear that East Village was the best choice due to its potential, the growth that was happening there, and its proximity to NewSchool. The final decision was a lot located across the street from NewSchool – inarguably the best and most convenient spot. “In the end, it really fell in our lap,” Jason stated.

Another crucial element to the project was finding an architecture that would support the concept – a structural medium that offered transportability and mobility. Shipping containers were the perfect solution. David explains, “We came up with the idea of using shipping containers, not only because they’re cool, but because their sustainability is at the core of the project, and it makes it so much easier when we want to move to a new location.” When the space’s temporary, 2-3 year lease expires, the team plans to have a new piece of land already selected. All they will need to do is load the containers onto trucks using a crane and drive them to the new spot. The concept utilizes tactical urbanism at its finest, for a model that is mobile, economical and innovative.

The I.D.E.A. District has been able to play an important role in this exciting project by providing storage space for the shipping containers at the IDEA1 lot, just a block away. While the on-site construction of the foundations, utilities and other elements takes place, the containers will be ready around the corner. Jason talks about the innovative business model and describes its significance at the core of the project: “We’re prototyping. We’re not just providing a space for a tenant to come in temporarily; the tenants are actually purchasing their shipping container, so they’re purchasing their business. That’s kind of a new up and coming concept – ‘take your building with you.’” Once it’s time for the project to relocate, tenants can continue on to the next lot or do as they wish with their business.

Speaking of tenants, the team faced a big challenge in deciding which businesses to select and how to select them. The project required tenants who were able to support the market and pay for their containers, but also were community oriented as opposed to large corporate chains. After repeatedly facing the chicken-or-the-egg scenario of investors wanting tenants before they would invest and vice versa, they were able to find businesses that fit the requirements. Jason explains that everyone loved the idea, “It was just a matter of if they could swing the price and they could afford and wanted to take that risk on this new venture. Luckily we found three great tenants that are just the ideal candidate for this opportunity.” Those three permanent tenants will include Best Beverage Catering (Beer Garden), Meshuggah Shack (a coffee shop), and S&M Sausage and Meat. Each brings a unique aspect to the culture of Quartyard and together will foster a community space that has something for everyone. The craft-market feel will be an integral element of the project. Philip says, “We wanted to keep local; we wanted San Diego based companies, but it was definitely very fortunate with the companies we ended up with. It was a bit of a roller coaster trying to find these tenants, especially because this was all very conceptual. We’d been working with the city but we didn’t have anything built at that point, and this is such an experimental project and it says a lot for someone to be able to take that leap of faith as a tenant.”

As the community space takes shape over the next few months, the RAD Lab team looks forward to witnessing the East Village develop its identity through Quartyard and other projects. David explains, “It’s young professionals in live-work, creative design, creative spaces – that’s what we’re hoping for. It’s an audience that appreciates innovative design, too.” They cite I.D.E.A. District, Maker’s Quarter and Moniker Group as major facets all pushing in the same direction; creating the momentum towards that culture design, technology and education through job clusters and activation. They are no strangers to collaboration – RAD Lab and the I.D.E.A. District have combined forces in the past. Four years ago, Jason, Phillip and David were part of David Malmuth’s and Pete Garcia’s first class at NewSchool – one that required students to work on the five incubator locations for IDEA1. Philip says that the experience had a big impact on the Quartyard project: “It was really interesting, working with them and seeing what they were trying to accomplish – it sparked a lot of different ideas when we were trying to nail down our thesis project, especially with East Village, and the whole movement over here.” Jason explains his take on I.D.E.A. District as well: “They’re a cornerstone. What they’re trying to do in the East Village is perfect for our brand and the message that we’re trying to promote. We’re literally on the corner of the district itself, so it’s a nice way to say ‘we’re starting this over here’ and then hopefully it will just keep moving in that direction.”

In order to maintain this momentum and capitalize on the potential of East Village, it really comes down to the execution of initiatives such as Quartyard. These projects depend on the innovative entrepreneurs that are a growing population in the neighborhood; the Creative Class that is represented by groups like RAD Lab. In a sink-or-swim situation, the team was able to successfully take on a huge, multi-faceted project that will certainly become a major player in the culture in East Village. They explain that the education process was immense and that while they encountered an initial ‘can’t be done’ attitude from almost every angle, it was patience and tenacity that eventually paid off. David says, “I think our biggest takeaway was that we had a vision for it, we thought this was really going to work, and there was no reason why we couldn’t do it. We just put our heads together and sat down said, “Let’s just do it, lets just lean. We’ve been able to make it happen so far and it’s fantastic. So if you believe it, and if you work really hard at it, you can make it happen.”

We can’t wait to see what Quartyard, which plans to open in December, will bring to East Village.



San Diego

The Summer Roundup

Summer is in full swing! With some big developments happening here at The I.D.E.A. District and a wide array of projects rolling out across East Village, we couldn’t be more excited for what the next few months will bring. Here is our roundup of the biggest summer projects and a few updates of our own.

Earlier this year, we were very pleased to select The Miller Hull Partnership to design IDEA1. The award-winning architecture firm is widely recognized for their simple and progressive aesthetics, which actively engage communities while simultaneously exploring new architectural boundaries. With more than 250 national and regional awards, the high profile firm – who will also be the very first tenant of IDEA1 – offers a strong knowledge of innovation districts coupled with cutting edge expertise in the field. Currently, The Miller Hull Partnership is working on a few other inventive and contemporary projects. The Office Building of the Future, a conceptual proposal, gives some insight into the brilliant ideas that drive many of the firm’s architectural feats, while others such as the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry demonstrate intelligent flow design and excellent operational sustainability. As we move closer to the 2015 groundbreaking of IDEA1, we look forward to seeing what this new collaboration will bring to the table.

Miller Hull

A Rendering from Miller Hull’s Office Building of the Future Project.

As for the rest of East Village, the roster is certainly full: Looking for some summer reading material? Head over to the Central Library for a literary field day hosted under the beautiful new dome completed earlier this year. This stunning space adds an interesting new focal point to the city’s skyline and will continue to provide the public with an excellent resource for knowledge and entertainment this summer and beyond. Also occupying space in the Central Library, the new charter school, e3 Civic High will open to an additional class this coming fall. The school aims to build a strong relationship with the downtown community and provide students with an outstanding education. We are thrilled to see such a unique environment put to good use educating our city’s youth.

Lib and e3 |

On another note, we hope you’re hungry, because the restaurant lineup is looking spectacular this season. Chef Chad White, who we spoke with last month, will finish up the much-anticipated Común Kitchen and Tavern, which will be unveiled this summer. We can’t wait to try this new concept restaurant featuring Chad’s interpretation of Baja gastronomy. Bottega Americano is another highly awaited restaurant slated to open in August. Housed in the same building as the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, this “game-changer” will host an eatery, gourmet food stalls, a bar and more. Don’t forget to check out the many outdoor dining opportunities downtown either: Brian Malarkey’s popular Searsucker offers excellent cuisine and people-watching, while a more casual burger and beer can be found at The Corner on 10th and J. If you want to grab a draught-to-go at the ballgame, be sure to check out Stone Brewery’s new Tap Room at Petco Park for the ultimate spectator beverage. All in all, there are endless options and we are ready to try them all!

rests.png | |

As for eco-friendly happenings, San Diego is going even greener with parks and public spaces. This summer, East Village will be increasingly abundant in grassy retreats, gardens and everything green in between. Let’s start with SmartsFarm, the vacant lot-turned thriving community garden in Makers Quarter. This innovative space on the corner of 15th and F Street offers youth programs along with plots that residents can lease, drawing together a diverse community of gardeners. We can’t wait to see this brilliant and economically smart spot put to good use all summer.

Humane Smarts

Also utilizing the full potential of San Diego’s urban space, RAD LAB (which stands for Research Architecture Development Laboratory) is on the cutting edge of inventive projects in East Village. The group’s ‘tactical urbanism’ has been the driving force behind concepts such as their recent pocket park on 13th and J Street. Populated with trees, seating made from recycled wooden palettes, a mural from local artist Christopher Konecki and more, the park is a far cry from the abandoned lot that occupied the space 3 months ago. A few blocks away on Park and Market, the Quartyard is soon to be found. RAD LAB will fill this un-loved space with retail, restaurants, art galleries, a garden, and community-based uses that act as temporary holders for future development. The park is designed to host public and private events and is sure be a great source of summer entertainment.

parks.png |


Get ready for a more bike-friendly neighborhood: Residents and visitors alike can prepare to enjoy San Diego on two wheels. The recently completed San Diego Bike Loop spans 7 miles, running along the bay, heading east to the Gaslamp Quarter and reaching all the way to Balboa Park. The trail offers commuters, cyclists and casual riders a safer, greener alternative mode of transportation that also acts as a form of exercise. Mayor Kevin Faulconer says that the Bike Loop is a big step forward in the push to create a more bike-friendly city: “These are the type of low-cost projects that have a huge impact on our neighborhoods and we’re going to be doing a lot more of them in the future.” Don’t own a bike? DecoBike’s new bike sharing program was approved in 2013 and is now in the process of being implemented citywide. It will provide stations in numerous locations where riders can rent bikes at any time. Additionally, the bikeway linking Southeast San Diego to Bayshore continues to advance, and will eventually culminate in a beautiful 24-mile trail along the Chollas Creek waterway.

Bike Path

From big expansions to fun bike rides; from delicious restaurants to beautiful parks, there is a lot to look forward to in downtown San Diego right now, so head on over to the East Village and get ready for a summer to remember. See you there!

Video screenshot

Craft Beer Meets Technology in San Diego’s Innovation District

While at UC San Diego, David Fischer got his first exposure to San Diego craft beer, which was still in its infancy at the time. He became fascinated with homebrewing, but he had an equally fascinating internship as a developer at Qualcomm. After progressing at Qualcomm, he took a job Amazon in Irvine and commuted via train. Fast forward a few years, when David learns about a job at TapHunter, a fast growing startup that provides online and mobile solutions that help people discover and find great beer. This was his opportunity to combine two things he loved: programming and craft beer.

David traded in his train commute to Amazon for a short walk to TapHunter’s headquarters in downtown San Diego. As a sought after software developer, David has no shortage of job offers across the globe, yet his decision to remain and grow in San Diego is one illustration of the abundant opportunities and viable startup community.

Video and content courtesy of GoSanDiego. Click here to see the original post on Vimeo.

Video screenshot

Cool Time-lapse: Another Reason Why Innovation Districts are Cool

Innovation districts have the unique potential to spur productive, inclusive and sustainable economic development. At a time of sluggish growth, they provide a strong foundation for the creation and expansion of firms and jobs by helping companies, entrepreneurs, universities, researchers and investors—across sectors and disciplines—co-invent and co-produce new discoveries for the market.

Discover what the buzz is about on this site by Brookings on the Rise of Innovation Districts.

Video screenshot

Entrepreneurs Love Downtown San Diego

Meet Michael Sacca, Brandisty from GoSanDiego on Vimeo.

Here’s a video put together by GoSanDiego. Per their post on Vimeo:

In search of opportunity and quality of life, Brandisty co-founders Alex Rolek and Michael Sacca decided to move their company from Las Vegas to San Diego. What they found when they got to San Diego was an attainable quality of life and a growing startup community which fosters collaboration.

A stone’s throw away from the trolley, Brandisty’s headquarters in downtown San Diego provides an open-environment space where they can collaborate with others to bring Brandisty to life.

This is Michael’s story.

Check out brandisty:


San Diego’s Culture Makers: Chef Chad White to spark the dining scene in East Village

San Diego is having a moment. Over the past few months, experts have hailed it as one of the best places to launch a startup in 2014; it has been called the new Silicon Valley; the I.D.E.A. District itself has been named an ideal place to live. While ‘America’s finest city’ will always be celebrated for its endless supply of sunshine and friendly faces, it is also gaining recognition as a hub for technology, design and culture. At the center of it all sits East Village. In this relatively young urban landscape, a marked culture is beginning to emerge. This culture that will be decisively influenced by the same operative that defined – and continues to define – great cities like San Francisco, Boston and New York: The restaurant scene.


Why are restaurants such an integral part of metropolitan character? Because they are the primary cultivators of community. As a travel writer from CNN eloquently puts it, “We celebrate with food. We mourn with food. We use food to mark both milestone events and plain old ordinary Tuesdays.” Additionally, the culinary world is one that overcomes the barriers that exist almost everywhere else. Another restaurant writer explains this phenomenon perfectly: “Overall, for one moment in time, you will see a room full of strangers, from various faiths, economic backgrounds and ethnicities with nothing in common other than their love of the restaurant. You can say restaurants transcend most economic, social and religious boundaries and restaurants are not just a place to eat, restaurants are a non-denominational cathedral where people from all faiths gather for a common purpose: The atmosphere, the companionship, and the food. The complete social experience.” It is through these interactions – this communal cross-pollination and the subsequent remix – that culture is born. Add to this people’s willingness to travel for great food and the unique persuasive power of the culinary arts (nearly anyone can be convinced to try something new when it comes to cooking), and you have a recipe for a cultural explosion.



San Diego’s East Village is in the midst of this. As design and technology take off, the city will continue to attract an increasing number of talented, educated innovators and entrepreneurs – the creative class. In order for this demographic to successfully interact, thrive, and advance, it is essential that the surrounding environment foster culture and community. This is where the dining scene comes into play, guided by highly skilled, vibrantly inventive culinary experts; members of the creative class in their own right. We wanted an insider’s perspective, so we met with renowned local chef Chad White, who is a leader of the culinary charge in East Village. Known for his adventurous and boundary-stepping cooking style, Chad has quickly risen to his status as a recognized and celebrated figure on the San Diego dining scene. In person, he is unpretentious and down to earth, demonstrating both expertise and contagious enthusiasm for his craft.

This year, Chad will unveil an exciting new restaurant on 935 J Street in East Village. Común Kitchen and Tavern is slated to open in mid-late June. The Latin-inspired gastro bar will feature wines from Baja and Baja-Mediterranean flavors. Chad describes the concept behind the cooking style: “We’re taking things that are very familiar to people in the states and in Baja; from a comfort level, from things that they’ve had growing up in their lives, and then we’re adding a Baja flavor and feel to it. Then I’m putting my own interpretation and creativity into it, so it’s going to be a little different then what anybody else has had before, but not in a way that’s offensive or unrecognizable.” Chad began the search for a location for Común and was drawn to the East Village by the urban, industrial feel. He happened upon the site somewhat unexpectedly and made a spontaneous decision: “I was walking by the ballpark one day and I saw this place and I made a phone call, set up a meeting with Jaime Partners (the commercial consulting firm that will manage the project), and next thing I knew we were moving forward on it.” Had he not chosen that particular route he says, he may not have picked that spot.

Común, which loosely translates to “community” in Spanish, will reflect the wildly inventive approach that Chad has maintained throughout his career, appealing to a wide range of customers and uniting them under the common denominator of delicious food and a fun, exciting environment. A lifetime thrill-seeker, Chad once satisfied the need for an adrenaline rush through outdoor sports in his native city of Spokane, WA. After joining the military, which included attending an abbreviated culinary school, he was stationed in San Diego and now gets that same sense of adventure through the art of cooking. He is constantly implementing the cultural context of ingredients into his work. As an example, he describes the reverence with which certain hunters treat their prey: “In some cultures, the only way you survive is by hunting. Those people end up having a lot of respect. You’re never going to see those avid hunters who are hunting to feed their families being disrespectful to the animal. They kill it with respect. They skin it properly, they take the furs and it could be made into something to keep them warm and they feed their family with the product. I really like to see those kinds of things and understand them and bring them into my cooking style.” Chad’s background has also contributed to his take on the culinary arts. Having grown up on a dairy farm himself, he understands and appreciates what it takes for farmers to grow their own produce. He is a huge advocate for supporting the local farmers and explains, “We have the best produce here in the United States if not in the world, so using that is really what I love to do, and not to use that would be disrespectful in my opinion.”

Chad’s boundless, cutting-edge style is the perfect compliment to the expanding startup businesses and tech companies in San Diego; two very different fronts united by out-of-the-box thinking. He says, “I tend to blur lines a lot. I dance on the borders. I like to find ingredients and do interesting things to them.” He has found just the right environment. Now it’s just a matter of time before Común opens to the public and sets the standard for restaurants throughout East Village and all of San Diego. Chad’s perspective is sure to bring the eatery success and notoriety. He explains that the average home cook isn’t always going to understand how to bring out the flavors and textures in certain meats or produce, and may write those foods off because of it. His goal is to find a way to show a different side of it – to use the opportunity to prove that the product is good: “How can I take that and make it a beautiful thing where people understand? That’s what’s really intriguing to me and that’s why I flirt with that kind of outside the border.”


In terms of future development for the neighborhood as a whole, it all comes down to potential. Chad explains that East Village is growing in a different way than even 5th or 6th Ave. He predicts fewer nightclubs and bars and far more craft-style restaurants and bars, citing a number of spots that have piqued his excitement; The Consortium Group’s new project, Craft and Commerce, Stone Brewery’s new taproom at the ballpark, The Corner’s revamped space, Toast Enoteca, (“an absolutely delicious restaurant that really doesn’t get enough attention”), and “all the guys from Blind Burro and Bubs that are just absolutely killing it.” This new lineup of restaurants steps away from their more cookie-cutter style counterparts and focus on originality, while also keeping the food affordable and approachable. As for what specifically will define the food culture, Chad forecasts that gastro bars and craft beer spots are definitely here to stay. “This a laid back town, and everybody knows everybody, especially in this industry. They want to go out to a place that they can show up in a pair of flip-flops or they can dress it up and put a tie on for a date night. San Diego has done a good job on developing the kind of establishments that blend those two areas and I see it continuing to grow.”

The success of the burgeoning restaurant scene relies on the same factor that the I.D.E.A. District will hinge on, according to Chad: Affordability. He explains that San Diego certainly needs something like the I.D.E.A. District, and that similar projects in other cities are taking off. From a culinary standpoint, from an artists standpoint; “the people who are doing really amazing things,” price point will be a major deciding issue. “If the project is built in a manner of understanding that it will grow slowly into something amazing – because we’re making it accessible for people on that level – then it works.” He compares the melting-pot aspect to that of a flea market. “That’s essentially where the idea comes from. You have all these different cultures, all these different walks of life and creativity from different avenues – artists, film, food, music… They’re not up here yet; they’re building. Where you find culture is honestly from depression, if you think about it. Culture is built from ways of life where people lived and had to be creative in different areas. It’s like the blues: They’re singing about the hardship that they came form. Art is about fear, love, whatever. It’s all this different emotion that comes from things, and if life is always perfect all the time, it doesn’t exist. For chefs, it’s the same thing with food. If they keep that energy, I think that will grow into something beautifully.”


Chad has experienced his own ups and downs in life, and has now reached a point in his career that most would consider extremely successful. Currently, he owns multiple restaurants including La Justina in Tijuana, and the soon to be Común Kitchen and Tavern in East Village. The media has been quick to take notice, earning him a spotlight on The Professional Chef Network. He says that La Justina is probably the most rewarding restaurant he’s ever opened, and that he hopes to see the same for Común, explaining, “I feel very proud when I walk into that place. I have partners, but I helped a little bit with the design, and the entire menu, and the culture in the kitchen I brought onboard. My partners are the most amazing people ever; they’re extremely popular in the community.” In this case, Chad has taken regional, traditional cuisine and created his own interpretation: “It reminds you of a memory, maybe something that your mother or grandmother made, a Pasada or a Quinceañera, taking my interpretation or influence of the product without disrespecting it. I try to pay homage to the pure, originality of the dish, while providing some different techniques to maybe refine it a little bit without taking away from it.”

So, with his numerous accolades, does Chad feel that he has truly made it in his career? He replies, “I don’t think I’ve ever made it. I think it’s always a progression. I think I’m just always trying to continue being better at something. That’s a tough question for me to answer. When my children have everything they want, and they’re intelligent and they’ve finished college and I’m ready to retire, then I think that’s when I’ll know that I made it.” One thing is for certain, Chad White will certainly have a big impact on East Village with Común, helping to set the stage for a city that is well on its way to becoming the next major center for culture, arts, and technology. Here at The I.D.E.A. District, we’re looking forward to being a part of San Diego’s exciting journey together with him and all of the other trailblazers, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.


By: Julie Riggert
San Diego

San Diego and the Four Rules for Startup Communities

For a second time in two weeks, the Voice of San Diego mentions the I.D.E.A. District as a welcomed addition to San Diego’s burgeoning startup market. According to the article,

The city of San Diego needs to make it easier for startups to locate in San Diego to form a hub of innovation in areas like Makers Quarter and the upcoming I.D.E.A. District.

Read the article here.