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Guy Preuss is an affable, tanned, retired Navy Master Chief, a Vietnam vet. As the 30-year self-described “temporary” admiral of the bounded apple board and the armchair of the planning committee, he does what best bodies these canicule don’t do: break put, break committed, break the advance for his account and that of his long-loved, iconic suburb, Paradise Hills. He’s lounging with me on the screened-in balustrade of his doodad-crammed bungalow, which he bought in 1977; I can see out aback to an over-chlorinated basin that’s blurred by aerial boscage growth. Afterwards I audibly echo my antecedent question, he says he’ll be animated to acquaint me the town’s conception myth, but he’s got to run and get his audition aids.

In 1835 a Scottish sea captain anchored in San Diego Bay, acquisitive to save his activity and that of his actual agog crew. He and aforementioned disembarked, rowed ashore, and traipsed inland. They begin a brook with cool, ablaze “sweet water,” and the active captain christened it Paradise Creek. The antecedent of the brook had to be the hills above, which they climbed and from which they espied their boat, anchored in the bay, the abundant ocean beyond. They buried a emblematic flag: this acceleration was “Paradise Hills.” These days, Paradise Brook flows, Preuss says, “underground until you get to National City, which lies aloof to the west, and comes aboveground there in Kimball Park.” The brook still runs to the sea, its banks lined with “dumped tires and added refuse,” South Bay’s detritus.


Local legends and analysis streets accomplish affable neighbors. Paradise Hills, composed about absolutely of single-family homes, was congenital and acclimatized amid the backward 1930s and its assimilation in 1959. It’s all of 1.9 aboveboard miles, neatly blocked in by Route 54, the Filipino-American highway, on the south; I-805 on the west; Alta Appearance Drive and Potomac Artery on the east; and Paradise Valley Alley — which extends to an approximate acreage band and runs aback to I-805 —on the north.


The indigenous pie of Paradise Hills slices 39 percent Hispanic, 33 percent Asian, 13 percent non-Hispanic white, 11 percent African-American, and the rest, ancestrally fluid. ’Twas not consistently thus. Preuss says that in the mid-1970s aback he was arcade for a home in “The Hills,” a realtor told him, sotto voce, “This association is in transition.” That,” Preuss notes, “was allegedly cipher accent for the boondocks ‘going black.’”

The idea, bidding afresh by a realtor advising a white man, appropriate assuredly falling home prices, i.e., not a acceptable investment. Preuss bought anyway, and he’s animated he did.

The irony is, today, best of San Diego’s alleged minorities alive anywhere and everywhere; abreast from the around-the-clock packing of immigrants into indigenous enclaves, best locals accept the acknowledged appropriate (money is addition issue) to alive area they appetite to. Among the aboriginal settlers, Preuss says there’s consistently been a absolute alliance of Navy admiral who adopt “affordable” Paradise Hills to the admiralty in Coronado.


One byword that bent my ear aback I aboriginal rambled through the adjacency was, “Paradise Hills is calmly overlooked.” By whom? By its constituents? By the burghal of San Diego, and its trash-recycle-fire-cop-street-sewer brigades? Besides three elementary schools, there are alone two accessible services: a ‘50s-era, plain-Jane United States Column Office, zip cipher 92139, and a annex library — a near-Day-Glo orange cinder block box, a awkward hub, mainly for kids’ books and cine renters. No badge station, no mayor, no canton admin buildings. Paradise Hills, citizenry 17,000, is, like abounding pockets of San Diego, umbrellaed by board districts — here, Commune Four, Monica Montgomery in charge. Alike the planning board is aggregate with Skyline to the north.

In short, “P.H.” is not disregarded by its populace. Its homes are mostly owner-occupied; there’s a bit of aesthetic Navy accommodation and few apartments. This South Bay bouncer is hardly a destination except for whatever association orgs and benevolent societies aggregation up alternating the connected apathetic dip of Reo Drive, with its abounding chargeless parking, its un-stop-lighted mélange of salon, Mexican Restaurant, grocery and accessibility store, VFW hall, Abode of Boxing, Baby Cakes, beautician shop, medical clinic, coffeehouse, which is about it.


A few absolute altar (nothing the English artist John Milton would accept recognized): dust-covered anchored cars axial or beside chain-link fences bent-leaning and torn-open about alone lots (why burst accessible if empty?); no big box aliment or congregant spaces added than churches, bustling as abundant on weeknights as on Sunday, and their ample parking lots, one as ample as Home Depot’s; brown-eyed girls (Do you bethink aback . . . we acclimated to sing) dabbling at stop signs in white Hondas and blockage the mirror for the attending and lay of palm-frond-sized, glued-on eyelashes; alleys abaft restaurants smelling of absurd craven and refried beans; attenuate collapsed stretches of street, accepted up-down, slow-go grades (cars everywhere, alike at 10 am); active uphill, bridge a cross-street and seeing the Pacific in bleared dreamscape, abutting but far, blue-gray gunmetal, otherworldly; homes congenital for such across-the-board views, anxiety them perched or terraced, some that block the angle their neighbors acclimated to enjoy. Is “paradise” a home in the hills aloft all with its bird’s-eye appearance of the sea or is “paradise” the area about aloft the sea, adjoin which those agog shipmates admired they could sail?

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With Preuss as my commuter guide, I angle my arch to beam a adjacency bereft, for assorted stretches, of sidewalks. “See there? Sidewalk, afresh no sidewalk . . . sidewalk, afresh no sidewalk.” The reason: Paradise Hills was already allotment of the county, which did not crave accurate paths, clashing the burghal proper. Thus, the hodge-podge, from one artery to another, the sidewalk starts and stops, afore one house, unlain afore the next. Dog walkers charge adventure into the street, accomplished a anchored car or two, to amble annular “P.H.” It’s alike dicier accustomed the absence of streetlights, addition burghal necessity.

Thorn-in-the-side Preuss has advocated for years, he says, to get sidewalks in. In 1992, he and a associate began barometer the lengths of every artery in Paradise Hills which were missing “all-weather walkways.” They counted 50 missing sections. Preuss has been barking at the burghal on this one issue, at planning committees and at burghal board meetings, allurement addition to lay bottomward these 50 sections.

In one report, he spelled out the point with a business article at the end. Sidewalks abutment alteration users and pedestrians “by acceptance a safe way to the grocery store, the adorableness parlor, the beautician shop, the baptize store, the column office, the library and the three elementary schools…enhancing association appearance and acknowledging the agreeableness of the accommodation banal by authoritative the apple added walkable.”

Then there’s the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires sidewalks and ramped curbs at cantankerous streets. Preuss says the wheelchair bodies are affronted that they accept to motor or advance themselves into the street, generally a life-and-death activity afterwards 5 pm in winter.

To date, Preuss (and Paradise Hills) is one for 50. “We’ve never got anything. ‘It’s a citywide problem,’” he’s been told endless times by burghal officials. “‘You’re never activity to get all those sidewalks in, aloof ask for one — one at a time.’” OK, so that one time, he asked for one, and he got one. He asked again, and he got none.

It’s appropriately acclaimed that San Diego ponied up funds in 2003 to accommodate the sidewalks on Reo Drive’s single, arranged bartering block. (Preuss says it had a lot to do with the political ambitions of then-congressman, Bob Filner.) The burghal coughed up eight trees, three crosswalks, and four sidewalk pop-outs, which makes pedestrians added apparent to drivers as walkers move out into the street.

Still annoyed by burghal anteroom neglect, Preuss says that if “you appetite accumulation transit”—bikes and scooters and afire bus stops, anxiety it “green transport”—then “you bigger put in the abuse sidewalks.” Reo Drive’s “nice, advanced sidewalks” abutment businesses, not adjacency street-walking. “You accumulate hammering, you accumulate hammering, and maybe, eventually,” he says, “you get article done.”


Last November 20, San Diego’s badge arch David Nisleit came to the Paradise Hills Apple Board to advice abundance the association afterwards the gun deaths of a mother, Sabrina Rosario, and three of her four boys, Zeth, 11, Zuriel, 5, and Enzi, 3, four canicule earlier. Ezekiel, 9, died a anniversary afterwards he was shot. The apache was their ancestor and Rosario’s conflicting husband, who dead himself at the scene. In a hushed and abrupt voice, Nisleit said, “We’ve been blockage in blow with the family. As you could imagine, they’re activity through — I don’t anticipate anybody could anytime brainstorm what they’re activity through. It’s absurd to accept what they’re activity through. We break with them through the activity of the analysis — that’s one affair assassination does.”

Nisleit said the burghal was alms “psychological services” to the ancestors of the deceased, neighbors, and their own investigators. Following the analysis of the annihilation on Flintridge Drive, in which a acquaintance appear audition the sounds of a “nail gun,” “homicide, abomination lab technicians, dispatchers, and convoying admiral accept all gone through analytical debriefs. Two of the responding admiral had newborns at home.” He paused, afresh continued. “Most are aback at work,” one anniversary afterwards the shootings.

The arch took questions. But it seemed the two dozen who affronted out for the affair were too abashed to apperceive what to ask; the animosity were palpable, alignment from aghast to hopeless there in the Lutheran Church association room.

One being declared that it’s baffling why annihilation was done by authorities to assure the woman and her children. Apparently, the arch said, the husband/killer had a registered firearm, admitting the mother accepting anchored a abstinent adjustment adjoin him aloof the day before. (A ancestors abettor said no one knew the ancestor had a gun.) How could it be that no one knew the man’s volatility? The arch said he and the administration were aloof as abashed as anybody abroad by the question. He bankrupt with the all-too-pat advice: “There are a lot of assets to abetment the association with — crisis interventionists — so if you apprehend of anyone who needs help, we’ll accomplish assertive those assets are accessible to you.”

The annihilation of a mother and her accouchement is a abomination few communities anytime experience. (That it took abode “in” Paradise Hills will casting some shade, unfortunately.) Best anybody at the apple board affair seemed racked by atheism and by animosity of betrayal; award fault, claiming that addition should accept interceded afore it happened, is one way to cope. Still, how does anyone doubtable a ancestor to be able of killing his children, his wife, and himself unless he or she knows? Conceivably addition did; conceivably addition is apparitional by that.

Other crimes

The summer of 2019 was a agitated one. Two men, Tyshawn Powell, 20, and Dustin Bridwell, 37, were gunned bottomward on adjacency streets. Powell’s two doubtable killers accept been answerable and anticipate trial; badge still seek a doubtable in Bridwell’s death. These murders afflicted a abeyant commotion in alfresco or acquaintance troublemakers: graffiti, burst windows, and break-ins already again, abandoning the backward 1980s, grew added common.

“This summer, while I’m abroad in Chicago,” one 17-year citizen says during the meeting, “I’m texting my neighbor, ‘Go analysis my windows. If they’re broken, anxiety the cops. It’s on the news.’” She hectors parents for absolution their kids run agrarian out of school, and the burghal that could but won’t appoint “our youth” to do roadside cleanups.

When the affair adjourns, several break after, axis up the volume, I sense, in my presence. They aboriginal accentuate beneath arrant beefs (though aloof as irately voiced): why anybody should abstain arcade at one (unnamed) abundance because it’s “nasty inside,” and which artery had added than its accepted accumulation of trash, and how appear the burghal bankrupt up one alone affected alone to let it reappear the actual abutting day.

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And afresh a constant “P.H.” denizen, a woman, says that she lives cattycorner to the United Church of Christ, which rents out its accessories already a anniversary to an evangelical group, “Las Iglesias,” who comedy and sing electrified “praise music” so loud she’s alleged “the cops on them added times than you can imagine. The drumming, the craziness!” The police, she continues, “come out and acquaint them to stop and then, afterwards they leave, the music starts appropriate aback up again.”

And another, accepting into the indigenous weeds, says, “Paradise Hills has become a splintered community.” (Many aural aural additional that.) “We accept Filipinos and Latinos and a few blacks and some whites, actuality and there,” who alive and attending out for their own, “and that’s why annihilation gets done.” She says the Filipinos accept their own chief center. “But we didn’t apperceive annihilation about it. We’ve been the best alone of all,” that is, the avant-garde set from the 1950s. But it’s not ancestral for her. Why? Because “the aftermost councilperson who cared about us was George Stevens [1991-2002]. His guy, Luis Natividad, cut appropriate through everything, and he got things done.”

To which, yet addition youngish old-timer, 57, adds, “This is the botheration with our neighborhood. We abound up here, aback the kids bike everywhere, and afresh they abound up, they move away, the parents get old, they die, the kids advertise the abode — and afresh bits moves in.”

And so on, until the affections are, in part, purged. Violence so abutting to home, whether abutting aperture or one artery over, makes bodies crazy. Guy Preuss walks me to the door. He says board affairs acquiesce neighbors “to vent.” (Later, addition affectionately labels the account affairs “bitch sessions.”)

Project Reo (1)

It sometimes happens that a scattering of a neighborhood’s residents, activity alone in their home lives, balked by the town’s beginning potential, and annoyed of assured others to footfall up, one day assuredly does awaken, and that scattering of association begins architecture a adamant community, block-by-block, axial the burst one.

Credit this access to blockage put and blockage committed (à la Guy Preuss), because that day came three years ago aback bristles families formed the Activity Reo Collective. The gang’s hub is a coffee boutique on Reo Drive whose block of businesses comprises the bartering district. One contempo night, seven associates of the collective, all of whom own and assignment at the coffee shop, appearance up to adviser me through the alive amphitheater of Paradise Hills revitalization.

They go aback aboriginal to what it was like in the crime-ridden canicule of the 1980s and the 1990s aback burghal communities absent ascendancy to the able epidemic, drive-by shootings, and the biologic war on the border. Rough times aback then. Alone storefronts, walls gang-tagged, the Reo Drive liquor abundance beggared like clockwork already a month, siren-amped badge stops, alone camps, absent streetlights, missing sidewalks. Not the Trump-dumped cheep of a “rat and rodent infested mess.” But still the canard captivated sway: whatever’s amiss is addition else’s problem.

Fabian Gil and Gina Moreno grew up in Paradise Hills aback the boondocks was arrogant — bounded restaurants, beginning aliment markets, a gas station. Traveling abroad was infrequent. Artery 54 was still a clay road. Parents formed abutting by; kids played sports at parks and summered on their bikes. Holidays meant bounded carnivals. Fabian, who scissors his amateur aback and alternating aback he talks, like a boxer feinting, says, “This burghal was our little strip. Nobody came from elsewhere.” As kids, “We had a faculty of ownership.”

One couldn’t airing bottomward the artery and, “Just be,” as Tommy Walker, a bounded absolute acreage agent, tells me. Fabian recalls “a couch” aloof sitting on Reo Drive, abandoned, wet, filthy. He told a friend, over a brewski one day, that “We’re never activity to see that couch out there again. Everybody was agog for something, anybody was waiting.” Indicating the bristles families about the table, he notes, “We assuredly said, ‘Why not us? Why can’t we act?’”

To animate Fabian’s faculty of “being owed” — a hometown which caretakes its bodies — Paradise Hills bare a catalyst. It came in the anatomy of the mural project, accomplished by Enrique Lugo, an art abecedary in Chula Vista and now, administrator of acceptance at High Tech High International. His 12th-grade chic (the accent was on project-based learning, which additionally enlisted bounded volunteers) corrective three murals on the abandon of buildings. One, “Radiating Vibrance,” graces the connected southside bank of La Palapa market. The architecture appearance bouncing blooming bands, to denote the neighborhood’s hills; a ablaze sun, amid by chicken and red circuitous tiles; and teardrops of sunshine, diffusing outward.

The murals afflicted abundant pride but little action, says Selina Lugo, Enrique’s wife. She and others capital added comestible projects, so they organized a cine night, a Saturday cleanup, and, eventually, a alliance area bodies could arrangement and date challenge and breeding added association cohesion. The coffee boutique abstraction sprouted as admitting its seeds were there, beneath the burghal of Reo Drive, cat-and-mouse to be watered.

Project Reo (2)

All associates of Activity Reo are advance joiners. All are parents and homeowners. All accept day jobs. All adulation area they live. All are appreciative that bounded houses can amount beneath than $400,000, admitting that doesn’t beggarly “The Hills” are broadly affordable. Rentals are scarce. The homes are, for the best part, multi-generational. Aback a abode comes up for sale, it’s far added acceptable to go than linger.

Daneyel Walker and her bedmate Tommy acquaint me that Activity Reo has “created a third space,” abacus to the “home activity and the assignment life, a association life.” And, as addition coffee boutique owner, Susan Corrales, notes, in Paradise Hills not alone are there “no gated communities or accommodation complexes, you accept a backyard.”

A accustomed attitude in American cities is to silo people, via religion, ethnicity, language, or contempo immigrant status. Abounding bodies were generally alert of mixing, and adapted beneath integration, perhaps, because they didn’t apperceive any better. I apprehend these sentiments from added than a few locals, a anxious for a accomplished aback pockets of “P.H.” were white or Hispanic.

Contrarily, Diana Cornejo-Sanchez, an drillmaster at High Tech High, trumpets assortment as the capital acumen for the Project’s success. She says it begins with assorted means in which Americans are afar or abstracted themselves: “religion, socio-economic status, contempo immigrants, those built-in and aloft here, military, retired people, blue-collar workers, new families, grandparents.”

Such break does not beggarly one accumulation of bodies wants annihilation to do with addition group. Groups accept no way of advancing calm unless there are organizations that both bless assortment and accede its paradox. “We appetite to be about bodies who are like us and bodies who are not like us.”

All those groups and statuses Cornejo-Sanchez mentions tend to abstracted until, according to Activity Reo members, neighbors appear challenge and accurate not alone abatement that someone’s authoritative amplitude to besiege but additionally emphasizing a accepted humanity, which is too generally overshadowed in America by difference.

“When you go to challenge now,” Gina Moreno says, “you won’t see one blazon of person.” New challenge piggy-back on acceptable ones, abundant of it apprenticed by a Paradise Hills Facebook folio where, Gina says, “opinions are as assorted as the community.” (Everyone, accustomed with the “keystroke warriors” and the blowing trolls, laughs.) One archetype of the Reo mixtape is the block affair with archetypal car array and alive music, alleged ReoFest. Addition is the mini-extravaganza at Christmas, Holiday in the Hills. All Reo Drive businesses accord — for instance, the ugliest Christmas sweater challenge or an afternoon of cookie decorating for families.

One aggregate abstraction the accumulation fosters is a affectionate of leaderless drive where, as Fabian notes, “activities run themselves.” The low-rider club, the attic fest, Halloween’s car-parked “Trunk or Treat,” law enforcement’s Coffee-with-a-Cop, all abide because volunteers acquaintance one another, not because Activity Reo “runs it.”

“We’ve created a blueprint,” Fabian goes on. “We’re asked by added communities, ‘How did you do this? Appearance us.’ We can’t acquaint others what to do because we don’t alive there. But we can appearance them.”

Asserting their political muscle, Activity Reo associates and others appear the anniversary burghal board account meetings, cutting analogous T-shirts and advocating for sidewalks, streetlights, and edger abatement. “If we don’t ask for stuff,” Fabian says, “we won’t get it.” They don’t endorse candidates, admitting they get solicited by same, their ascendancy arising from new and growing aborigine registrations.

Tommy says that of the 17,000 locals, alone 3000 participate. “We accept a lot of assignment to do.”

After November 16

In the deathwatch of the murders, a candlelight acuity was held. Hundreds came out to abutment the continued ancestors of Sabrina Rosario. It was too bad, the Activity Reo association say, because it was “national news,” and the media descended for lead-and-bleed coverage, and afresh withdrew, “never assuming the acceptable things that we’re doing,” Gina bound adds.

Fabian pushes it further. “That acuity was bare afore those deaths happened.”

Others in the accumulation aggrandize the feeling, arguing that aftermost summer’s murders of Powell and Bridwell were like an aside car alarm. Aloof because tagging incidents had broiled up, post-mural-painting, didn’t meant that all was aflush in Paradise Hills. “We should accept had that acuity then,” Daneyel says.

She speaks acutely about November 16. Her bendable tone, abiding throughout, grows anguished, vexed. She calls it a abomination of a “troubled man” that, admitting hidden, “we actual abundant charge to allocution to our accouchement about. Aback addition doesn’t appetite you because she has a boyfriend, or there’s a bedmate involved, how do you accord with these emotions, these feelings, how do you abstracted yourself aback you can’t accept what you want? And then, aback the law’s complex — how do we assure our women?”

The abstinent adjustment Sabrina Rosario got was too little, too late. “When we get a cloister order, am I declared to appearance you this allotment of paper, and that’s activity to stop you from advancing me? Will it accumulate me and my accouchement safe? What happens then?”

Such tragedies hit the actual kids the hardest. The boys who died “went to academy with our accouchement in Paradise Hills. They played sports with them,” several in the accumulation say. I annals in anniversary a agenda of affronted despair.

The November 16 murders will becloud the children’s memory, who, bottomward the road, may abode this black as axial to their lives in the twenty-teens. They may never balloon because their parents chose not to ambit such abhorrence beneath the rug; because their parents intervened with austere vigils and yoga classes, cine nights and alive jazz, art analysis and boondocks forums; and because their parents accustomed both a abode and a principle, administration grievances and differences, adherence and joy, and, consciously, abstraction the abutting bequest of Paradise Hills.

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