City Heights is a vibrant urban community east of downtown San Diego consisting of 16 defined neighborhoods. Approximately 74,000 people live in a 4 square mile area, making it the most dense community in the San Diego region. A significant number (42.4%) of residents are foreign born with a majority migrating from Latin America, Asia and Africa. Only 63% of adults have a high school diploma, 33% are not English fluent, and 27% live in poverty.
In 1994 Sol Price became interested in City Heights as a result of a newspaper article about a Vons grocery store closing in the community. At the time City Heights had the highest crime rate in San Diego County, gang activity and drug dealing were rampant, housing was substandard and public services were lacking. Sol and former City Councilman William Jones had been working together to open a retail store in an inner city neighborhood in San Diego. Believing that the Vons store might be a good site, they soon learned that the City of San Diego had already secured the site for a new police substation, but didn’t have financing in place. Sol Price made an agreement with San Diego City Manager Jack McGrory whereby Sol would loan the City the money for the building construction if the City would agree to repay the loan in a timely manner and design into the building a gymnasium for police employees and the public to use, public meeting rooms and windows on the street side of thesubstation. The purpose of these facility additions was to make the substation as community friendly as possible. The City agreed and the project was completed less than two years later.
While working on the development of the police substation, Sol and William decided that Sol would focus on non-profit work in City Heights while William would focus on for profit real estate development. The “City Heights Initiative” was conceived as a holistic approach to the revitalization of an urban community. The Initiative focuses on improving housing, retail, healthcare, education, social services, public safety, job opportunities, and other quality of life issues and services.