Not far from downtown San Diego is the culturally rich neighborhood of Barrio Logan. In fact, the neighborhood is one of fourteen California Cultural Districts and Chicano Park earned National Historic Landmark status in 2017.
In 1871, Congressman John Logan from Illinois drafted legislation for a transcontinental railroad that would end in San Diego. A street in San Diego was named for him and, a decade later, the area became known as Logan Heights, and it was a mostly residential area at the time.
In the 1910s, there was an influx of Mexican immigrants seeking a better life during and after the Mexican Revolution. “Barrio” is the Spanish word for neighborhood, and the southern part of Logan Heights where many of the immigrants settled became known as Barrio Logan.
In the early years, the neighborhood had access to beaches on San Diego Harbor, but in the 1920s, the Navy began building ship repair facilities, thereby industrializing the waterfront. World War II continued the Navy’s expansion along the waterfront and, in the 1950s, the City of San Diego re-zoned much of the neighborhood from residential to mixed use allowing for further industrialization.
In the 1960s, the construction of Interstate 5 and the Coronado Bridge were like a cleaver slicing the neighborhood in two. Those in Logan Heights lost easy access to the commercial center in Barrion Logan, and those in Barrio Logan lost easy access to churches and schools in Logan Heights.
Also in the 1960s, those residents who remained in the neighborhood began to feel empowered and pressed the city for a new park to be created under the Coronado Bridge. In 1969, it appeared that residents would get their wish, but on 22 April 1970, bulldozers started clearing the land not for the park, but for a new California Highway Patrol station. Incensed by this, a group of students organized a protest and formed a human chain around the bulldozers, preventing their use for twelve days. Ultimately, their protests worked. The city found a new location for the CHP office, and Chicano Park was created.
In the last decade or so, there has been significant investment in Barrio Logan. New apartment complexes, markets, restaurants, shops, and breweries have opened, as well as a new campus for the San Diego College of Continuing Education. Investing in a community is generally a good thing, however, some argue that the gentrification of the neighborhood is driving out those who make the Barrio Logan what it is—a culturally rich treasure.
[It was impossible to do Barrio Logan’s history justice in this short post, so f you want to learn more about Barrio Logan’s history, please check out pages 20-58 of the Barrio Logan Historical Resources Survey; The History of Chicano Park, a project by a team at San Diego State University; and the Chicano Park Steering Committee website.]
Accessing Barrio Logan is an easy hop off of I-5 at César E. Chávez Parkway, or by taking MTS, and the central part of the neighborhood is very walkable. It’s certainly an area of contrasts with the new, modern apartments and restaurants juxtaposed against small homes and independent businesses that have been around for decades.
There are plenty of places to try a variety of foods. You can find everything from Mexican, of course, to Italian, Vietnamese, Asian fusion, burgers, and even breakfast. If you’re seeking some libations, Attitude Brewing Co., Border-X Brewing, and Liberty Call Distilling may fit the bill. There are a number of art galleries scattered throughout the neighborhood, too.
Perhaps the biggest reason—literally—to visit Barrio Logan is to see the huge murals and other artwork on the pylons of the Coronado Bridge in Chicano Park. Their vibrant colors tell stories of the community, its members, and its history in unique and memorable ways. You can find a map and description of the murals on the Chicano Park Steering Committee website HERE (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page for a link to the enlarged image).
North of National Avenue, there’s a grassy area with picnic tables and a playground for kids. Under the bridge, there’s a concrete skate park for skateboarders.
Perhaps the most poignant parts of the parks are the memorials to community members and others who have passed away, including the four who were killed in October 2016 when a pickup truck drove off the bridge and fell sixty feet onto a crowd of people attending the La Raza biker festival.
If you spend any time at all in Chicano park, you cannot come away without sensing the pride in both their community and in their history. It can be a powerful experience.
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What You Need to Know
|Location:||The Barrio Logan Neighborhood is centered around César E. Chávez Parkway and National Avenue, southeast of downtown San Diego|
|Transit:||Bus Routes 12 and 929; Blue Line Trolley to Barrio Logan Station|
Chicano Park Steering Committee
|Tips:||There is free 2-hour street parking available in much of the neighborhood.|
|Date Visited:||Sunday, 27 February 2022|
Click to enlarge image.