SAN DIEGO, CA. Last night I drove downtown to see firsthand San Diego’s own Tent City. And there it was, not necessarily in front of the main library, but along the west side of the Post Office, on the sidewalk, along Eighth Avenue.
Under the bright street lights on that block, I counted at least twenty tents lined up in single-file and a number of people laid out in sleeping bags without a fabric roof over their heads. There were a couple of tents in front of the library doors as well. A few tents had music coming out, but it appeared most in this urban street camp were in for the evening.
Meanwhile, in a classic scene right out of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, young revelers and Spring Breakers dressed in black suits and cocktail dresses and high heels joked and clattered down the opposite side of the street.
Flashy cars and even limos slid down past the encampment. One Tent City occupant yelled out to a limo driver, “Hey! Here I am!” and then laughed. The driver looked over and half smiled.
A couple of young guys were zipping up a tent. as I was moving down the sidewalk. The older one was African-American, the younger white. After assuring them that I was not a cop, when one of them asked why I was taking photos, they were friendly. The older one, Jeremiah, smiled and said, “Welcome to Tent City.” He had been there a week. They’re allowed, he told me, to set up after 9pm. Although people set up earlier then that over at the library, he said. There had been more tents on the other side of the Post Office but he thinks the police drove those tents out. “They were drug dealing,” the younger of the two explained.
“There’s more tents,” the young one said, “over on 15th and J Street, 16th and J.” We said good-night, and Jeremiah and I shook hands.
Once again in traffic, I found a grouping of sorts of the tents along F Street, between 15th and 16th. I counted about a dozen actual tents, down the sidewalks. They were more spread out than the Post Office camp. Cars coming off 94 roared by. The lights of a bar and gas station illuminated the area. The tents all seemed to closed up, folks in for the night.
“There’s a lot more tents,” that young guy had said, “down by Father Joe’s,” but he warned, “don’t get out of your car.” I declined to drive south, and headed down F Street for the freeway back to the beach.