Pernicano's out

Hotel likely to fill space now occupied by longtime-closed restaurants

The doors will be unhinged before Pernicano's opens again
  • The doors will be unhinged before Pernicano's opens again

If all goes according to plan, a new hotel will eventually rise on the Hillcrest property where once stood Pernicano's and Casa di Baffi restaurants. The property fronts on both Fifth and Sixth avenues in Hillcrest, south of University Avenue.

The property has remained vacant for more than 25 years because restaurateur George Pernicano refused to sell. The now-ill family patriarch is no longer calling the shots, said Jeannine Savory, realtor with the Savory Group/Harcourt Pacific Realty. The Pernicano family will make the final decision and, according to Savory, an announcement on the property's sale is forthcoming, perhaps “in a few weeks.”

Though not much more than a landmark (and parking lot), the signage will be missed

Though not much more than a landmark (and parking lot), the signage will be missed

Bird's eye view of Pernicano's property

Bird's eye view of Pernicano's property

The property consists of four parcels: 3833 Fifth Avenue and 3818-24, 3828-30, and 3840 Sixth Avenue. It's zoned for multifamily residential and commercial development; the asking price was $12 million.

Savory said the family has "only entertained offers from parties interested in a hotel component.” Potential buyers/proposals have all come from local developers who are familiar with Hillcrest and understand that community's concerns, said Savory.

Strong support for a hotel in Hillcrest has come from the neighborhood's hospitals. Past community input has indicated that residents and business owners generally welcome a hotel project, as long as it includes a community facility, has street-level retail space, and that it's limited in height. Savory said the height is currently proposed at 65 feet (seven stories). Parking will be underground.

Luke Terpstra, chairman of Hillcrest Town Council, said, “I am excited to learn that we may have a hotel project. I think it will be great for Hillcrest. I am happy that height limits will be respected, however this is one location where a little extra height would be acceptable.”

The selected buyer/developer will submit draft plans to Uptown Planners. Uptown Planners is the official advisory board to the City of San Diego concerning development projects in the Uptown areas including Hillcrest.

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If we can believe that "the family has 'only entertained offers from parties interested in a hotel component', and that [p]otential buyers/proposals have all come from local developers who are familiar with Hillcrest and understand that community's concerns", that would represent a total turn-about from ol' George. He didn't give a rat's axx about what the community thought. He was acting out years of rage for something that he didn't think he had received from Hillcrest. Oh, never mind that the aged SOB had gotten rich on pizza in San Diego. No, his innate nastiness boiled over and he kept that property off the market and a drag on Hillcrest for thirty years.

I could tell stories about the old jerk. One can only wonder why his own kids refused to reopen and run those restaurants. My take is that they knew that his mismanagement and negative attitudes had rendered them worthless.

David, I was rereading your report on this property from 2012, and all I can say is that any progress is coming at glacial speed. In another three years, can we really expect a deal to have been signed and work begun? How about an update every six months on this? Personally, I'll believe it will happen when it happens. And, oh, what will be the excuse if the real estate market cools or goes South again soon?

There was a comment made by someone (name's not important) that this may be a good thing that it's taken so long. Why?--Because it is likely that a hotel will be much better for the site (and for Hillcrest) than what might have been put there 10-20 years ago. Hillcrest today is a different place, partly because neighborhood involvement plays a larger role now. My understanding why the "kids" couldn't reopen the restaurants is because George still had control over them. Now he doesn't. I believe Councilmember Todd Gloria has stated he favors the hotel project. I don't think it will take three years for construction to begin. But we'll have to wait and see. Many similar projects take a long time to start, but it appears real estate development is speeding up now, all over San Diego.

Finally something may be coming to the dilapidated Pernicano and Casa Di Baffi properties. How wonderful for Hillcrest if it could include a community plaza and plenty of public parking. Hillcrest has been patiently waiting for several decades. I hope it's worth it.

Re: a "strong support for a hotel in Hillcrest" coming "from the neighborhood's hospitals"...That's great, but there are already several hotel/motels near UCSD Medical Center and Scripps Mercy. The Sommerset Hotel is adjacent to one and a plethora of motels are located at the foot of the other, offering easy access to either hospital. What do the residents say?

Luke Terpstra, chairman of Hillcrest Town Council, said, “I am excited to learn that we may have a hotel project. I think it will be great for Hillcrest. I am happy that height limits will be respected, however this is one location where a little extra height would be acceptable.” I would agree up to the final comma. It should have been a period.

That extra height would be what the city is calling a "density bonus" which is something many in the community are fighting against. For the most part the neighborhood is short in stature, and the streets are already congested. Before this already dense community takes more density, the city needs to open its pocketbook and build some amenities found in other neighborhoods...or build its density where they have already built transit, parks and community centers, but not here. Tootie Thomas, president of The Boulevard Business Improvement District wants development on El Cajon Boulevard. It makes sense to me. That wide street has three east and three west lanes, and many City of San Diego redevelopment dollars have been invested there. North Park has numerous neighborhood parks, recreation fields, a community center, a parking structure and more.

What has the city given to Hillcrest?

Back to the subject.... if a hotel is built, I hope the developer/owner/management team keeps in mind that Hillcrest and Bankers Hill are reducing the amount of car lanes to make a safe bicycle corridor through Uptown. >>> What about a significant hotel discount for all guests who arrive on two wheels?

Yes, Sommerset Suites is next to Scripps Mercy. But I Google Mapped UCSD Medical Center and didn't find "a plethora of motels at the foot." I didn't see even one. The closest hotels I saw are on hotel circle, Mission Valley. What motels are you referring to in Hillcrest next to UCSD?

Just follow Bachman Place north (it's next to a UCSD parking lot), at the bottom of the hill is where you'll find the plethora -- Days Inn, Super 8, Best Western 7 Seas, the Courtyard, Marriot, Vagabond, Mission Valley Inn, etc..all within a half a mile. Double the distance, and you'll double the number of hotel/motels.

Yes, in Mission Valley. But they are not in Hillcrest. I think we're talking apples and oranges here. ;-) The point is that many people who visit Hillcrest probably would prefer to stay in a hotel in Hillcrest if they can. They can walk outside, and they are there! Just as thousands who vacation in La Jolla probably stay in La Jolla hotels, not in Mission Valley. It's part of the overall experience.

Those hotels/motels are in Mission Valley along I-8, not in Hillcrest. No one is going to walk from there to UCSD, and especially not to Scripps.

From a hotel at the Pernicano site, hotel guests will walk to UCSD or Scripps rather than having to struggle with parking at either hospital. That location would be far more convenient to the hospitals than the Mission Valley hotels are.

Exactly! But staying there on Hotel Circle you do get those magnificent and breathtaking (literally) views of I-8 traffic. ;-)

Gregory May on FB: As for the 2833 Fifth Avenue side, it's too soon to know what the selected architect/developer will do with that entryway. But there will be opportunities at public hearings to offer input on that. There's been a suggestion there might be a paseo between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

Steve Brown on FB: Yes, Kimpton would be a good choice. A top hotel operator + a unique design [and plenty of parking!] would make this a win-win. By the way, I wonder why I can't see the Facebook comments via Chrome. I have to switch to IE to view them. Anybody know why?

Wow, I just drove by there Monday to see if anything had been done, wondering what is going on with the place, and if anyone would know, it would be David B. And Bam-o, there's your story. Good job.

Thanks, Ken. And I hope something good comes to the old Harvey Milk Restaurant location (and not another salon or vape shop!).

Actually it IS becoming a salon (actually a whole lot of them). http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/20...

Don Schmidt on FB said: "Terrible location for a hotel." Can you elaborate on that thought? It's easy walking distance to more than 100 eateries, bars and shops, plus Scripps Mercy.

Don Schmidt on FB again [he won't post directly] said: "Where is everyone going to park?" I would guess in an underground garage. Then he said of Hillcrest that he's "rarely gone there in the last 10 years." So why is he commenting on real estate development in Hillcrest?

Nancy Helgeson on FB said there's heavy traffic at that location. But one could say that about almost every major real estate project in San Diego. At least Hillcrest is getting a bike path soon. And there's already a free bus/trolley along University Ave. So they are making efforts to get more people out of their cars. You don't stop building hotels, apartments, office buildings simply because traffic is a hassle. That's the typical big city; they expand and build UP! That is not going to change.

Eleanor García Mazzini on FB said: "There is a hotel on fifth and Washington that is rarely occupied. Why another just a few blocks up?" Yes, Sommerset Suites is just off Fifth Avenue. Who says it is "rarely occupied?" What is your source? If that were the case, it would be out of business and closed down.

dwbat, I had not seen your comment until just now but will simply reply by stating that Sommerset Suites was indeed sold and is now being converted into luxury apartments. My "source" is myself- I have worked and lived a few blocks from that hotel for 6 years.

UT article about the hotel purchase here: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/real-estate/sd-fi-hillcrest-hotel-20170113-story.html

Interesting development. I had not heard about that purchase. Thanks for posting. A friend stayed at the hotel last year, and liked it because it had a kitchen.

Another Facebooker, Eva Tho, said: "The City historic regulations will keep the Peranico's (sic) as is. Good thing we have a strong historical code." FYI: That building has NOT been declared a historic site. Some might call it a "hysterical" site, though. Others just call it an eyesore or a dump.

Ed Harris commented via the Facebook comments plugin: "George's tax basis must be next to nothing. Makes sense to wait for death and heirs get stepped basis." From what I've been told, George is totally out of the picture now. That's why it's taken so long for a sale of this property.

Lisa Emma (another Facebook plugin posting) said: "Seven stories, when nearly every surrounding building is one story???? That will be a real eyesore." No, the worst eyesore in Hillcrest is the AT&T building right across the street from the proposed hotel. And it's NOT one-story. How can a future hotel be an "eyesore" when the architect's plans haven't even been designed yet? And NO sane developer is going to put up a 2-3 story hotel on that small site. They would soon go bankrupt.

Because a lot of people who have no skin in the game are eager to become the arbiters of how that property is to be used. "I've lived here for XX years, I want it to be the way I remember it, therefore you cannot build anything that will spoil my memories!" Suggest that they should buy the property so it can be developed "correctly", and they begin spluttering about how that's completely unreasonable, they can't afford that! They don't want to put their money where their mouth is, they want to put someone else's money where their mouth is.

As you and others may have heard, a short presentation on the project took place at the Aug. 4 Uptown Planners meeting. It was not done by the buyer (as has been reported in some of the media). Instead, Sherman Harmer, principal at Urban Housing Partners, spoke there. His company is involved in development services and community outreach. Negotiations are underway, according to Harmer, to acquire the former Harvey Milk Restaurant property, increasing the site to 50,000 sq. ft., with frontage on University Avenue. The purchase agreement with the unknown buyer has not yet been finalized but is expected "very soon" said Realtor Jeanine Savory today. She provided a video of the discussion: http://youtu.be/S5BPwqDLoAk

Design concepts may be shown at the September meeting of Uptown Planners. If I can get a copy before then, I'll post them on the READER site.

UPDATE: There was a handout at the Sept. 1 Uptown Planners meeting, but no design yet. It's called the Pernicano Public Benefit Matrix, and shows different density scenarios and economic benefits for Hillcrest.


by dwbat

ANOTHER UPDATE: There will be another "vision" for the site presented at the Uptown Planners meeting tonight. Realtor Savory emailed that "...due to the change in zoning being proposed by the uptown plan it became too difficult to move forward with the buyer due to the variables..." So now a new buyer/developer must be found. This may drag on for years, the way it's going!

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