LIVING IN THE CITY: Cindy Cook Is An East Village Doer

This community minded activist loves her neighborhood and is on the front lines of clean-up, policing, and, well, everything
East Village Doer Cindy Cook. (Courtesy photo)

“Living In the City” is the San Diego Sun’s feature Q&A with downtown San Diego residents. It’s a way to get to know the city by meeting the people who live here. This is number 37 in an ongoing series.

Name: Cindy Cook

Neighborhood: East Village

Personal deets: Native San Diegan. I’ve lived all over (East County, Mission Bay, Bankers Hill), and been downtown for three years.

Work deets: Registered nurse for 11 years. Prior to that, I studied and worked as a classical violinist.

Working from home: After working in the trenches on a COVID unit during the pandemic, I got an awesome opportunity to work from home as a clinical liaison for a healthcare staffing company. I get to support and mentor other nurses for a living. I also work per diem for a plastic surgeon in La Jolla. 

East Village Doers: I’m one of the founders of this neighborhood group. We are action-oriented neighbors (700 strong, and growing) with a mission to help East Village thrive. Most recently, we started a public donation fund that now pays for breakfast burritos for police officers. We show gratitude to local law enforcement and support one of my favorite small businesses. Anyone can donate by going in to Papalo (1429 Island Avenue) and tell them you want to contribute to the SDPD burrito fund. While you’re there, have a cup of coffee/cocktail and enjoy! Coming on August 31: A Fault Line Park clean-up with Clean & Safe and Parks and Rec.

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The Papalo burrito fund at work.

Best aspect of your building: Sometimes I feel like I’m back in college, living in a sorority/fraternity house (in the best way). I love my neighbors! We look out for one another, take care of each other’s pets and keep an eye out for each other’s packages. We share phone numbers and reach out for just about anything. I have so many friends that came with the purchase of my home. You can’t put a price tag on that. 

Worst aspect of your building: The nearby rampant drug use and crime. 

Best reason to live downtown: The community and the walkability. East Village doesn’t have tourism like the Gaslamp Quarter. But we have some of the best bakeries, breweries and eateries. I love walking my dogs to Modbom (adjacent to Papalo) for my morning coffee and chatting with my favorite baristas. 

Pets: I walk my dogs, Albus, Harry and Ginny, on average, two hours a day. This is why I am able to see so much of what goes on (and doesn’t go on) in downtown. 

Favorite downtown moment: Comic Con 2023 was epic! There was so much great energy in the air. It was fun to see attendees in handmade cosplay. Last year, a film on cosplay at the Digital Cinema at UC San Diego’s Park and Market gave me a much greater appreciation for the artform. Also loved seeing pop-ups in East Village. I peeked inside the The Disney Haunted Mansion exhibit on J and 10th–so well done! Great seeing pedicabs transformed into “doom buggies.” Also fun to see Chick’nCone as the Sonic Cafe. Their line wrapped around the block most of the weekend.

Comic-Con 2023 in the Gaslamp Quarter. (Photo by Sal Giametta)

Transportation breakdown: 90% walking, 9% driving, 1% trolley. It’s my goal to use my car less and start utilizing public transportation more. It’s quite nice to kick back and relax while reading a book on the trolley. It gives me the feeling of being in a big city like New York.

Scooters: I recently rented a scooter to ride to Seaport Village. It was disappointing when it slowed down to three miles per hour near the Gaslamp. I could have walked faster. I despise when intoxicated people ride scooters on the sidewalk. My dogs and I were almost hit by a drunk/high woman riding on the sidewalk.    

Podcasts: I’m a longtime fan of Radiolab–even drove up to Los Angeles once to see them live several years ago. Lately I have been listening to Mel Robbins, Jay Shetty, Huberman Lab, and Stuff You Missed in History Class.

Streaming: I started watching The Blacklist and am hooked.

Modbom. (Facebook)

Cool coffee shop: Modbom has a great rose latte. Buy a drink and stay to enjoy the ambiance. Lately, my drink has been a cappuccino with almond milk and cinnamon.  

Best bar: The owners of East Village Brewing Company (201 Park Boulevard) care so much about the environment and East Village. Supervisor Dana is always fun and brings a smile to my face on my worst days. The bar did a collab with Izola and have a Kvass that’s to die for.  You can buy individual cans and six-packs to go.  

Let’s do lunch at: Papasotes (550 Park Boulevard). I was craving a salad but they didn’t have one on the menu. I asked chef Eli and his wife Gigi if they would add one. They were so kind and whipped up a masterpiece of a grilled chicken salad! It’s now a secret menu item. You can ask for the the East Village Doers salad.

Dinner fave: Papalo is my current obsession.  Chef Drew makes award-worthy BBQ and one of the best fried chicken sandwiches, cooked to a perfect crisp with fresh herbs. Love the ambience–some psychedelic décor behind the bar and Fault Line Park out back. Tons of open seating.

The fried chicken sandwich at Papalo. (Facebook)

Worst aspect of living downtown: The maintenance of downtown and especially East Village leaves much to be desired. Each month, I put in about 50 requests on the city’s Get it Done and the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s Clean and Safe apps. This model of having to report issues needs to be revamped. Reporting should be the exception and not the norm.  Taxpayers should be able to rely on the systems in place to take care of cleaning and maintaining streets and sidewalks. Spending my free time reporting issues is like having a stressful full time job that doesn’t pay. 

Scariest moment: A man got out of a car and pee-ed right in front of me. I must have given him a dirty look. A woman got out of the car and they both chased me, screaming profanities. I ran to Fault Line Park. My neighbors were there to protect me. Those two people got back in their car, circled the block and screamed out the window, but eventually left. 

Homelessness: Every East Village resident has some degree of traumatic stress related to the unhoused/crime/drug use. Many of us have witnessed deaths, fights, child and animal abuse and blatant crime. It seems unfortunate we either get used to this or leave. I know of several businesses and residents who moved because of it. Sadly, many of the unhoused are drug users and criminals. I’m hopeful that the new no-camping ordinance provides safe camping sites for the unhoused and also improves the lives of the rest of us. 

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria at Fault Line Park.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria: He has faced tough challenges over the last several years. Possibly bigger challenges than his predecessors. It’s felt like East Village has been on the backburner. I do feel like things are slowly improving. We’re finally starting to get the attention we desperately need. I’d ask Todd to spend time in East Village. There’s definitely a disparity in services once you cross the trolley tracks. We need more resources to clean our streets and sidewalks. No less than daily maintenance.

District 3 City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn: He was a key player in getting the no-camping ordinance passed, and I’m thankful. We need to keep the momentum going.

Cindy Cook cleaning up East Village.

Poop, there it is: We also need more attention on the poop that’s everywhere. We need better leadership on this. So many unhoused people use our sidewalks as toilets for themselves and their dogs. Taxpayers paying high rents and mortgages shouldn’t be the ones dealing with this every day.

Parting advice: Check out the ninth floor of the Central Library. There’s a museum up there, a rare collections wing, views to Coronado Bay and a giant violin bow that makes noise when the wind blows.  SDSun

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