LIVING IN THE CITY: Empty Nesters Discover the "Wright Stuff" in Little Italy

Public relations professionals Julie and Grant Wright are in the clouds over their new downtown San Diego work-life flow

“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 an ongoing series.

Name: Julie Wright

Location: Ariel in Little Italy

Personal deets: My husband, Grant Wright, and I are from Vancouver, B.C., Canada. We’ve lived in San Diego for 22 years and moved downtown two-and-a-half years ago.

Work deets: We own (W)right On Communications public relations agency. I’m president and founder. Next year we celebrate 25 years in business. Our office is downtown in the iconic Emerald Plaza complex. We’re on the top floor and have incredible, 360-degree views of downtown (with occasional access to the rooftop helicopter pad). My head is too often buried in my work laptop, but I love being eye-level with airplanes.

Why move downtown: We became empty nesters and sold our home in early 2020. We decided to rent downtown to see how we liked the urban, walkable lifestyle. Then the country went into pandemic lockdown. I was grateful to be living where we could get out and enjoy long walks and awesome take-out. I never really felt isolated. Turns out, we love living downtown, and our experiment in urban living has stuck.

The view from the roof of the Emerald Plaza.

Best reason to live downtown: All the amenities, beauty and fun that are walkable. For shows, we recently went to the Music Box and the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park. I walk the Embarcadero every day. And go to the Little Italy Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.

I see a lot of the same people on my walks. Some I wave to or chat with. Some I ignore, by mutual consent. That’s my ritual and I freaking love it.

Worst part of living downtown: The city was on an exciting trajectory when we moved here, but Covid-19 was a gut punch. Without tourism and conventions, businesses struggled or closed and the sidewalks were taken over by Zombies. Things are still a bit off kilter, but I can see improvements during my daily walks. The Zombie-to-Living ratio is turning around.

Best aspect(s) of home location:

  • The view. We overlook the County Administration building and Star of India.
  • Location. Ariel is close to amazing coffee at Portal Coffee, the Embarcadero, the airport, which helps for frequent work and personal trips, and Little Italy.
  • High-rise rental lifestyle. We don’t have to worry about lawn mowing or fixing our garbage disposal (although we still take good care of our garbage disposal). It lets us focus on our business and all the other things we value in life.

Worst aspect: People who don’t pick up after their dogs, and freight train horns.

Julie Wright at Portal Coffee with Charli and Otie. (Courtesy photo)

Pets: My dogs join me on my walks for quality time. Otie is a lively, 10-year-old German Spitz (like a super-sized Pomeranian with 18 pounds of black fluff). Charli is an adorable 4-year-old Basset-Pointer mix. She’s as sweet as Otie is spicey. They’re both rescues and have fit right into city living.

Funny experience: I was walking down Beech Street when I saw San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria in his ball cap and shorts, walking his dog, a chihuahua named Diego. I said, “Hey…”

He looked up. I felt like he was bracing himself for some small talk with a constituent. Instead I asked, “Is that Diego?” His face totally lit up. “Yes, yes, it is!” It was cute. I loved that interaction.

Favorite event: Opening night at the Rady Shell. The San Diego Symphony and its donors can all take a bow. The Shell is an awesome addition to the city.

Opening night at the Rady Shell. (Getty Images)

Transportation breakdown: I rarely drive, and it’s a five-block walk to work. We take the trolley and the Coaster when we can, too.

Scooters: A fun and convenient “last-mile” way to get around the city quickly–as long as you operate them responsibly. Unfortunately, people ride them against traffic and that’s so dangerous. Even if you’re observing the rules of the road you may get hit, as happened to someone I know.

Parking advice: Street parking is available! Leave a little time to find it. On weekends, the County Administration Building opens its parking lot to the public. It’s on Kettner between Beech and Cedar.

Seneca atop the Hotel InterContinental (Facebook)

Coffee shop: Let me count the ways I love Portal Coffee at Pacific Coast Highway and and Beech Street. First, the resilience of the couple who owned it through the pandemic gave me such an affinity for them. Their Gaucho blend of coffee–with steamed oat milk and house-made honey syrup–is the most perfect start to my day. (Plus, they have a Milk Bone jar for my dogs.)

Lunch place(s): Hidden Craft at C Street between India and Columbia is a gem. It’s a gastropub with self-serve beer taps and an amazing quinoa salmon bowl, fish tacos and other specials. Sometimes they have music on Fridays.

I might take clients to Seneca on the rooftop of the InterContinental San Diego. It’s a fun arrival experience in their dark, jungle-like lobby. It opens into an Art Deco fantasy in the sky.

We’re members of the University Club at Symphony Towers and enjoy business lunches there, too.

Dinner spot: Bar One on India between Beech and Cedar. It’s become our go to joint. They’ve got sidewalk tables with bright orange chairs. Grant and I can bring Charli and Otie for a low-key meal and people-watch, catch up on the day’s events and sneak the dogs Tater Tots. I like the B-1 Salad, hold the salami and add extra chickpeas.

While I do like Little Italy’s restaurants, I generally prefer not to fight for a table or stand in lines.

Go-to bar: See my favorite restaurant.

Food shopping: Ralph’s downtown is not a fun experience. We go up to Vons and Whole Foods in Hillcrest. I also buy a few items at Little Italy’s Market By Buon Appetito.

Bar One in Little Italy.

Scariest experience: During the lockdown, I was on a Zoom call in my apartment when a stranger walked in and wouldn’t leave. I eventually got him out, but it was weird. I’m better about locking the door behind me now.

Safety: Keep your wits, look both ways before you cross the street, don’t invite trouble. I don’t go out of my way to avoid any specific areas. But I would prefer to walk where it’s cleanest and unobstructed. Remember that nothing good happens after 2 a.m. And, lock your doors.

Homelessness: Makes me sad and I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve got so many other responsibilities as an employer and business owner that tax my brain. I have to work at just letting it go. I also don’t have a good handle on who’s doing a good job downtown helping move people into better circumstances.

Locals love using the Coronado Ferry. (Getty Images)

Currently streaming/watching: I absolutely loved the latest season of Stranger Things. And Late Show with Stephen Colbert is a favorite.

Podcasts: My three-mile morning Embarcadero walk is fueled by NPR News Now, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s hourly world news podcast, and local news from NBC 7, KPBS, ABC 10News and the The San Diego Union-Tribune. Weekend walks include long-form podcasts like The Economist, Criminal or serials that dive into juicier topics.

Parting tip: The Coronado Ferry is a great deal and a fun way to see the city skyline from the bay. We take our bikes on it and explore Coronado. Or, do the whole Bike the Bay trail, which goes down to Imperial Beach and then back up the east side of San Diego Bay, past the shipyards and returns you to the Convention Center.


Want to tell your downtown San Diego “Living In The City” story? Email


This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top