LIVING IN THE CITY: If She Builds It, You’ll Come

Claudia Escala is president of architectural firm Carrier Johnson + CULTURE; the company’s innovative work is ubiquitous in downtown San Diego
Carrier Johnson + CULTURE president Claudia Escala. (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 35 in an ongoing series.

Name: Claudia Escala

Location: M2i by CityMark Development in East Village South

Professional deets: Eleven years at architectural firm Carrier Johnson + CULTURE, president for the past two years.

Personal deets: I was born in Lima, Peru, and have lived in San Diego since 1992 and downtown since November 2005, with my husband and two children.

Why downtown: To enjoy an urban lifestyle. Living, working, and playing in one location without the need for a car. We love the location near the library, Petco Park and UC San Diego’s new hub at Park & Market. Plus, we have a great social committee within M2i.

Worst aspect of your building: It was completed at a time when a dedicated space for truck loading/unloading inside the building was not required. So the worst is having a truck park right outside our balcony every evening to supply Starbucks.

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Sempra Energy Corporate Headquarters, 488 Eight Avenue. (Courtesy of Carrier Johnson + CULTURE)

Memorable moment: Soccer World Cup 2006. I was in Little Italy watching the final between Italy & France on an outdoor screen on India Street. One of the funniest scenes I’ve witnessed in a downtown living scenario was the Italian ladies and their families pulling their living room couches out on the sidewalk to watch the game. It felt so authentic.

Scariest moment: In 2009, while walking home I got hit by a car driven by someone who was talking on their cell phone.

Cost of living: Rents are off the charts and units are built smaller than when we moved downtown. This doesn’t encourage families to come down. I don’t think our family of four could move downtown today.

Padres: The 2022 playoff game when the Padres knocked the Dodgers out of the postseason was the best. I attended the game with my son. The stadium was exploding with energy.

Streaming: Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive, and Tour de France

Park 12 Apartments, 100 Park Plaza. (Courtesy of Carrier Johnson + CULTURE)

Transportation breakdown: 100% walking.

Visitor parking advice: Take the trolley.

Scooters: I like having scooters downtown, and appreciate the regulations put in place since they first arrived.

Worst aspect of living downtown: The homeless scenario.

Homelessness: The situation affects me daily, primarily on my walks back and forth from work. I see someone who looks mentally unstable and is screaming out loud every single day. Typically, I walk 10 blocks along Market Street, looking a block ahead to see if anyone is acting up. I’ll zig-zag to the other side of the street. Lately, I’ve discovered there are fewer homeless people walking along the bay.

Area to avoid: East of Park Boulevard once it turns dark.

The Merian, 601 Eleventh Avenue. (Courtesy of Carrier Johnson + CULTURE)

Coffee shop: The Starbucks conveniently located at the corner of our building. I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but I usually order the mango dragon fruit refresher.

Lunch place: Tapas & Beer. Love its proximity to my workplace and the restaurant ambiance. The owner is super personable, and there is always great service. I typically order paella or lobster bisque.

Dinner spot: Cowboy Star. Love the western vibe and unique music. Hands down the best cuisine in East Village. I typically start with some oysters accompanied by a whiskey sour, and then steak frites or filet mignon for entrée. Guilty pleasure: My husband and I share their famous chocolate chip bread pudding. 

Favorite bar: Cowboy Star.

The Link, 707 Seventeenth Street. (Courtesy of Carrier Johnson + CULTURE)

Mayor Todd Gloria: I like that our mayor has a doer mentality and is impatient. I would advise him to continue to be super focused on the homeless and housing crisis.

District 3 City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn: I like the work our Councilmember has been doing for District 3 and appreciate him showing leadership by proposing the homeless encampment ban. I’ve raised a family downtown since 2005 and watched the homeless situation get worse. I would advise him to continue to tackle the tough issues.

One thing you would change: Considerable improvement regarding the activation of the ground level of many of our buildings. Much of the life of an urban environment happens at the pedestrian level. On my daily walks, I experience a lot of empty storefronts, which encourages loitering.  

Parting advice: If you don’t want to make dinner reservations, enjoy eating at the restaurant’s bar, where there is rarely any wait time. SDSun

☀️Check out the full series of Living In The City resident profiles.☀️


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