LIVING IN THE CITY: Retirees View East Village as a Home Run

Former urban planners Laurie and Mike Madigan thrive on Petco Park proximity; lament area homelessness

“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 22 in an ongoing series.

Name: Laurie Madigan

Location: Parkloft in East Village

Personal deets: Grew up in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles; graduated college from UC Berkeley. After graduation, I danced professionally with the modern-dance touring company Footloose. Dancing was my passion, but I needed to choose: Go to New York, or be practical and head off to graduate school. I moved here to go to graduate school at SDSU. Eventually, I met my San Diego-born-and-bred husband, Mike Madigan.

Work history: Now retired. After I got my Masters in Public Administration, I worked in local government, including work for the City of San Diego as chief of policy for Mayor Roger Hedgecock. After that job, I started a consulting firm (MNA Consulting) that focused on fiscal and planning-related research projects for local governments in San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles Counties.

(Mike was one of my clients. After we both became single divorcees, we started dating and I had to give up his company as a client. It was hard on my pocketbook, but good for my love life.)

In 2001, I sold MNA and went to work at the City of Chula Vista. I was the lead for the city on the Bayfront Master Plan and negotiations with Gaylord Hotels. It only took another 20 years after I left Chula Vista for that project to come to fruition!

During the final years of my working career, Mike and I formed Madigan Consulting.

Parkloft Condos in East Village.

Why live downtown: My husband made me do it. Mike is a true urbanite. We moved into Parkloft in 2002 as part of the first group of owners and are still here 20 years later.

As chief of policy for San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson in the 1970s, Mike led the effort to form the Centre City Development Corporation. And was heavily involved in the negotiations and creation of the first trolley line.

When we got engaged in 2000, Mike was living downtown. I owned a great home in Kensington. He really, really wanted us to live downtown. We made a deal: I’d move downtown if we could have a second place in the mountains to get away from the hustle and bustle. While we were working, our place in Julian was a weekend getaway. During COVID, we lived there for seven months. Now that we’re retired, we split our time between downtown and the mountains.

Funny moment: Decades ago, we ran into an old friend of Mike’s at the grocery store. It was mentioned we were moving into Park Loft. Leon told us he and his wife had just bought a unit there, too! Turned out we bought fifth-floor lofts with decks facing each other. We’ve been borrowing baking supplies and chatting across our balconies for 20 years now.

Inside the Madigans’ Parkloft unit. (Courtesy photo)

Best aspect of location: Parkloft has real character. Our place is a large open space that we’ve divided with a shoji screen into “public” (living room, kitchen, dining room, office) and “private” (bedroom, yoga/office) spaces. The ceilings are high, with exposed pipes. Lots of light-filled French doors lead onto two decks. Our home is decorated with original art from our world travels.

We’ve also got the best concierge staff downtown. Our HOA hires staff directly; we don’t use a management firm. Our head concierge, Gina, has been with us for roughly 15 years. She’s friendly and incredibly efficient.

Down side of location: Parkloft is directly across the street from Petco Park, which also hosts concerts. These don’t lend to a quiet lifestyle. On the other hand, we love Padres game days. The roar of the crowd is fun background noise. We can always tell when there’s a home run. The crowds are surprisingly considerate and dissipate pretty quickly once games are over.

Padres games: We went to Padres games often when the park was first completed. We’d buy last-minute $5 Park-at-the-Park lawn seats and bring a picnic. More often now we just listen to the crowds from our deck. I don’t know what tickets cost now, but I assume it’s no longer five bucks.

A “lively and diverse” downtown: The Carly Ealey mural outside Storyhouse Spirits in East Village.

Best reason to live downtown: Downtown is lively and diverse. We’re both in our 70s, but are able to maintain a younger attitude living downtown. We can walk to dinner or the theater, go to drinks with friends, or walk to UPS or the dry cleaners. When you go on those walks there are people of every age, color, ethnicity and style. And there are babies now, and lots of dogs. It’s not boring.

Worst part of living downtown: Homelessness. Mike and I thought the situation would get better. On the contrary, it’s much worse than when we came here 20 years ago. There’s more homelessness and more violence. A friend of ours was attacked last year while walking his dog. He and his wife moved to Mission Hills.

I’m extremely disappointed in the lack of local and state leadership on the issue. We need constant, continual focus on outreach. We should expand the Downtown Partnership program to help those who want to return home find a way to get back to relatives or friends.

We need to develop different, smaller and less-costly housing types. We need to fund farther-reaching and more effective drug rehabilitation programs. And create programs that recognize that we can’t solve the problem without understanding personal responsibility is required from those who need the help. And for those who can’t take that responsibility (which I believe is a small percentage, but an important, intransigent group), we need tools to effectively and humanely provide them with non-negotiable options.

Bird e-scooters in downtown.

Scooters: I love scooters. I stole my grandson’s helmet so that I could ride them. I agree there have been some problems. But the new rules are helping (and hurting, as mentioned in The Sun). I think it will eventually settle itself. Remember, people complained bitterly about the dangers of horseless cars when they first arrived on the scene.

Parking advice: Absolutely none. My suburban friends hate to visit me because they’re afraid to drive and park downtown. Too bad.

Callie in East Village.

Dinner spot(s): We love Callie for special events (like Mike’s recent birthday). And Cowboy Star: How could you not love a restaurant with a name like Cowboy Star? For casual dining, Mike loves the tan tan ramen at Beshock, and I like their pork buns and lemon pepper salad. For a quick and easy grab-a-bite we like tacos at City Tacos or Lola 55.

Coffee shop: Copa Vida on J Street has a good vibe and makes a mean Mint Tea Latte.

Tents set up outside the former downtown library.

Safety: I live in East Village, where some of our Marina District friends won’t visit. There’s no place I avoid. But I don’t walk alone at night, anymore. Sometimes I cross the street to avoid people clearly suffering from delusions. I am appalled and embarrassed to drive to route to the freeway onramp. The trash and filth makes me ashamed of my city.

Scary moment: I read an article in August about a knifing incident at the Market Street trolley stop. It had happened the previous day about 45 minutes after I had gotten off at that stop. A wakeup call.

City infrastructure: OMG, the sidewalks are a mess. Neither the city nor Clean and Safe can keep up with the cleaning needs. Recently, I was walking with a friend who tripped on a sidewalk hazard. I had to call an ambulance. The parks are fairly well maintained. I credit that to the Clean and Safe Program, not the City, which believes that “minimum” maintenance involves giving the Downtown Partnership a couple of trash cans.

Comic-Con comes to San Diego in July.

Comic-Con: We were walking around during Comic-Con one year when we noticed a very large and friendly Star Wars’ Chewbacca holding court. Several extremely attractive young women were oohing and aahing, and taking selfies with him. We decided it was likely this was a very clever 13-year-old boy inside that Chewbacca suit.

Expense factor: I worry about our younger residents who struggle to afford to live here, although I don’t think home values downtown have kept up with single-family neighborhoods like Kensington. I do wish there was more “for-sale” product being built downtown (versus all the new apartments), to provide first-time home ownership opportunities for young people.

Parting advice: This may sound contrary to some of my wariness, but do get out and walk. The views of our city are fantastic. Our weather is almost universally perfect. There are a gazillion places to eat outside and always something fun going on if you just look for it.


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

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