There’s Nothing Normal About Normal Heights

| September 5, 2018 | 0 Comments

George Mitrovich

We lived in Kensington for more than 30-plus-years, a San Diego community known for its Spanish architecture and English named streets.

Kensington comes as close to a gated community as a community can become without being gated, as there are only four street entrances into Kensington off Adams Avenue, and its streets running north, east and west, all end at canyons descending hundreds of feet below to Mission Valley.

That’s not Normal Heights.

Yes, lots of dead end streets similar to Kensington, also ending on canyons above Mission Valley, but otherwise its streets running north off Adams Avenue are open, and one, in particular, North Mountain View Drive, is a very wide street coming off Adams just past the bridge over I-805; a street twisting and turning as perhaps no other in San Diego (it would be more appropriately named Rocky Road Drive, because driving it may call for new car shocks and a chiropractor’s visit).

We didn’t want to leave Kensington, but we needed smaller and less expensive, so we found a place in Normal Heights that works (we’re grateful to our realtor friend, Rocky Rockhill, for the find).

With Mark Mitrovich’s extraordinary genius in organizing and overseeing our move — that’s his father’s judgment, but it will be confirmed by anyone fortunate to have had him plan and execute their move — it was as stress free as any move might possibly be – and when you’ve turned 82, you need moving to be that, stress free.

With that as preface, let me continue:

Normal Heights is a neighborhood of very great diversity in housing, running from two-bedroom, one bath framed homes built in the 20s, to two-story, four bedroom, two and a half-bath modern homes selling for upwards of a million dollars, significantly upward – and sometimes these homes sit side-by-side; literally.

The house next to ours, for instance, is abandon. It’s been abandoned, I’m told, for two years, while the house two doors down, just sold for $1,250,000.

The lot on which the abandoned house sits is worth $500,000, minimum, but its owner lets it sit, either impervious to or oblivious of San Diego’s housing shortage (but he’s current in his property taxes).

Oh, there are no abandoned houses in Kensington.

On the south side of North Mountain View Drive (there’s an East and West), runs a long alley. When you walk it you can’t help but notice, the back yards are the deepest of any in San Diego (that was my guess, but a friend, a former urban planner for the city, confirmed my impression). But of all those homes, very few have built a second home for income purposes, which the depth of their yards could easily support, my urban planner friend says, and believes the city needs to encourage — because we have, yes, a housing shortage.

Then, there is the matter of people’s front yards. Some are well cared for, serviced by gardeners and landscaped, many others, however, are overgrown with weeds, devoid of flowers or shrubs, simply unsightly, owned or rented by people to whom aesthetic or environmental values appear unimportant.

In fairness, however, caring for a yard requires water, and as we all know the cost of water in San Diego is outrageously high. Some people either can’t or won’t pay for it, but even if you adopt the look of Scottsdale West, as many in Kensington have, the probability is your bill will continue to climb, as ours has, despite having a lawn one-twentieth the size of our previous home.

In walking our dog – actually, La Verle’s dog, a Cockapoo named Oliver – we have noticed how many houses we pass, have the blinds drawn. It’s totally perplexing. Why would you shut out the light? Why have you withdrawn from your neighbors? If we walk past ten houses, eight have the blinds drawn. Never experienced that before.

More than Kensington, people who live in Normal Heights, run and ride bikes for exercise, while many others walk, especially on Mountain View. I wouldn’t describe it as a lovely walk, but an interesting one, for the reasons stated.

Normal Heights, like many communities in San Diego, is in transition; slowly in transition as to its neighborhoods.

But the business community, strung out along Adams for several miles, is also in transition, but evolving more rapidly. Within a mile of our home are two of the best restaurants in San Diego, Café 21 and Hanna’s Gourmet. There is also a fish restaurant near 30th and maybe, the best Mexican restaurant in our town, El Zarape’s at 3038 Adams (there are two “El Zarape’s” within a couple of blocks of one another, but this is the best; not as inviting as the other, which has a more traditional restaurant feel, but the food is superior.

When I decided on the title for this essay, “There’s Nothing Normal About Normal Heights,” I was going to end it here, but then the following happened:

At 6:20 a.m., Friday, August 17, I opened our garage door to retrieve the LA Times and U-T, only to find a car in our driveway. Who’s car, I wondered, and why is it parked in our driveway?

I called the police. Two hours later a black and white, with two officers arrived (it had been a busy morning and this was not an emergency).

I told them, the car was open, the keys were in the ignition, there was a backpack in the passenger seat, a cell phone on the driver’s side, Mountain Dew bottles on the floor, marijuana in the center console, and a pair of Polo sunglasses on the roof.

They opened the trunk, found empty plastic bottles of an illegal substance, which they subsequently identified as having been stolen from a pharmacy in a recent hold up by a man with a handgun.

Before long, four black and whites were parked in front, including a K-9 unit.

It was decided that my phone call had led them to a major drug find.

I had given the dispatcher the license number on the car, which led a separate black and white to the home of the car’s registered owner. The owner’s mother said the car belonged to her son, but she didn’t know where he was.

The officers at our house then learned the car’s owner was in jail. After parking his car in our driveway, he had walked around the corner, sometime after midnight, created a disturbance, neighbors called the police, who arrested him for public intoxication.

That’s the least of his problems, as he now faces multiple drug and armed robbery charges.

The police finished their investigation, which was extremely through, thanked me for helping “solve a crime,” and left with siren wailing and red lights flashing. No, really, they had a real emergency.

The incident might have happened anywhere, but didn’t. It happened at our home — in Normal Heights.


George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He may be reached at


Normal Heights, like many communities in San Diego, is in transition.

Tags: , ,

Category: Local News

About the Author ()

"Mine Eyes Have Seen"