Casa di Bafflement

One of the oddities of Hillcrest manifests itself as this building front: [image of unlabelled building] It's right in the middle of the block on the east side of 5th Avenue, between Robinson Avenue and University Avenue. The doors have been closed and locked every time that I've passed.

Walk around to the east side of the block, on 6th Avenue, and you'll find a building and parking lot with signs for Pernicano's and Casa di Baffi. (The name of the latter means House of the Mustaches.) [image of Pernicano's / Casa di Baffi] [image of Pernicano's / Casa di Baffi signs] The building itself is labelled Pernicano's. [image of Pernicano's It is always closed. The parking lot [image of Pernicano's / Casa di Baffi parking lot] is always fenced-off and unavailable.

All told, this is a pretty big chunk of a city block. [overhead image of city block, highlighting the aforementioned properties] Hillcrest has various idling properties right now, but, actually, these particular properties have been idling since 1985!

I believe that the building on 5th Avenue was Casa di Baffi, but I wasn't in San Diego back in '84. In any case, the properties belong to George Pernicano. He operated two restaurants there from 1946 until 1985. Pernicano's was apparently quite a hot-spot, with movie stars and celebrity athletes visiting regularly. Then he shut the restaurants down, and refuses to do anything with the property.

Various explanations — some speculative, some perhaps informed — are offered for why Mr Pernicano keeps these properties idle.

Search the web, or ask some of the merchants in Hillcrest, and you'll read or hear a lot of complaining about Pernicano. Some of it is honest; some of it self-serving posturing. Many merchants would like active businesses on these lots; some parties, at least in good times, would like to have the properties for their own direct use; a lot of people would like local parking to be increased, as it is a real problem.

My own view starts with the point that the properties belong to Pernicano. People can make polite suggestions — and some indeed confine themselves to such — but Pernicano ought to reject sanctimonious demands out-of-hand. As to parking, if successful businesses were again operating out of the two buildings, increased demand for parking would consume that now unused lot. I don't see any other landlords preparing to tear down a building to make room for a parking lot. I think that the parking issue is a wash.

But I do think that Mr Pernicano needs to attend to some building maintenance very soon. [roofing tiles on 5th Avenue building] Some of those roofing tiles on the 5th Avenue building are working loose. Results could be pretty dire if one fell and hit a pedestrian.

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2 Responses to Casa di Bafflement

  • Bart Cheever says:

    Thanks. I've heard people refer to these buildings as an "eyesore" or "hazard". To me they are one of the few remaining examples of the charm that brought people to the neighborhood in the first place. God forbid they rip them down to put up another Gap or Rite Aid.

    I hope that someday some respectful restauranteur will loving bring these properties back to life. Until then, don't give in George!

    • Daniel says:

      Indeed, while entropy keeps us from holding onto to all of what we might want to keep, parts of Hillcrest keeping being replaced by things that undermine its distinctive feel. (Go a few blocks north of Pernicano's and you're in a residential area where charming homes keep being torn-down to build multi-residential buildings that go largely unoccupied!)

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