Casa di BafflementSaturday, 19 September 2009
One of the oddities of Hillcrest manifests itself as this building front: 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.) The building itself is labelled
Pernicano's. It is always closed. The parking lot is always fenced-off and unavailable.
All told, this is a pretty big chunk of a city block. 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. 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.