City considers designating Hillcrest neighborhood as a historic district

ABC 10 News KGTV
ABC 10 News KGTV

HILLCREST, Calif. (KGTV) – Hillcrest is widely known as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community, and now the city wants to make it a historic district. But some business owners think it needs to go further to preserve Hillcrest's culture.

"This neighborhood back in the 60s and 70s was a place that LGBTQ people because they felt safe," Benjamin Nichols / Executive Director of the Hillcrest Business Association, said.

Nichols says a lot of it had to do with the area's nightlife.

"People went to the bars and the restaurants, and they could be themselves in those environments," he said.

Nichols says the city is proposing to designate Hillcrest as a historic district - which would preserve the buildings - but he thinks otherwise.

"You really need to focus on preserving the things that made this neighborhood what it is rather than just trying to preserve old buildings," Nichols said.

And so do business owners like Moe Girton.

She runs the Gossip Grill on University Avenue-one of only 24 queer woman-owned clubs in the U.S.

"We have so many folks that go to work as one person, change in their car, and come to us as their authentic self. It's things like that that we got to make sure we protect," Girton said.

For Girton designating Hillcrest as a cultural and entertainment district would allow her to expand live performances at her new restaurant.

She says she is very limited in what she can do.

"Like jazz bands or soul singers," she said. "We were denied that part because there's two nightclubs on the block. If we were a cultural entertainment district, we'd be able to do that."

On University Avenue alone, there are at least 10 LGBTIQQ-owned businesses. Some, like Rich's, have been here for decades.

"We just celebrated our 31st anniversary," Ryan Bedrosian, owner of Rich's.

Bedrosian says the designation would also protect businesses as more housing comes to the area and new neighbors who may complain about the vibrant nightlife.

"Park Boulevard used to have multiple nightclubs and LGBTQ retail stores, and restaurants, and now it's almost unrecognizable as a part of Hillcrest," he said. "There's no more clubs."

ABC 10News reached out to the city about designating the area as a cultural district and is still waiting to hear back.

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