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Watch as San Diego reclaims 66 acres from an abandoned freeway

Few San Diegans remember the fight over Highway 252. State transportation officials developed plans for the freeway in the 1960s, and it would have been an east-west connection between Interstate 5 and Interstate 805 through Southcrest.

In the 1970s, the state seized 66 acres of Southcrest and demolished 280 homes to build Highway 252. But activists in Southeast San Diego fought back. They formed a new think tank, the Black Federation, to collect economic data from Southcrest that showed how much tax revenue had been lost since the land was cleared.

In 1986, after more than 15 years of sustained opposition, Caltrans was forced to abandon its plans for Highway 252 and sell the land back to the city of San Diego. The state had spent $3.1 million acquiring the right-of-way. But it sold the land back at a loss — the fair market appraisal in 1986 was only $2.9 million.


In the 1990s and 2000s, the city oversaw the gradual redevelopment of the 252 corridor with hundreds of new homes, new water and sewer pipelines, parks, restaurants, an elementary school and the neighborhood's first grocery store in 30 years.

KPBS digs into the history of Highway 252 in episode 3 of the podcast "Freeway Exit." Listen from episode 1 to learn more about the past, present and future of San Diego freeways.

Use the slider below to see Southcrest in 1975, when Caltrans had cleared the land for Highway 252 but was waiting for the money to build it, and now after the land has been returned to the community.