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Supporting Small Businesses After Black Friday, Georgette Gomez’s Legacy In District 9 And Choreographer Michael MIzerany Turns To Playwriting

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It’s Black Friday, but for locally owned stores, it’s Small Business Saturday that matters. We’ll take a look at the impact of small businesses and how the city of San Diego aims to give them a boost through its Storefront Improvement Program. Plus, San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez is running for Congress. She sits down with KPBS to talk about her impact and legacy in District 9. And, the director for "Wally and His Lover Boys" at Diversionary's Black Box Theatre is familiar with staging a show, just not in this way before.

Speaker 1: 00:00 It is black Friday, but small business Saturday is a nationwide effort to get people to buy local and support small businesses as an alternative to those big malls. The city of San Diego is investing in the future of many small businesses with an ongoing program called the storefront improvement program. John caravan, neighborhood investment manager with the city of San Diego joins us now with details. Sean, welcome. Thanks for having me. So black Friday marks the start of the holiday shopping season. Why is small business Saturday, which falls on the day after black Friday tomorrow? Uh, so important.

Speaker 2: 00:34 Well, small businesses, uh, make up a huge amount of our economy. Um, but it's also a lot of what makes San Diego San Diego. Um, our commercial, uh, neighborhood districts are really important in places like North park and South park and ocean beach and other beach communities. It's, it's what I'm, it creates a lot of jobs and it's a, what's really important for our local economy.

Speaker 1: 00:55 So what economic impact do small businesses have in San Diego communities?

Speaker 2: 01:00 Well, it's, it's massive. Um, employment. They're huge numbers, but, but just think about the sheer number of small businesses, 80,000 small businesses in the city of San Diego. And that's businesses with about a dozen employees or fewer, um, 10,000 of which are retail shops. And these are the places where you can go for a unique experience that you can't get anywhere else. And that's why I say it makes San Diego San Diego.

Speaker 1: 01:23 In what other ways do small businesses impact neighborhoods in San Diego?

Speaker 2: 01:27 Oh, in, in a, in a whole host of ways. Uh, one example is, uh, along [inaudible] Boulevard, um, a district that has a dedicated bus lane now, uh, through a new pilot program. So there's good access to transit. It's getting more and more walkable. And a big part of that transformation is to business district there where, um, they're investing in places that are, uh, nice to sit and have a cup of coffee, um, or um, experiences such as a digital gym over there. So you can have a whole day, um, in a walkable neighborhood or you could just stop for a cup of coffee. It's really changing that neighborhood. It's making it safer, more walkable. Um, it's just, it's exactly what we need to make San Diego's economy stronger.

Speaker 1: 02:10 So what challenges do small businesses face when trying to keep their doors open and even remain competitive with big box stores and websites?

Speaker 2: 02:18 Well, the, the nature of retail is changing a lot too. It's a lot more about experiences. It's why you see a lot more, uh, gyms and play places that feel nice to sit and have a cup of coffee, a bookstores, all the things that, um, our economy has moved away from over over a decades. Uh, we're moving back to because people are looking for that unique experience. Something that can't get online or, um, or at a big box store.

Speaker 1: 02:43 And so this is where you all come in because the city of San Diego has launched a, the storefront improvement program. Tell me about that.

Speaker 2: 02:49 It's such a great program. It's one of our most popular, uh, and we've for about 50 businesses this year. Uh, we've engaged with them to, uh, pay for drawings for how they wish that the front of their business would look. Uh, new doors, paint signs, all of the things that businesses need to, to, um, show, uh, who they are to their neighborhood and the world. And we have some just great examples, um, including, we talked about alcohol and Boulevard earlier. Uh, cafe Madeline on a home Boulevard is just an excellent example. It was an empty storefront, uh, and then they participated in this program. And now it's an excellent place where, um, you can sit down and have a cup of coffee with a unique experience that you just can't get. Uh, in most neighborhoods in San Diego, there are three different rebate options through the storefront improvement program.

Speaker 2: 03:38 What are those options and, and how does the program work? Well, there's options that the standard option is we pay for the architectural drawings and then we pay for up to half of the investment that you put into your business up to $8,000. So you can have a budget of $16,000, and we'll pay for half. Or you can go beyond that. And what we've actually found is a lot of businesses go beyond that to get that exact look that they're looking for. Uh, which just allows us to leverage our funds quite a bit. So while we've put out $8,000, the whole project might come to 20,000. Uh, so that's additional investment that we're, um, we're, we're igniting in our commercial districts. So we have that option. We have increased amounts if you're restoring historic, uh, the facade to your business, uh, we also have an option for property owners if you have three or more storefronts.

Speaker 2: 04:29 Uh, and we have a, an additional option where we prioritize those businesses that are in our promise zone. So those communities of concern throughout San Diego. Let's look at the big picture. What have you all seen as a result of the investment made into these small businesses? Well, number one, we've seen just more dynamic neighborhoods. Um, and one of those examples is a run for cover is a, is a bookstore and cafe that just opened up about a year ago in ocean beach. And they participated in the program for the first year or so of their business. Um, they had, uh, a generic front of their business, a temporary sign, uh, and as this investment allowed them to create a unique experience. So now when you're walking by, um, you, you know, you're an OB because you see a unique store that has a, a mural of an owl on the front.

Speaker 2: 05:17 Uh, it's the kind of place where you can go and get a curated, um, set of books, uh, so you can find that thoughtful gift that you're looking for. And how many small businesses have you all been able to help so far? So just this year alone, it's been about 50 businesses, but every year, uh, we're doing that. And if you think about how that adds up, um, we're hoping to make a, an even bigger difference in the future. And it's, it's really starting to add up some, some areas such as North park, South park and ocean beach have seen a huge amount of participation. And we're hoping to expand that, uh, particularly in those communities of concern. So how many businesses, maybe 20 businesses? Oh, it's been going on for, uh, for decades at this point. So I don't have a running tally, but, um, it's hundreds of businesses. And what are the qualifications for the program?

Speaker 2: 06:01 Uh, there it's pretty easy to participate. All you have to do is, um, is show that these funds are actually going to what, uh, you say it's going to and, and we have dedicated staff to Citi to walk you through each step of the process. Uh, all, all that we really require is that you're doing business with other San Diego businesses. So contractors need to be a need to be San Diego contractors, things like that. I've been speaking with Sean caravan, neighborhood investment manager with the city of San Diego. Sean, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 00:00 From environmental advocate to San Diego city council president. Now Georgette Gomez is running to replace Congresswoman Susan Davis. So what does that mean for district nine, which includes city Heights where some residents say their community is often overlooked. KPBS speaks city Heights reporter Ebony Monet sat down with Gomez to get her take.

Speaker 2: 00:20 We caught up with council president Georgette Gomez at cafe ina cafe, a new specialty coffee shop on 46th street in city Heights. Your time, of course Gomez has represented city Heights for three years and now she's running for Congress.

Speaker 3: 00:35 How did that decision come about with it all with the plan? No, it wasn't part of the plan. To me, politics was never part of the plan. It's about, for me, the plan is addressing injustices in our society. It's changing systems that are, um, that impact people's quality of life. That is part of the plan for me. How I do that is different ways. Yeah.

Speaker 2: 00:58 In 2016 while transitioning from a long time community organizer to a San Diego city council member, Gomez often spoke critically about special interest.

Speaker 3: 01:08 What have you learned about getting things done? And, um, have your, has your mind softened a bit to the idea of the, those special interests downtown and have you learned anything about why things may take time or how Oh, yes. I'm, no, I've learned a lot. Uh, since uh, coming in I, I had a perspective, um, that really has shifted completely. Now I have a much better understanding of what the council does versus what the mayor, um, the council is there to set up policies, the mayor's there to implement the policies that the council is adopting. My you, um, I didn't feel that we were introducing a lot of policies. So now as the council precedent, I'm intentionally trying to introduce policies. I'm updating the affordable housing Ornez yes, it got NITOAD right.

Speaker 2: 02:00 Mayor Kevin Faulkner recently vetoed Gomez is inclusionary housing update that would have increased fines. Developers have to pay when their projects don't meet the city's affordable housing guidelines

Speaker 3: 02:11 to uh, there said the design itself to slow down to vehicle

Speaker 2: 02:15 still as we walked around the neighborhood. Gomez says she's not giving up on her agenda, which also includes attracting business to the district. Challenge that we have is that a lot of the, uh, new businesses that want to come because it is an older community, we have infrastructure, odd deficits. Gomez says her office is making progress

Speaker 3: 02:36 working with price charities they're trying to do, they're, they're in the midst of working on doing an affordable housing development that is for seniors, but also for multifamily

Speaker 2: 02:46 Gomez has released a housing action plan that she says addresses the community's lack of affordable housing back inside. I questioned if she believes her district nine replacement can build on this momentum.

Speaker 3: 02:58 Do you believe that you started

Speaker 2: 03:00 a momentum that will continue with or without you in this leadership position? Oh, most definitely. I mean, what I've learned at city hall is that once you get the projects going, there's, there's not going to be an attorney back from the city. So I feel very confident that everything that we've started this, this during this period of my time being in council will see the light. What do you say to people who feel that they're, they're losing that support, um, by you running for the 53rd and that they're going to just be left behind? D I know that the, the residents in district nine are smart and they're going to elect that person. So it's, it shouldn't be just based on me cause I'm going to get termed out whether I leave now or in four additional years, I'll be done. So for me, my commitment to this community doesn't change. It doesn't matter where I'm at. I carry the community. I'm going to continue fighting for the community. This is why I got into government. To get the job, Gomez would need to beat out a crowded field of Democrats who've also entered the race for the 53rd, which does not include most of city Heights, Ebony Monet,K , PBS news.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Thanksgiving is behind us and the winter holidays are in full swing with plenty of arts events to choose from. The Grinch and a Christmas Carol make their annual appearances. But if you want something a little less traditional, you can check out diversionary theater's production of David's [inaudible] Santa land diaries. And if you want to stray even further off course from routine Christmas cheer diversion, Aries, Blackbox will host Wally and his lover, boys written and directed by Michael misery. Rainey KPBS arts reporter Beth OCHA Amando speaks with ms Rainey about going from choreography to play writing and with actor Jake bevel about doing nudity on stage. Here's that interview.

Speaker 2: 00:39 Michael. Most people are probably familiar with you as a choreographer,

Speaker 3: 00:44 but you have recently ventured off into writing. So what led you to do that? Um, I left a mal shag dance in 2013 and I had the whole summer free. So I took a workshop at the old globe on writing and I spent about six weeks writing a short play called, called 20 minutes and counting, which two years later it like sat on the shelf like, Oh, I should do this for fringe, fringe, fringe had just come back. I'm like, I'll do it for fringe. And so I invited two other writers to come and write short plays and we did a fringe and we won an award for best.

Speaker 2: 01:17 So you have a new piece now called Wally and his lover boys that's going to be at diversionary is black box. So what is this one?

Speaker 3: 01:25 So this is, um, based on my experience being an older gay man dealing with younger gay men who, um, come up and say things like, Oh, you're, you're a silver Fox. And I'm like, so I'm old. They're like, no, no, and you're silver Fox. But that's old, right? I don't mind being old, but the pointed out to me is a very nice, so it's based on my experiences being in an older gay man and just dealing with life now with lots of younger gay men. Thinking I'm a silver Fox or my gray is distinguished.

Speaker 2: 01:53 So we've brought one of these younger gay men in who is one of the actors, Jake. And you play one of the lover boys. Correct? I played the antagonist may field. So my character is the first young man that uh, Wally decides to date after his divorce. So he's been married twice, had two failed marriages, one to a woman and then a marriage of 19 years that he had a divorce. And I'm the first date coming back into the dating scene. You know, I ended up being a really bad mistake because I ended up cheating on him and doing all these bad things. I'm the bad guy. Your plays and your dances also tend to push the boundaries a little bit in terms of mature content, in terms of sexual explicitness and even nudity. How do you feel that gets received? Cause it seems like despite what some people may say, it feels like we're in a bit of a prudish kind of time in terms of what gets shown on a certain level. Um, you know, we feel like we have a lot of freedom, but on a certain way it seems like dealing with in a way where people tend to be enjoying it is still not exactly out in a lot of mainstream media.

Speaker 3: 03:06 I would agree with that. I tried to make all the nudity in my pieces about the storytelling and not about just, you know, I'm naked, enjoy it. So, um, I did a piece last year called truss where I felt the new D was a big part of it because one, um, character was a prostitute and he was trying to pull in this other one and finally he just stripped naked and that was his power. That's the power he had over that person. And so in this here too, Mayfield's power is in his nudity because he feels like he doesn't have anything else. I mean, he says, what's that line he says about, I wrote, when I get nervous, I show my fallback is a show. Everyone might ask so and so he gets nervous. He's like, Oh, I'll do a strip for you. Because he's a paleontologist and on the side he's a stripper, so, so it's a comedy.

Speaker 3: 03:49 Obviously it's a comedy, but, and it's actually almost a farce if you think about, it's like a sex farce. Well, and it's very common in the gay community. You have a lot of people who throw their looks around and that get their way through their looks. And it's, so, I think it is that way. I may feel definitely does that. And then while we meet, meet another person who's young, but he's like the opposite of that is the opposite. And then may feel comes back a few years later and he ends up trying to get in there and break them up. Yeah. Mayfield not the good guy at all. No, I love playing a bad guy who doesn't. It's always great. I'm playing a bad guy. And you've worked with Michael before. So I was in the piece that we were just talking about. Tryst I was the naked prostitute.

Speaker 3: 04:27 It seems to be a thing. I like to be naked. So that doesn't bother you or trouble you. Oh, not at all. No, I, I actually, I think it's, I think it's necessary because as you said, we do exist in a prudish time and I think that pushing people outside of their comfort zone, they, they, they've discovered something about themselves. Also. I feel like, like we're discovering something about the way we can perform, but I think that people realize where their boundaries are and they learn more about themselves going out of like going out of the theater than they did coming in with what they were comfortable saying or what they weren't comfortable saying. I think it's fun to see how people react. Uh, when we did tryst I heard all the, ah, when I, when I took off my underwear, like, yeah, the reaction was interesting.

Speaker 2: 05:11 Well, diversionary is a very intimate theater in terms of the size and space and you are in diversionary black,

Speaker 3: 05:19 double smaller. Yeah. It's very small. I'm actually excited about how small the spaces because it, every scene is so intimate. I mean we're, we're like right up and close with these moments with these characters. So I feel like the fact that the audience is so close to what's happening, they're going to feel just how intimate we're getting because there's a lot of things that the characters say that that it's hard to admit to, like it's very raw feeling. You're wildly at one point says, I had two marriages that failed and may feel is going to fail. I'm going to try to fix it, but if I can't fix it, that's three. And just he thinks about, you know, no one wants me anymore. My, you know, my husband doesn't, he's a doctor. My patients don't. I'm retired. My son doesn't, I have

Speaker 1: 05:58 no one needs me. He feels like he's not needed or wanted any more, which I think comes into play in general when we get older that we feel like we're not worth anything anymore. All right. Well I want to thank you both very much for talking about Wally and his lover boys. Thank you. While the N is lever boys opens December 7th at diversion areas, black box theater, that production is not affiliated with diversionary theaters. Main stage season.

Speaker 4: 06:29 [inaudible].

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.