Little Italy’s throughout the United States have symbolized the tremendous contributions Italians have made to this country. Unfortunately, many of these historically established business districts are disappearing before our eyes. These Little Italys are either declining due to growth of other adjacent ethnic neighborhoods or are a shadow of their former glory due to the dispersion of Italian families from these districts.
San Diego’s Little Italy is different. A stable ethnic business and residential community, since the 1920′s; Little Italy today represents Downtown San Diego’s oldest continuous neighborhood business district. At one time, more than 6,000 Italian families lived in Little Italy and toiled to build San Diego into the center of the world’s tuna industry.
With the decline of the tuna industry on the West Coast and the destruction of 35% of Little Italy due to the construction of Interstate-5 freeway; Little Italy suffered nearly thirty years of decline. In the early 1990′s, established property owners and family-run business owners decided to take their fate into their own hands.
Today our community is a model urban neighborhood in the City of San Diego; with new Italian American and non-Italian business owners alike maintaining and opening retail and professional spaces. Creative builders and architects have and are continually building beautiful new developments and the local redevelopment agency (CCDC) has funded more than $3 million in street improvements on the main commercial corridor, India street; with more improvements planned for the near future. The Little Italy Association has been reviving, for over 15 years, this once thriving neighborhood; and telling the story of Little Italy to its visitors through public art displays and amazing piazzas. San Diego’s Little Italy is not only a model urban neighborhood for the City of San Diego, but is also serving as a model for the handful of Little Italys remaining throughout the country.
Our business district is rooted in the toil of immigrants and the perseverance and optimism of a new group of business owners. The strength of their faith and our proximity to the waterfront is what has supported families in Little Italy for generations.
Marco Li Mandri
Chief Executive Administrator
Little Italy Association of San Diego