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Eden Gardens: A historic community takes hold

This is the first article in a series about the history of Eden Gardens. Part two will cover how the community banned together to overcome crime in their neighborhood. 

SOLANA BEACH — Less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean, La Colonia de Eden Gardens is the oldest community in Solana Beach.

Bounded by Interstate 5, Via de la Valle, Stevens Avenue and Academy Drive, it is surrounded by a mix of commercial buildings and expensive homes.

The neighborhood was first developed around 1920 for Mexican workers who tended the large citrus groves in Rancho Santa Fe.

The farmers wanted their families nearby, so La Colonia, or The Colony, was created. The name Eden Gardens was added later by a land developer who thought it would be a good marketing tool.

In many ways not much has changed in the past century. Residents are still primarily Hispanic. Several buildings along Valley Avenue, considered Eden Gardens’ “Main Street” and known also as Avenida Valle, have been part of the community since the early days.

Don Chuy restaurant dates back to 1932, when it was a mom-and-pop grocery store started by Jose and Elvira Granados. La Tiendita, or The Little Store, was one of two markets that served the first settling families. They were given credit and accounts were settled at the end of each week.

As the early residents of Eden Gardens have passed away, their homes have been sold, demolished and rebuilt into two-story dwellings that in some areas look out of place.  Photo Bianca Kaplanek
As the early residents of Eden Gardens have passed away, their homes have been sold, demolished and rebuilt into two-story dwellings that in some areas look out of place. Photo Bianca Kaplanek

La Tiendita was also a meeting place where friends could catch up on the latest news and gossip. In 1943, Jesus “Chuy” Cuellar Granados took over the store from his father and renamed it Granados Market.

Large-chain supermarkets began to dominate the area, forcing the market to close in 1970.

But a few months later the business reopened as the Market Café, serving customers for about 25 years, until it was renovated by the Granados family and renamed to honor “Don Chuy.”

Another landmark, Tony’s Jacal, or “old building,” opened in 1946. The restaurant could serve a maximum of 26 customers at a time and was only open weekends. Catalina Gonzales cooked and her husband, Tony, having just returned from military service, helped serve the food in what was his parents’ home.

The restaurant expanded several times and is now run by Tony and Catalina’s two daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In the the early 1960s, when Fidel Montanez decided to serve tacos at his barber shop, Fidel’s Little Mexico was born.

The tacos sold like hotcakes, Fidel’s evolved into a neighborhood cantina and through the years the building was converted from a two-story residence into three different levels that include a courtyard, a few bars, outdoor patios and a taco bar.

Originally called Solana Iron Works and located on Cedros Avenue, Baker Iron Works is the city’s longest continually running business. When Charlie Baker bought the metal company in 1927 he changed the name and moved it to Eden Gardens.

A small grocery store – one of two that served early residents – once stood on the site that is now a parking lot for Tony’s Jacal. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
A small grocery store – one of two that served early residents – once stood on the site that is now a parking lot for Tony’s Jacal. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

Although many buildings have stood the test of time, others have given way to apartment complexes, condominiums and commercial offices.

The second market that once served the original families along with La Tiendita was eventually demolished and is now the overflow parking lot for Tony’s Jacal.

One-story homes built nearly 100 years ago have been sold, torn down and rebuilt into two-story dwellings that seem somewhat out of place.

As developers attempt to replace abandoned lots with mixed-use complexes, longtime residents are steadfast in their efforts to retain the community character and Hispanic culture that have always defined Eden Gardens.

“Back then everybody knew everybody,” 53-year resident Alice Granados said. “When I first came here and married into the Granados family I met three generations of cousins. Everyone was related in one way or another.”

“But time changes,” said Granados, whose husband’s grandparents started Don Chuy. “Little by little, the elderly people have passed away. I miss the older people who made La Colonia.

“There used to be a church at the corner of Valley and Hernandez where people would gather and talk,” she said. “That is what I miss. To me that was La Colonia.

“I’ve seen a lot,” she added. “And in some ways it’s changed for the better.”

Those improvements include upgraded streets and sidewalks that were part of a 1995 master plan for the area, which was adopted when Eden Gardens resident Terri Renteria was serving as mayor.

But perhaps the biggest changes occurred when drugs, gangs and prostitutes became commonplace.

In a 1990 article in the Los Angeles Times, Granados said sometimes there were so many drug dealers that “the residents couldn’t drive past without one of them pushing his wares against their closed car windows.”

Next week this series will focus on how Eden Gardens went from a migrant community to an area known for drugs and gangs and what residents are doing to reclaim their neighborhood.

Update 4/8/14: The headline of this piece was changed to better reflect its focus on the founding of Eden Gardens. The series note at the beginning of this piece was expanded to explain the future parts of this series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 comments

Tere Renteria April 7, 2014 at 8:36 am

Very disappointed with this article on Eden Gardens, especially the Intro Caption. There is so much beautiful history that Ms Kaplanek has failed to research that I sincerely hope she reads both books that Jim Nelson wrote about Eden Gardens and Solana Beach before she continues.

Lisa Montes April 7, 2014 at 10:51 am

Very poor journalism here. The writer failed to research this subject thoroughly. La Colonia de Eden Gardens is a beautiful and safe community, just like many communities. We have two beautiful churches, tutoring centers for our youth, a community center for all residents, a park, excellent mexican restaurants, two community gardens, many college graduates, and proud founding families who still live here.

Daniel Ramírez April 7, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Ay, Dios mío! Please provide your staff with more research resources to see how large an impact that little Colonia has had on so many lives! During our childhood summer stays with our maternal grandmother, the legendary Cipriana Gonzalez, she made very clear to us that she expected our high school graduation portraits to hang on her living room Wall of Honor, next to all the uniformed soldiers in the family. (The HS diploma represented a significant achievement for a Mexican American woman born in 1906.) I also basked in the fellowship of the Apostolic church that now sits atop the hill on land purchased from the water utility in the 1950s by a hardworking community of believers. (Nana Cipri lent her considerable fundraising and organizing skills to build St. Leo’s mission.) One of my fondest later memories was to have Nana Cipri and Tata Salvador present at my Yale College graduation. Sadly, they deceased before my Duke Graduate School one. Today, as I teach on American Religious History, I anchor my lectures on immigration, religion, assimilation, success and struggle with accounts of that little community that nurtured my parents and to which I return for spiritual and cultural nourishment. In September we buried my last paternal uncle, Eliseo Ramírez, in the Miramar National Cemetery. The original “Dreamer” (he was brought from Guanajuato when not quite 2-years-old), Eliseo lived a full life as a patriot, father, veterans leader, businessman, clan leader, etc. Perhaps your future installments can provide more balance by tracing the clans, noting the successes, describing the religious communities, and recognizing the sacrificial patriotism lived in this remarkable little corner of the USA known as EG. Sincerely, Daniel Ramírez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of North American Religion, University of Michigan.

Anthony rodriguez April 7, 2014 at 4:40 pm

I don’t know where you got your information from but Eden gardens was never south central LA. My father built out house in 1989 so I grew up right in the middle of it. Never once did I feel unsafe hanging around the streets. Everyday would involve playing baseball or football down at the park with no worries to be had….

What about Tony Gonzalez starting Solana Beach little league not only for the kids of Eden Gardens but all of solana beach. Noting mentioned about that. Just straight to the drug dealers and prostitues…

You better do some more research before you right your “gangbanger haven” article. Yes there was some questionable activies down by some adolescents. But to make it sound like the gangs ran Eden gardens is just ridiculous……

Manny Aguilar April 7, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Attn: Coast News Editor,

I am writing to you today to demand a retraction and correction of the headline and last three paragraphs of the story published this past week in your newspaper. The headline “Eden Gardens: From Migrant community to haven for drugs and gangs” is totally misleading to what the majority of the tone of the story that was written. Eden gardens is not a haven for drugs and gangs. The headline and last three paragraphs of the story completely mischaracterize our community.

Eden Gardens is a great little community that our residents love. It is a safe community. We have a positive and rich history. There are so many positive things happening in our community. If someone saw your headline and didn’t read the story, it totally slanders and libels our community.

I demand a retraction and correction of a true and accurate headline and story of Eden Gardens. Thank you.

Respectfully,

Manny Aguilar
Board Chair/President
La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc. Foundation

Chema Navarro April 7, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I’m speechless and angry at this terrible portrayal of Eden Gardens!My parents moved there back in 1957.I was born and raised there for twenty years before I married and moved away.Truthfully,I couldn’t have grown up in a more close-knit and loving community overflowing with plenty of love,tradition,family,community unity and wonderful neighbors.Okay..really???drugs..prostitution and gangs pushing their ware against our car windows??? Of coarse…they were written by some who did not interview the residents and established families properly..as this article seems to have been written and.. written so very badly..DO YOUR RESEARCH PROPERLY and PLEASE interview someone who actually knows the history and struggles of this beautiful community and its amazing families!

Yolanda Sanchez April 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Bianca,

I’m sorry, but what Eden Gardens did you visit? My family is part of the original settlers of La Colonia and I am very proud of that. Eden Gardens is an example of what a true community is. Where neighbors know neighbors and help each other out and keep an eye out for the children. If you misbehave or did good, your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins will know by the time you get home. Every time I drive down Valley Avenue, I feel like I’m in a parade as I am waving to everyone and I love that!

Sadly, it is articles like this, that help shape the misconception of my home town, La Colonia de Eden Gardens. I am 39 years old and remember from a very young age, my school peers could not spend the night at my house because I lived in EG. Their parents were afraid to drive to EG. I really hoped that this frame of mind was gone.
I come to find out that it has not changed 30 years later. I recently had my 10 year old godson ask me if La Colonia is a bad place? I was truly sadden by his question. I asked him, “why such a question?” He reply was, “because the kids at school make fun of me because I live in La Colonia.” Now, how can a 10 year old child have an opinion about La Colonia? Their opinion is shaped by their parents and your article does not help any!

Your headline is rooted with negativism towards the community of Eden Gardens. It is very appalling to generations of families that have struggled against this exact prejudice for the last 90 years. If a reader, were only to read your headline, that is all they would take from it, without reading the rest of your article or let alone the rest of your series. Your question mark, does not justify your headline.

Please reconsider your headline and your approach towards this beautiful community, my hometown, La Colonia de Eden Gardens.

Regards,

Yolanda Sanchez

P.S. I paid for a monthly subscription to be able to post my comment and follow your series. The best $9.75 I’ve invested, Thanks Coast News!

Angelina April 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm

it Sorry Bianca maybe you should write about something you know. Because you have no knowledge about Eden gardens and your portraying this town like its a bad town. Well its not.

Myrna Escobedo April 8, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Very disappointed in this article. Just goes to show that there is still a lot of ignorance out there. Do your research Bianca Kaplanek!

Nadine (Huizar) Alvarado April 8, 2014 at 4:49 pm

I am also asking that you change the title of your story. I am another proud grandaughter of Salvador and Cipriana Gonzales that my cousin Daniel Ramirez mentions. Both my parents were born in EG, went to school. My father served in the army, went to Korea and my mom graduated from San Dieguito. I am the eldest of 4 with 3 brothers. I am proud of my heritage, family, and most of all my neighborhood. If you want a great story, ask the children, grandchildren or great grandchildren to speak about our history and culture and not one of us will say that we were scared of the drugs, gangs and prostitutes. Funny how each comment is from someone related to me. It is true, we are all related in one way or another!

Mary Helen ABRIL Rubalcava April 8, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I am sickened to read the lack of research your staff did before writing this article. My grandparents moved to Eden Gardens in 1933 from Arizona. My father, aunts and uncles all grew up in EG. So did all of my brothers and sisters my cousins, their children. I went to school in Solana Beach and had the honor to work for the County of San Diego Library and retire from the same Jr Hi I attended. None of us are gang members or prostitutes. In our family we also have people who have served defending their country, are business owners, corporate lawyers, CEO’s that have salaries in the 6 figures. I hope you and your newspaper are smart enough to do your research before you continue to stick your foot in your mouth and offend the residents, Past and Present of La Colonial de Eden Gardens

Yvette April 8, 2014 at 5:25 pm

This article makes me wonder what the true motivation really is. I wonder if it may have something to do with recent attempts by wealthy investors to purchase properties for as little as possible, to cheaply redevelop the property into million dollar sales for themselves.

Well, they obviously hitting a snag, because Eden Gardens is a close-knit community, which has pride in what was built and left to them by their parents & grandparents. My family was one of the first families to settle in this community, so I had the privilege of being raised in this awesome community. I have never felt unsafe. I definitely never witnessed, or even heard of drug dealers pressing against your car windows!! That is absolutely absurd!! This is a community where neighbors look out for one another, they say hello to one another, and helps each other whenever possible. If you forget to lock your car door, you don’t have to worry about someone breaking into your car, neighbor’s have respect for others property. I am sure if you look hard enough in any suburban community, you will find a small group of kids that want attention and want to cause trouble. That is no longer the case in Eden Gardens, and has not been for some time. This article is nothing but slander! There is obviously an ulterior motive. That; or we have a writer that does not know how to properly do her job, and research all of the facts before making uneducated statements.

I can only hope that this series gets pulled! The Coast News should demand better from their writers.

heidi April 8, 2014 at 10:43 pm

I didn’t grow up in E.G. But my family did. I have nothing but beautiful memories playing with my cousins, running around the neighborhood, cruising to the park, and being sent next door to the market Cafe, by my grandfather Raymundo, to get the delicious chips and cheese with guacamole to share amongst us grandkids. That wouldn’t be possible if it was gang infested and ruled by drug lords!

Lesa Heebner April 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm

I am glad to see the headline changed on this article. EG is NOT a haven for drugs and gangs, but instead a tight-knit, family-oriented community. I look forward to seeing the next articles in this series and hope they will focus on those aspects instead of sensationalizing one small and unfortunate aspect which is NOT the major story!

Mary Castaneda Magana April 9, 2014 at 10:18 pm

I was so enraged about the article about Eden Gardens. I didn’t even want my 88 year old mother to see it. She still lives in Eden Garden. I come from the Gonzales family (Jesus and Candelaria). We are over 400 strong. We don’t all live in Eden Gardens but It’s still our HOME! I’m very proud to have be raised in a very loving community. Stop the slander! Come to Eden Garden and meet the heart of Solana Beach.

Gary Garber April 13, 2014 at 10:27 am

Nice to see Lisa finally taking a interest in EG
election coming in November for
Mike

Lesa Heebner April 14, 2014 at 8:58 pm

It’s “Lesa” and if I’m not mistaken, it would be “an” interest. Additionally, a period after EG is missing, “election” should be capitalized and a period after “Mike” would make this factually incorrect comment at least grammatically correct, with proper punctuation. Perhaps you might attend some of the Boys & Girls Club after school programs at La Colonia Park….if you know where it is, Mr. Garber?

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