Photo by Joseph Paguio Photography
For many native San Diegans, the growing spotlight on the history and culture of the Convoy District is personal. Wesley Quach said he has fond memories of visiting the area to shop for groceries, celebrate weddings, going to work and more.
“The transformation of the Convoy District over the years has been amazing,” Quach said. “As a native San Diegan, Convoy has always been a part of my life. I would hope that new visitors have a sense of appreciation when visiting the Convoy District, for how great the district already is and the potential that it has.”
New visitors will get that chance this week when they’ll spot six new Convoy Asian Cultural District freeway signs that will be installed along Interstate 805 North and South. The Convoy District is a neighborhood that spans 1,600 acres and is home to more than 1,500 businesses, many of which are Asian-owned.
The freeway signs come after two years of work by the Convoy District Partnership, a nonprofit organization made up of volunteers such as Quach. In 2020, the area was officially recognized as the Convoy Pan Asian Cultural and Business Innovation District, which allowed for the nonprofit to work with California Department of Transportation to install the freeway signs.
From May through June 2022, the Convoy District nonprofit raised $31,000 from community members and organizations to fund related community programming in the Convoy District as well as purchase and install the freeway signs.
“These signs rightly identify and celebrate the Convoy’s rich cultural traditions and history, and signify to visitors and locals that this is one of San Diego’s hubs for AAPI-owned businesses,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “This is an important milestone for this neighborhood that would not have been possible without the consistent support and advocacy of community leaders and businesses here in the Convoy District.”
Tim Nguyen, co-chairman of the Convoy District Partnership, said the signs will promote smart growth and development, and advocate for more public investments in the area, such as parks, bike plans, open spaces and transit.
“These new freeway signs will help promote visitors and customers to Convoy businesses, which have experienced financial hardship throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nguyen said. “We also know these signs will help foster new investment, entrepreneurship, and community events in Convoy, which has organically grown to become the heart of San Diego’s diverse 433,000-plus member AAPI community.”
Community leaders said freeway signs are used to distinguish important historic, cultural and commercial districts. In San Diego, freeway signs identify Little Italy, the Gaslamp District, and Little Saigon, among others.
Quach reflects on the work of Tom Hom, the first non-white person and the first American of Asian descent elected to the San Diego City Council in 1963.
“I look at the work Tom Hom did in the Gaslamp Quarter in the 70s as an inspiration for what Convoy can become,” Quach said. “There are so many things I want to see in the Convoy District over the next 15 to 20 years, many of them happening concurrently.”
Quach said he hopes to see improvements to parking, mobility and walkability. Two properties are also being redeveloped into residential apartments, which will make the district a live-work neighborhood. He also wants to find a permanent spot for the popular Night Market and a food hall.
“I hope to see more San Diego-grown businesses start and flourish here in the Convoy District,” he said.
For now, Quach and Nguyen are grateful to the community for its investment in the Convoy District.
“As a native San Diegan with family having small businesses in the area and even having my wedding in Convoy — it means a great deal not only to myself, but my family, the people I grew up with and the community,” Nguyenn said. “Many thanks to over a hundred folks for making this happen.”
For more information about the Convoy District, go to convoydistrict.com.