Maybe we’ll see growth in the migratory pattern from San Diego to Northeast Philadelphia.
“I grew up in San Diego, where I literally only owned one pair of long pants and they were for funerals and weddings,” Valdez, 30, says, noting his casual uniform of shorts and T-shirts. He attended San Francisco State University and had to buy some more pants. Then “I relocated to Northeast Philadelphia where I need long pants a good chunk of the year.”
And though he says he’s debating between setting up shop on the Lawncrest commercial district of Rising Sun Avenue to help build it up or moving to somewhere like Mt. Airy to join an already thriving community, he, his wife and son aren’t leaving Philadelphia anytime soon.
Below, the founder of the Philadelphia Community Development Resource Center talks about settling down in the Northeast, why neighbors may be the best brain drain prevention tool and more.
What brought you here from San Francisco? Any lessons to be
I think a lot of West Coast people romanticize the East Coast and vice versa. For my wife and I, we wanted to experience living somewhere new.
The housing crisis in California gave us the impetus to reverse the path of our westward-bound ancestors and head east. Tactically speaking, Philadelphia was affordable, centrally located between New York and Washington, and looked like it had a lot going for it. Worst case scenario, if we ended up hating it within a year or so we’d just mosey on somewhere else. We ended up loving it.
I guess the better question is, why Northeast Philadelphia? I get that question a lot, particularly from people who live here. We originally picked here because the house I found has a big backyard for my dogs, a double garage, and a fireplace. We’re staying because our neighbors have become like an extended family. I couldn’t even tell you the name of my neighbors growing up in California. Here it is like, once you’re accepted, you’re getting cookies, plates of food, people are always trying to lend you a hand and invite you over. I’ve never met so many good people as here in Philly. Now when I talk to my wife about maybe moving to another neighborhood with more amenities she gives me a look that shuts me down.
Was there a specific event or moment when you realized you wanted to make this your home?
I don’t know if there was a specific event but we probably felt completely settled sometime after my wife and I married in Niagara Falls and she had a couple years under her belt teaching in the Philadelphia school district. She loves her job and her school.
While she was working I finished my bachelor’s degree at Drexel [he finished work started at SFSU], worked a bit in property management and started in at Penn State for graduate work in community development. Along the way we had a baby and my brother followed along and moved here as well. It is possible we could move to another neighborhood in the future but unlikely we’ll ever leave Philadelphia.
When someone visits from out of town, what are the first places and events you show them?
I used to give tours but I stopped because everybody wants to see something different. I tell people to look up what they want to do online or in a book and send me their ‘wish list’ beforehand. Then I organize a tour around what they’re interested in. This way everybody’s happy. Well, except me when I go see the Liberty Bell for the thousandth time.
When you are out of the region, how do you describe Philadelphia?
Philadelphia is an alien planet to many Californians so it isn’t easy to describe. I’ve explained it before as a place with a lot of potential but some self-esteem issues. That isn’t too far from how I describe myself, actually. I’ve been here about five years or so and I am still trying to figure this place out. There’s always something new to explore here and
always some great people to meet.
In a (tweet) sentence, why do you love Philadelphia?
History, food, people, sports and future. #whyilovephilly
What are you working on right now?
My project the Philadelphia Community Development Center (@PhilaCDRC) is looking for volunteers. You can fill out an app on the website. Currently I’m trying to build a coalition of graduate and undergraduate students to act as an extended workforce for area nonprofits and community groups. I’ve been really happy with the steady stream of volunteers so far. Big things are coming down the line so stay tuned.-30-
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