The Heart and Soul of Clairemont

In 1953, St Mark's Methodist Church opened in the San Diego Airpark Cafe. (Photo courtesy of Archives of St. Mark's United Methodist Church)

By Bill Swank

When I began writing this column in 2014, my goal was to tap into the heart and soul of Clairemont.

I’ve lived here for almost 60 years and frequently heard that Clairemont had neither.

Last December, the Union-Tribune featured over 50 “San Diegans who give the gift of their hearts year-around, lifting our spirits along the way.” None of those fine individuals, recognized for their volunteerism and philanthropy, live in Clairemont.

However, one of the 50 is Steve Olsen, who lives on a ranch in the Highland Valley between Escondido and Ramona. He sells mesquite charcoal and firewood. In 2011, he opened Mike’s BBQ in Escondido. He and his family have generously supported local schools, law enforcement, the military, the Susan G. Komen cancer charity and the Humane Society.

In 2015, a second Mike’s BBQ opened in the Clairemont Village shopping center. If you have a dog, buy your bones at Mike’s. All proceeds from “Bones 4 Homes” go to the Humane Society. Their barbecue and drafts are good, too.

We all have neighbors and friends in Clairemont who volunteer their time and energy for the betterment of our community. They may not have a financial cushion to qualify as benefactors, but, regardless, they deserve to be recognized for their service. Perhaps their disposable income is spent on mortgage payments in lieu of philanthropy.

You know who you are. The people you help know what you do for them. Squaremont salutes you as “The Heart of Clairemont.”

So, where can one find the soul of Clairemont?

I’ve always believed humility should be an essential element of religion. I’m not a Catholic, but the current Pope is a humble man. I am impressed with his concern for poor people.

According to the Internet, there are more than 100 places of worship in Clairemont. Did you know several of our most prominent churches had inauspicious beginnings?

Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, with its commanding view of Mission Bay, can trace its roots back to 1953 when services were held down the hill at Red Sparks Plumbing Shop in Bay Park. Parishioners listened to the mass and prayed while seated on toilets and bathtubs.

In December of that year, St. Mark’s Methodist Church opened in the long-forgotten San Diego Airpark Cafe. The airstrip was soon paved and renamed Clairemont Drive. Today, the church is locally renowned for its stained glass walls.

Another church with a magnificent bay view is the Pioneer Ocean View Church of Christ on Fairfield Avenue. Lloyd Ruocco, father of San Diego Post-War Modern Architecture, designed the original United Church of Christ in 1954.

The Clairemont Emmanuel Baptist Church was formed when Emmanuel Baptist of Pacific Beach merged with Clairemont Baptist on Galveston Street in 1971. The original Pacific Beach church started with small weekly fellowship meetings at the Mission Beach Women’s Club on Santa Clara Point.

Contemporary Modern-style Clairemont Lutheran Church in North Clairemont was designed


by Robert DesLauriers to resemble the open pages of a bible. It was completed in 1966. DesLauriers also drew the plans for Northminster Presbyterian Church on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard near Cole Avenue (1965) and Abu Bakr Siddig Mosque on Balboa Avenue by Interstate 805 (1986).

We also have Kehilat Ariel Messianic Synagogue at 3219 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, San Diego Baha’i Center at 6545 Alcala Knolls Drive in Linda Vista, Rigpa Buddhist Meditation Center on Morena Boulevard south of Costco and the International Society of Divine Love in Tecolote Canyon.

Clairemont’s closest Hindu temple is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (commonly known as Hare Krishna) center on Grand Avenue in Pacific Beach.

The ancient Zoroastrian community congregates on Maynard Street in University City.

Perhaps our most unusual house of worship is Dai Dao Tam Ky Pho Do – Toa Thanh Tay Ninh – Toc Dao Caodaist temple at the corner of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and Luna Avenue. It is modeled after the original “Holy See” temple in Tay Ninh, Vietnam. The yellow in their banner stands for Buddhism, blue represents Taoism and red is for Confucianism. Caodaism recognizes “all religions are one”.

Caodist Temple at the corner of Clairemont Mesa Blvd & Luna Ave. Photo by Bill Swank
Caodist Temple at the corner of Clairemont Mesa Blvd & Luna Ave. Photo by Bill Swank

We should be respectful toward all religions and religions should be respectful toward other religions. In America, we have freedom of choice.

Continue being good to one another. Help a little, old lady across the street.

She will be you some day.


Bill Swank outside the Buena Vista Garden Apartments on Cowley Way in 1955 with East Clairemont in the distance.
Bill Swank outside the Buena Vista Garden Apartments on Cowley Way in 1955 with East Clairemont in the distance.