ECC Historic Preservation Project

The Educational Cultural Complex (ECC) is San Diego College of Continuing Education’s Campus of Excellence for Career Education and has been serving students—and residents—in San Diego's Mountain View community for more than four decades. ECC’s history began in 1972 when SDCCD and Model Cities, Inc. provided funds to purchase additional lots of the already-donated Preble-Sachem Navy housing on Ocean View Blvd. The purchase created 20 acres available for the construction of ECC. Over the next two years, money was approved by the San Diego City Council, San Diego County, and Model Cities, Inc. to begin construction on the land.

In 1974, several local elected officials and leaders, including ECC’s first President Dr. Lawrence Davenport, Mayor Pete Wilson and San Diego Urban League Leader Clarence Pendleton, participated in a groundbreaking ceremony. By May 1976, ECC had opened and was serving students in programs such as auto mechanics, graphic reproduction, electronic assembly, clothing and textiles, and office skills labs. In 2016, San Diego City Councilmembers David Alvarez, Myrtle Cole, and Marti Emerald issued a proclamation to ECC in honor of the campus’s 40th anniversary.

ECC is the largest of SDCCE’s seven adult education campuses in San Diego and houses the administration offices, including the Office of the President. As SDCCE’s flagship campus, ECC has established a reputation in southeastern San Diego as a vibrant educational and cultural center with rich roots, especially amongst the city’s African American residents. Several important historical events have occurred at SDCCE that have impacted the history of American civil rights. Plaques will be displayed throughout the campus to recognize these significant contributions. Specifically, there are plans to memorialize the following organizations, individuals, and events.


  • Model Cities, Inc. and Founding of ECC: In 1972, active leaders of this organization lobbied SDCCD to build ECC and raised funding for the construction of the land purchase and construction of the building in 1976
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Inc. (Zeta Sigma Lambda Foundation): Organizers of most major events associated with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Weekend in San Diego. Dr. Reverend King was a member of this national fraternity.
  • Common Ground Theatre: Initially founded as the Southeast Community Theatre in 1963 by Mr. Rufus DeWitt and Dr. Robert Matthews, this is one of the first African American theatre groups in San Diego. In 2004, the group was renamed to Common Ground Theatre by Floyd Gaffney, Ph.D., a pioneer of black culture and dramatic arts in San Diego who also served as the Artistic Director for this group.
  • Ira Aldridge Repertory Players: Led by Calvin Manson, Artistic Director, this group has performed regularly at ECC since 1984 with a mission to touch lives by telling stories that portray experiences of the African American community.


  • Whoopie Goldberg performed at ECC in 1976
  • James Avery performed at ECC in 1976
  • Shirley Caesar performed at ECC in 1985
  • Coretta Scott King delivered a speech at ECC in 1985
  • Stevie Wonder performed a concert at ECC in 1986
  • Maya Angelou performed and spoke at ECC in 1987
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson delivered a speech at ECC in 1987
  • Muhammad Ali spoke at ECC in 1987


  • California Commission to establish Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a Federal Holiday: Former SDCCE Provost, Dr. Robert Matthews, hosted a committee and successful campaign that ultimately established the federal holiday in 1983.
  • San Diego Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade: Former SDCCE Provost, Dr. Robert Matthews, and fellow Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (Zeta Sigma Lambda Chapter) brothers organized this annual event out of ECC in 1980.
  • San Diego Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade Pageant: Former SDCCE Provost, Dr. Robert Matthews, and fellow Zeta Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (Zeta Sigma Lambda Chapter) brothers organized this annual event highlighting the talents and intelligence of community youth. The event is held at the ECC theater starting in 1980, where it continues to be held annually.
  • San Diego County Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Education Recognition Breakfast Reception: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (Zeta Sigma Lambda Chapter) has hosted a breakfast on the Saturday before the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday to celebrate educators in the region. This event has been held annually for 33 years since it began at ECC in 1985.
  • San Diego Multicultural Festival: ECC faculty, students and staff consistently support and participate in this event, which was started by Sheila Hardin in 1998 and is now coordinated by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
  • Black History Month Celebration: SDCCE hosts a popular community event annually at ECC in honor of Black History Month.

ECC’s Historic Preservation Committee seeks to have the campus designated as a civil rights landmark. Funding and support is respectfully requested to preserve the history of ECC and to educate the San Diego community about the historic contributions that ECC has made to racial equality and social justice in California and nationwide.

Funding is requested to support five distinct projects that will help the committee achieve these goals:

  • Trophy Cases: Three (3) cases to display dozens of trophies and awards won over many years, primarily for participation in San Diego’s Alpha Phi Alpha’s Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade. (Estimated cost: $15,000)
  • Frames: Fifty (50) frames to preserve and display proclamations, awards, certificates, letters from dignitaries, and other historical documents. (Estimated cost: $500)
  • Sculpture Installation: To preserve and display award-winning works of art (8 separate sculptures) created over the past decade by students and faculty in SDCCE’s welding program at ECC. These art sculptures have been showcased at San Diego’s Alpha Phi Alpha’s Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade. (Estimated cost: $24,000)
  • Plaques: Twenty-five (25) plaques to mark specific locations at ECC as tour stops and to create a digital application (app) that residents of San Diego can download to take a self-guided audio tour of ECC (narrated by Dr. Robert Matthews), a civil rights landmark, which will include detailed information and historical background about the events listed above. (Estimated cost: $12,500)
  • Virtual Self-Guided Tour and Welcome Kiosk: One (1) welcome kiosk with digital capability to show Coretta Scott King’s speech at ECC in a re-mastered video and a historical photo slideshow. (Estimated cost: $5,000)

In summation, SDCCE respectfully requests your support to with a proclamation or resolution in favor of the project. Also, we would appreciate any help us raise $75,000 to preserve the rich historical and cultural legacy of ECC as an important landmark in the history of civil rights in San Diego.

Long-term, ECC plans to raise $25 million dollars to renovate the historic theater, lobby, community room, and adjacent stage dressing room and public restrooms.

Coretta Scott King
President Lillian Beam

San Diego College of Continuing Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization EIN Number 26-3305140. Contributions are tax deductible.