The south west community of Chula Vista has always felt that city hall has payed more attention on Eastlake and Otay Ranch and has forgotten about west Chula Vista where you and I live. In November of 2016 you elected me to Chula Vista City Council to make sure we get the attention we deserve. I have lived in south west Chula Vista for over 50 years and I understand the needs of our area very well. In fact, since you elected me, thousands of NEW feet of sidewalk have been added to south west Chula Vista.
I have also worked hard to rebuild our recreation centers and parks. Many miles of street have been resurfaced and we have fixed hundreds of pot holes. I have worked to reduce police and fire response times. For years we have not met our police and fire response times. This year, through a lot of hard work, we have finally met our fire response times. We still have some work to do on lowering police response times, but much progress is being done. We are hiring many new police officers that will help us lower response times.
Streets - Sidewalks
Streets and Sidewalks have always been important to the southwest community. I often hear folks from the Montgomery annexation period say we were promised sidewalks, which never came. Since I’ve been in office, thousands of feet on NEW sidewalks have been added. I have received a commitment from city staff to update our pedestrian sidewalk master plan. This new plan will prioritize the construction of new sidewalks in south west Chula Vista. I will continue my work to find and secure funding for more sidewalks for south west Chula Vista.
Police and Fire
Police The Chula Vista Police Department has not met it’s Priority 1 response times in well over a decade. Historically, every candidate for city council has promised you to reduce police response times and that public safety is their priority. I have worked hard with our city staff and City Council to hire more police officers and support personnel to help bring down response times. By April on 2020 we will have 124 patrol officers and by August of 2020 we’ll have 144. With all the new police officer hires, we will get the response times down.
In our district (District 4, south west CV) we typically have just as many illegal pot shops as we do 7-11’s and StarBucks. Because the San Diego County District Attorney’s office often fails to prosecute these illegal nefarious operators, the city has had to use civil action to evict operators from their place of business. This method is extremely slow and because the operators make so much illegal money, they can fight us and slow the process to a crawl. I have been the most outspoken council member to demand we start up a neighborhood prosecution.
The voters approved Measure ‘P‘ in November of 2016, which increased the sales tax in Chula Vista by 1/2 cent. This sales tax increase is used strictly for replacement of failing infrastructure, like roads, city facilities, parks, vehicles, communications equipment, drainage culverts, and much more. A majority of the street repair work has been focused in south west Chula Vista. Generally speaking, most of Measure ‘P‘ funding is spent on projects in west Chula Vista. During my first term in office, I have fought for more street funding, and we have certainly received more than our share. During my first election, voters told me that they wanted to see all the pot holes gone. In the last two years we have repaired hundreds of streets and repaired many pot holes.
One of my top priorities is to add new sidewalks to our already existing neighborhoods. Many of our streets do not have sidewalks and I have heard your cries for sidewalks. I have let our city staff know that one of my priorities is to add new sidewalks in south west Chula Vista. This year alone, we have added thousands of feet of new sidewalk in south west Chula Vista. Yes, there is still a lot of work to be done, but we are certainly moving the needle. My plan is to keep looking for funding opportunities such as CDBG, Safe Routes to School and other funding sources. A new funding source is SB-1 which is designated for street rehabilitation. The good news is with SB-1, and Measure ‘P’ as a good funding stream for road repairs, we are really starting to improve our roads. We measure our roads by PCI ( Pavement Condition Index), where 100 is a perfect road and 0 (zero) is crumbling. SB-1 allows us to use SB-1 funding for other related projects, like sidewalks, if our PCI reached an average of 80%. We are close a reaching 80% PCI. When we do, we will be able to use SB-1 funding for sidewalks. My plan is to fight for SB-1 funding when we reach the 80% PCI threshold.
Police and Fire
Public safety is government’s top priority. Every citizen should feel safe in their community. For eleven years the Chula Vista Police Department has not met its response time requirements. This problem had been kicked down the road for many years. I promised the community that I would make public safety my top priority, and I did! We educated the community on why they should approve a half cent sales tax for police and fire services and on June 5th 2017, the voters approved the new tax.
Measure ‘A’ is raising about 18 million dollars a year and it is being split evenly between police and fire. The funding is only for new police and firefighter positions.
The new tax will allow Chula Vista Fire and Police Departments to provide faster responses to 9-1-1 emergency calls, increase neighborhood police patrols, reduce gang and drug-related crimes, address homelessness, and improve firefighter, paramedic and emergency medical response times, and in fact it has. The fire department for the first time in years is meeting it’s response times. We do have some more work to do on the police side, but will will reduce their response times as we hire new police officers. The reason for the delay in PD’s response time improvement is because it take much longer to recruit and train police officers.
Measure ‘A’ will allow 43 police department positions to be filled: 29 officers, agents and sergeants and 14 civilian positions such as dispatchers, community service officers and background investigators.
On the fire side it will bring 36 fire department positions including a deputy chief, fire captains, firefighter/paramedics, firefighters and a public education specialist.
Our police department has been understaffed for many years. Before Measure ‘A’ the police department had 11% staffing than it did in 2008 when the city population was 9% lower.
One of my priorities in policing is to make sure we have the resources to implement proactive policing. Our police officers need to have time to create relationships with the different neighborhoods, organizations and local businesses. With the decline in time and staffing the city saw a 54% decline in officer initiated calls for service. These officer initiated calls are where the officer spends time patrolling the beat and sees something suspicious. Well, since the 54% drop, the city also saw a 41% decline in felony arrests. This means we have are not taking criminals off the street due to a non-existent proactive policing program. At the same time we also saw a decline in traffic citations which resulted in a 28% increase in traffic deaths and injuries.
We are now hiring many new police officers and I feel we can reduce police response times in the very near future.
Graffiti is a big problem in southwest Chula Vista. When I was elected to the council in 2016, the city only had one graffiti abatement person… for the whole city! Since, then we have built that team up to three people. We call this team the ROW Team. It’s because they focus on the public Right of Way. The goal is to be able to quickly remove any graffiti from public property. Even with a team of three, it’s difficult to clean it all up, but we are working to build up the resources to tackle this problem.
Prosecuting folks that tag is difficult, but our police department uses technology to track and inventory tagging. When the PD finally catches up with a tagger, they can tie all the damage they did and then charge them for all of the damages.
We are currently experimenting with ways to reduce tagging on heavily targeted walls. Our Cultural Arts Department has been working with local artist to paint murals on walls that we have identified as main targets for taggers. The first mural was created and painted by the MAAC Project. We picked the wall at Orange and Palomar. At the same time, we added landscaping and walk ways and really beautified that area. They took local artists and with public input created a theme for the mural. In March of 2019, the mural was completed and since then, there has been no tagging of that wall. Five months later, we have just finished an even bigger wall. This wall runs along the Bayshore Bike Path and intersects the west end of ‘L’ Street (the very end of ‘L’). This wall is about one thousand feet long and the mural is about 650 feet long. The wall is another heavily tagged wall. With the success of Orange and Palomar, we are now looking for other heavily targeted walls to other murals.
In south west Chula Vista we have aging parks which need updating. Additionally, we also have homeless taking over some of our parks. I have been working to clear out the homeless and to give the parks back to our residents. The strategy requires several steps. First we have to provide more lighting in our parks. Lighting seems to drive the homeless out at night. we also need to provide a reason for the community to go to the parks, which means we need to make sure we provide amenities that the community is seeking in our parks.
What I am doing
Lauderbach Park – The city has contracted out for the design of a lighted soccer field at Lauderbach Park. This new field will do several things. First it will drive the community to the park. The heavy use, coupled with night lighting will drive the homeless out, which will make the park feel safer, which will draw more people through out all hours of the park’s operating hours.
The second thing I have done, is to reopen the recreation center at that park. We will have two different non-profits operating from that facility. those non-profits are: South Bay Community Services (SBCS) and Love Thy Nieghbor.
SBCS will be providing the following services:
Youth Drop-in center
Resident Leadrship Academy
Family Stabilization Services
and many more services.
Love Thy Neighbor is a non-profit that is creating change through community-driven art initiatives. Love Thy Neighbor currently serves over 10,000 people in need annually including senior citizens, students, inmates, immigrants, refugees, orphanages, and homeless in San Diego and Tijuana.
These two non-profits are a great fit at Lauderbach parks. This park sits in the middle of District 4 which makes it very accessible to every member of the community.
The Harborside neighborhood and park is an area that my office spends a lot of it’s time. We work closely with the elementary school, the community and area businesses.
The location of the park lends itself to attracting the homeless. It is somewhat hidden from residential and it is behind several big box stores like Walmart and Costco. Residents do not feel safe going to the park. The restrooms are used to shoot up drugs and other illicit activities. To cut down on some of those activities we pushed to have the full length stalls in the restrooms cut in half so that criminal activity could be more easily exposed. Next we added remote video cameras which police officers can view through their city provided cell phones. This allows our police officers to monitor the area without having to actually drive through the area. Since the city police force is so low staffed, this video system creates an efficient way for our PD to keep an eye on the area. I am currently working to slowly remove the gazebo. The gazebo is mainly used by the homeless and with the gazebo being the gateway to the park, residents do not feel safe walking through that area. Removing the gazebo eliminates the shade, which the homeless use all day.
Recreational Drone Park
I will be working with city staff to make Harborside Park a recreational drone park where recreational pilots can fly drones. The plan is to keep the park open at night where drone racing would occur. Racing is typically done at night.
Homelessness is a problem in every community and Chula Vista is no exception. I believe the City is doing a good job dealing with the homeless. Can we do better? Absolutely! Before I talk about my plans to address the homeless, let me first talk about our current efforts.
Our PD along with non-profits, faith based organizations, San Diego County Health and Human Service and others use the HOT (Homeless Outreach Team) model that revolves around building a rapport with the homeless. Most homeless tend to deny any social service offered to them, and frankly, it is not illegal to be homeless. So, we cannot force this segment of the population to accept any service offered.
Our HOT team goes out into the field every Tuesday. They begin the outreach by doing a briefing with all the stakeholders and discuss any changes with any of the known homeless in the area. They then will reach out to those identified and try to find out why the change in their routine and also try and get them the help they need. When a homeless individual breaks the law, the HOT team will investigate and will use that incident to try and get them the help they need. This works best when there is a relationship between law enforcement and the individual. I like the program, but I know we can expand it.
One of my goals is to work with non-profits to build transitional housing in the south bay area. I have ideas of where we can build such a facility and partner with not only non-profits, but with other public entities. I see this as a weak link in our homeless problem. During my term we have also approved increasing staffing for our HOT team.