On June 8, Justice/Overcoming Boundaries, a community-organizing group, hosted a neighborhood forum at St. Mark’s Church in Chula Vista. About 100 residents turned out to discuss neighborhood empowerment and participate in three breakout groups: transportation, immigration, and safe communities.
The concerns of the safe communities breakout centered around Diamond Jim’s bar on Third Avenue and Wild Wooly’s Saloon on Broadway, both on the west side of Chula Vista. Residents who live in the vicinity of these bars complain that their homes and streets are unsafe. Residents stated that patrons of the bars had fired guns, urinated, or left broken bottles or condoms in their yards. They also complained that many patrons drive under the influence.
Wendy, who lives on Ash Avenue, recounted a gang initiation that recently took place in front of her house. She described the violence as terrible to witness.
Pandra, who lives on Church Avenue, held up a bag of spent bullet casings collected from her front yard and said, “I can’t believe that the mayor and city council are up in arms about a strip club when these violent gang-related activities are going on.”
Pandra said her neighborhood used to be one where people walked their dogs in the evening and children rode their bicycles, “but now people hide in their houses as soon as night falls.” Pandra says she pays San Diego Gas & Electric for her own streetlight.
Three representatives of the city were on hand for the neighborhood-safety portion of the meeting: chief of police David Bejarano, Cpt. Gary Wedge, and Emily Novack from code enforcement.
Before turning the microphone over to Bejarano, the group extracted several promises from him. Bejarano said he will notify the bar owners that they are responsible for the action of their clientele, will work to make the codes clear and enforceable, will maintain more patrol presence on the street after nightfall, and will meet with the concerned residents often.
Bejarano told the assemblage that the department has had more enforcement on the streets surrounding the bars between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. He also advised them to contact Roxanne Kennedy, who works directly with the community.
Bejarano asserted he believes in community engagement. Captain Wedge said, “We can’t be there all the time” and safety was “a joint effort.”
The Chula Vista City Council’s Public Safety subcommittee began to look into the issue late last year but the committee was dissolved, for at least a year, by the council.