By Rob Davis
Frank Konyn runs a dairy in the San Pasqual Valley.
The narrow country road stretches out all smooth and black beneath the wheels of Marc Lindshield’s pickup, until he passes a sign that reads “City of San Diego.”
Anywhere else, that sign might be a welcome. Here in the San Pasqual Valley, a city-owned agricultural oasis south of Escondido, it’s a warning.
Lindshield’s tires make the announcement: Tha-thunk.
The shoulder disappears. Cracks and breaks spread across the road. Overgrown plants lean into the roadway, waiting to be wacked by side-view mirrors, not maintenance crews. “I ride the center line, just so I don’t take my dog’s face off,” Lindshield says.
Nearly a week after a rainstorm, parts of the road are still flooded – but aren’t posted with the warning signs commonly erected in urban San Diego. “Because they don’t come out here,” Lindshield says. “They say they can’t afford it.”
In the San Pasqual Valley, you could wear a blindfold and still know whether you’re on a city road or not. If it’s smooth, you’re in the unincorporated county or the city of Escondido. If it’s potholed, you’re in San Diego.
I’m covering the District 5 City Council election this week and last, spending time with people like Lindshield, a long-time member of the San Pasqual-Lake Hodges Community Planning Group. I’ve spent all week in the district, which stretches from Scripps Ranch all the way to San Pasqual, San Diego’s northernmost community.
I’ll take the issues and concerns I’ve learned about to Mark Kersey, the lone council candidate, and get him to weigh in.
In San Pasqual Valley, where Lindshield estimates there are fewer than 500 registered voters, it’s easy to see why the area feels like an afterthought. There’s no city sewer, water or trash pickup.
City Hall is closer to Mexico than it is to San Pasqual. The city long ago bought the land up here because of the valuable aquifer beneath it and now leases it to farmers with citrus, avocados, cows, you name it. But San Pasqual isn’t the high-voter-registration power center that commands attention, like Rancho Bernardo is to the south.
Lindshield, 50, is wearing a shirt that reads: Aloha Marc. Educator Entertainer Motivator. He spends more time in Utah now than the valley, but he’s a third-generation farmer there, tends to three plots, and just wishes the city would do a bit more.
“Carl DeMaio came to town with a goal of one thing, and it wasn’t councilman of District 5,” Lindshield tells me as we drive over the rutted roads. “He’s been very successful at one thing: Pension reform. But the roads in his own district? Look at them.”
We stop by a family-owned dairy that’s been running since 1962. Frank Konyn, the proprietor and chairman of the local planning group, greets us. The 39-year-old is in a fluorescent orange zip-up vest; two pens sit in its ink-stained pocket. His gray, button-up shirt is dusty, so are his hands and jeans. His boots are caked with mud.
I tell him what I’m doing and ask him whether he has any questions for Mark Kersey.
“Who’s Mark Kersey?” he asks.
I tell him. His beef, he says, is that DeMaio hasn’t been seen in the valley in years.
“I know we’re small fish in a big pond,” Konyn says. “But are your issues only going to focus on San Diego government or the citizens you represent?”
Lindshield jumps in. He says he and Konyn haven’t heard anything about Kersey. “He’s reached out to us zero,” Lindshield says.
Bob Filner’s office has repeatedly called, Konyn says. So has Dave Roberts, who’s running for county supervisor.
But, Konyn says, and pauses.
“Kersey. You don’t have to come out once a month. But it’d be nice to see the big boss out here every year. Or two.”
Konyn and Lindshield have one big problem with City Hall: Ysabel Creek Road. It’s a half-paved mess that connects the nearby agricultural community of Highland Valley with San Pasqual. Right now, the road is blocked by a locked gate and according to Konyn, the city says paving it would take permits, studies and layers of red tape, because it cuts through habitat of the endangered arroyo toad.
But the road has been used for decades, Lindshield says, and serves as a vital artery for Highland Valley residents during emergencies. Using it would cut seven minutes off an ambulance responding from the north (we timed it). Lindshield says it would’ve been a major help when fire tore through here in 2007.
Two people died in Highland Valley back then. Some homes haven’t been rebuilt. One road is still blackened where flames swept over it. So why, Lindshield asks, does the city insist the road has to meet modern engineering standards — or not be open at all?
“Houses burned, people died, and nobody wants to talk about it,” he says.
|Photo by Rob Davis|
|Ysabel Creek Road|
Konyn says if the city provided $5,000 worth of gravel, he’d spread it himself and help keep the road maintained after rainfalls. That willingness is a hallmark of the community, Lindshield says. People in San Pasqual are happy to be self-sufficient.
Residents aren’t clamoring for more police, Lindshield says, even though theft from avocado groves is a problem. Instead of relying on City Hall, farmers have taken on the issue themselves. Roadside signs shout: GUARD DOGS. 24-HOUR ARMED PATROLS.
But the city can sometimes help. Lindshield would like to see safety work done at the intersection of Old Milky Way and State Route 78. Today, the road drops off there in a way that no car approaching it could see. Shredded tires and busted car parts are scattered across the shoulder there, testament to the danger.
Though they may have a few issues with City Hall, Lindshield and Konyn both love the valley, the sun, the hills, the tranquility. Lindshield waves to strangers he drives past. The roads smell like citrus.
A dairy up the road went bust and today sits empty.
But Konyn has high hopes for his.
Rob Davis is a senior reporter at Voice of San Diego covering the District 5 City Council race this week. Who else should he talk to? What are the big issues? What questions do you have for lone candidate Mark Kersey?
Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.259.0529.
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