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Jorge Riquelme cuts to the point a lot.
The executive director of the Bayside Community Center in Linda Vista talks in the sort of clear, linear manner that eludes most politicians. He’s not into vagaries. He likes dealing in specifics.
I met with Riquelme Wednesday at Bayside as part of my coverage of the City Council District 7 race and asked him what a new City Council member can do for him and his community.
Here’s what he told me, in his own words. I’ve transcribed three portions of Riquelme’s responses Wednesday afternoon.
Streets and Sidewalks
One example is the issue of pedestrian safety and walkability.
This is an area that has inadequate sidewalks. We have a high rate of pedestrian accidents with fatalities and invariably they involve seniors or the minority population.
That’s an issue that an elected official who is responsive would work with the city to make sure that the resources and political will are in place to make things happen.
Here’s an example: Outside the center here, we have a very dangerous intersection and we serve 300 people a day. There’s a sign that says “No crossing.” That wasn’t there when I came here. The community became deeply troubled about that intersection, so I went to the city.
What city engineers ended up doing was putting a sign there. The only thing it does is protect them from liability instead of solving the problem.
It’s things like that. There are a lot of things that can be done.
Zoning is a hot potato here.
The city has a master plan that’s supposedly rational, but it’s BS. Whoever has more weight, the city zones things certain ways to favor those people.
The zoning for Linda Vista is so archaic, and doesn’t respond to the type of population we have here, or the income-generating opportunities that could happen here.
For example, food trucks. They can’t find anywhere here to set up because of the zoning. They can park over there, in the parking lot of the 99 Cent Store, but Neighborhood Code Compliance comes and fines them. That happens all the time.
You have lobbying groups. Maybe the Restaurant Association doesn’t appreciate the competition from a taco truck that sells their tacos for a buck. I’m not trying to demonize the Restaurant Association, they have a point.
But what it basically means is there’s a need to revise this neighborhood-by-neighborhood. The original zoning isn’t appropriate and we need zoning that’s more responsive, particularly for this population.
We have seniors, the disabled and minority groups and small cottage industries are ideal for this population.
Linda Vista is currently anti-that, and I would love to see our council member address that.
Because of budget cuts, community resources like parks and recreation and libraries have been cut.
But unfortunately, the way the system is structured, it doesn’t allow for devolution of those services to the community.
The community wants to step in and say “we will staff,” “we will volunteer so that we can cover the times that this library will be closed.” But because there are union agreements and other things, they can’t.
I’m very respectful of labor unions, but you know what? We are the city’s clients, not the labor unions.
We need to address that issue: How are we going to resolve that. The unions have their priorities, I get that. But I don’t have a library open on Monday goddamn it!
How are we going to find solutions to those issues?
What’s striking about these three things is that they’re all issues that could essentially be solved with negotiations. They’re all things the City Council could deal with without spending a whole lot of money.
That’s in contrast to what I’ve been hearing elsewhere in the district. Everyone’s concerned about potholes and infrastructure and staffing for community resources like libraries and rec centers. But there’s a subtle difference: In areas like Tierrasanta, I heard demands: Why aren’t libraries being staffed, why aren’t potholes being paved?
But in Linda Vista, Riquelme hasn’t got his hand out. He just wants the City Council to consider some alternatives that would have a positive impact on his community. And he wants his new councilman to represent the concerns he has and to start talking about how the city can change its current procedures to make sure the people he serves are treated better by their city government.
Will Carless is an investigative reporter at voiceofsandiego.org currently focused on local education. You can reach him at email@example.com or 619.550.5670.
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