For more than a decade, a group of mostly Spanish-speaking neighbors in Stockton have been working to address some of the greatest challenges in their community.
There aren’t enough street lights. The area’s unpaved roads become a muddy mess when it rains. There aren’t enough stop signs and lights to slow traffic on main streets. San Diego police don’t patrol enough and parking enforcement officers rarely show up to ticket vehicles blocking driveways.
I was invited to their meeting this month as they prepare to move into a more formal meeting space at the Stockton Recreation Center. But for the past years, they have met at each other’s homes where members cook sopes and serve cafecito and agua fresca for those in attendance.
The group is not affiliated with the city. It’s just a few dozen neighbors who have successfully advocated for resources: new stop signs and more street lights.
On Thursday, staff with Council President Sean Elo-Rivera’s office recognized some of the members for their volunteer work. The group met outside member Brisa Layna’s home, which is across the street from the street light the group advocated for — it’s the only light on the block. Still, she had to install a standing work light so everyone could see.
Layna told me they want things that other neighborhoods have, so they still have a lot of work to do.
“It’s been difficult, but it has also been a good fight,” Layna told me in Spanish.
About Stockton: Stockton is bordered by two freeways and the neighborhoods of Grant Hill and Logan Heights. Its population is mostly Latino and the area is predominantly residential, with some mom-and-pop shops.
There’s a tremendous sense of community and love for the neighborhood among those in the group. They organize cleanups and educate one another on using the city’s Get It Done app to report graffiti, illegal dumping and parking issues.
Mireya Ochoa, who has been with the group for 15 years, she’s proud of the work she has done with the group. She plans to continue advocating for public safety concerns. She wants more police officers in the community. Most in the group echoed that request.
I found the request fascinating as some neighborhoods debate how to balance public safety concerns with tensions over officers over-policing certain neighborhoods. Just last week, I reported how members of a planning group in Barrio Logan quit over that debate.
Layna told me she understands some communities feel a certain way about police, but that her neighbors want more police. They especially want more parking enforcement, she said.
A San Diego Police Department community relations officer joined the group on Thursday to report crime stats for the area.
After the meeting ended, Minerva Taboada, who has lived in Stockton for 22 years, showed me how dark it is on her block. There are no sidewalks or roads. Ten years ago, she tried to collect signatures to petition the city to install street lights, she told me.
“I just gave up,” she said, because nothing happened.
Her block is unpaved and turns into a muddy flooded mess when it rains, she said. Her husband recently laid a large piece of turf in front of their driveway to prevent water from flooding their cars. They dug two paths in the dirt to redirect rain water into a large open field next to their home.
She has volunteered with the group for community cleanups, but Thursday was the first time she made it to a meeting because she got off work early. She was happy she made it so she could talk about the need for more lights again.
More Chisme to Start Your Week
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- Our Lisa Halverstadt reports that the city of San Diego has set aside more shelter beds for police referrals. She explains what that means for shelter access and homelessness-related enforcement in a new story. Read it here.
- Related: The city has opened its second safe camping site. Voice of San Diego intern Hannah Ramirez reports that the city planned to move 21 clients in and more than 120 people are on a waiting list. Read her story here.
- ICYMI: We’ve uploaded all the discussions from Politifest 2023 on our site. They are free to watch. Visit our Politifest hub here.