January 20, 2006

New Watch Group is created in Chula Vista

Northwest Civic Association to focus on development issues

By José A. Álvarez

For the past two years, two Chula Vista groups have been actively monitoring and voicing their concerns on the City’s plans for new developments and redevelopments. They will soon be getting help from a third watch group. The Northwest Civic Association is being created to keep an eye on the City’s new General Plan, which calls for an increase in housing units in the Northwest, Chula Vista’s oldest and most historic area.

More than 100 people attended the civic group’s first meeting at Chula Vista Lion’s Club, including Chula Vista councilmembers Steve Castañeda, John McCann, and Patricia Chávez. During the meeting, the group established several committees and developed a mission for the association, which will be to:

• Inform residents and property owners about land use issues and impacts and provide a voice to voice their views and concerns on those issues;

• Survey residents and business owners on improvements they wish to make or organize and develop strategies for implementing them; and

• Work with City officials and other groups to have dialogue about northwest Chula Vista.

“There’s a lot of change coming,” Earl Jentz , one of the founding members told the crowd. “We need to get the voice of the community up front before decisions are made.”

The Northwest Civic Association is an extension of the Roosevelt Street Coalition, created by Jentz one year ago to oppose the construction of a high rise in H Street in downtown Chula Vista. The group, which operates with funds from Jentz, argued that high-rises would deteriorate the area’s character and would bring more traffic. The Coalition gathered thousands of signatures and pressured the City Council to withdraw its support for the project. The Council abandoned the project and is now supporting mid-rise buildings for the area.

Now with the City poised to begin the approval process of a detailed new land use plan, which is expected to shape the redevelopment of the entire northwest area and bring up to a 40 percent increase in housing, it is now more important than ever, Jentz said, for community groups to voice their opinions and encourage the City to implement a meaningful participation process. The plan, which is know as “Urban Core Specific Plan” is expected to specify the types of businesses, offices, or residences to be allowed into existing buildings and new infill projects. The northwest region of Chula Vista encompasses the area north of L Street and west of I-805.

“The goal of the Association is to inform the people so that they can tell us what they like and we can voice that back to City Hall,” said Jentz, adding that with the creation of this new group the Roosevelt Street Coalition, which has about 20 members, is likely to “fade away.”

“All this new development will obviously have enormous impacts on Northwest Chula Vista,” Susan Watry said in an email to the more than 400 members of Crossroads II, a community grassroots organization which, together with the Roosevelt Street Coalition, has been busy monitoring land development issues and other issues of great concern for the residents of Chula Vista.

Crossroads II is involved in the ongoing discussion for the development of the Chula Vista’s bay front and is watching closely the City’s general plan update.

“We anticipate establishing a close working relationship with the Association, just like we did with the Roosevelt Street Coalition,” added Watry, a Crossroads II Steering Committee member.

Elected officials also hope to establish a good working relationship with the new group, which pledged to be non-political and only get involved in development-related issues.

“There really is a lot of decisions to make...and the most important thing is that your voice is heard,” Castañeda told the group, guaranteeing them that their concerns “will be listened to.”

“I will do anything I can to help you succeed...because, after all, I work for you,” Castañeda added. “I will work very hard to make sure you have the support of the city.”

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