May 13, 2005

Groups meet to discuss Chula Vista’s Community Character

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

According to Ed Morris, a senior citizen who has lived in Chula Vista for more than six decades, something negative is going on in Chula Vista.

“I’ve been living in this town since 1941, can somebody tell me what the hell is wrong with it?,” said Morris during a meeting organized by several groups to discuss Chula Vista’s Community Character Alternative.

An artist’s rendition of the Españada Towers.

“We shouldn’t hand [Chula Vista] to a bunch of planners who don’t know what the hell they’re doing,” said Morris when referring to La Españada, two high-rise skyscrapers being proposed as part of the City’s General Plan Update.

About 150 people who share Morris’ opinion met on Wednesday, May 11, to learn more about Chula Vista’s Community Character Alternative and to reaffirm their opposition to La Españada.

The meeting was organized by several community groups, including the Roosevelt Street Coalition, Crossroads II, South Bay Forum, and ACORN.

The Community Character Alternative would reduce potential impacts from the heights and mass of buildings throughout Chula Vista’s General Plan area, according to organizers.

“The City’s own environmental report stated that the proposed General Plan Update has the potential of damaging western Chula Vista,” said Crossroads II President Pat Aguilar.

Present at the meeting was Mike Stepner, a recognized architect that worked for 26 years with the City of San Diego as a planner.

Stepner gave a Power Point presentation where he defined the term ‘Community Character.’

“Cities are in continuos change; you can’t stop that. But you can monitor and enhance the character the community wants to maintain,” he said.

During the meeting, questionaries were passed out to ask neighbors about their input.

Some of the questions were:

1. Name up to 3 things you like most about “Old Chula Vista” –the area between C St. on the north, L St. on the south, I-5 on the west, and Hilltop Dr. on the east.

2. Name up to 3 things you like the least about “Old Chula Vista.”

3. What things do you think contribute most to the character and/or heritage of “Old Chula Vista”?

4. There are currently about 20,000 housing units in northwest Chula Vista. The General Plan Update proposed by the city would add 8,000 more housing units by year 2030, which is an increase of about 40% within 25 years. Do you feel this is a reasonable increase?

According to an independent survey by the Roosevelt Street Coalition, a group of residents who live on a street that would be affected the most by La Españada, 52% of Chula Vistans prefer low-rise development for downtown area, while only 12% said they prefer high-rise developvment.

“The Espadaña towers, as being proposed by the developer, are inconsistent with the Community Character Alternative as they would permanently distort the character of downtown Chula Vista. The city seems willing to give the developer of Españada anything he wants which includes condemning property, dislocating people that live here, and forcing them out to satisfy corporate interests, and not the interests of people who live here”, said Roosevelt Street Coalition member Kent Lansing.

Maria Elena Lansing said that many of the families that live on Roosevelt are Latinos who live on the apartment buildings near the future site of La Espadaña.

Now Latinos who live in the area can attend the meetings because organizers have hired an interpreter, such was the case during Wednesday’s meeting.

“Our neighborhood is mainly composed of low to medium-income families,” Maria Elena Lansing said. “There will not be any affordable housing in Españada. And instead, many families, as many as 40, will be displaced to build this project. Most of them come from low-income families. There’s no other place for them to go here in Chula Vista. I don’t think that’s fair.”

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