Once again, San Ysidro residents demand safe pathway to high school
August 7, 2015
By Pablo J. Sáinz
Thirteen years since San Ysidro High School opened and more than a year after community residents began weekly walks, San Ysidrans are once more demanding the completion of a safe pathway to the school.
On Friday, July 31st, about 30 local residents with signs like “Safety for Our Kids” and “Cut the Red Tape City,” held a Safety Walk to protest the endless delays in construction of the pathway to the high school.
“It is almost unbelievable that in 2015 in what is the 2nd largest city in the State of California, our San Ysidro teenagers that are San Diego’s teenagers have this dangerous ‘walk’ to school that can turn tragic at any moment,” said David Flores of Casa Familiar, the social services agency that organized the protest.
“In this, our 17th walk we have heard from the community that they have had enough and wanted their voice to be heard and we began these walks to mark a beginning point and an awareness campaign for the City and San Ysidrans to log how long this is taking,” Flores said.
San Ysidro High School students have to walk along a rather small dirt road along old Otay Mesa Road to and from school.
On one side, there’s a deep canyon; on the other side, traffic coming down the curvy hill.
When San Ysidro High opened in 2002, San Diego city officials and area developers made a promise to San Ysidro residents: The city would build a proper, safe pedestrian pathway for students to walk to school.
But it’s been an empty promise, according to Hector Espinoza, principal at San Ysidro High.
“I’ve said it over and over again, and although I don’t want to sound like ‘Pobrecito San Ysidro,’ the city has once again forgotten about our community,” Espinoza said. “This is unacceptable. Ya basta! Enough is enough.”
The principal added that this week for the first time since the high school opened a student reported being hit by a vehicle along the dirt road. The student was able to make it to school, where he told staff about the incident, in which the driver of the car flew the scene.
The timeline of the pathway has been a long one.
In 2007, the City of San Diego told community members that the sidewalk would be built by 2010 or 2011. Then in 2011, San Ysidro High School was told that the project would begin on April 2013.
In January 2014, the city announced the project was fully funded, and scheduled to start in the fall of 2014.
Later in March 2015, the original contractors bid was held, but the contractors were disqualified. The project has now been re-bid, and its costs have increased from an estimated $3.7 million in 2010, to $8.2 million in 2014, to $11.4 million in 2015.
Monica Muñoz, senior public information officer with the Public Works Department, said by mid-September, the city will begin construction of a temporary sidewalk, with main construction beginning in October.
Muñoz said the city mailed a letter, in English and in Spanish, to community residents telling them more about the next steps in the project.
Flores said that the city should have planned better for this already delayed project.
“We know it is a complicated project, however, the City should know that when dealing with a complicated project you should give yourself more time in order to deal with unforeseen conditions and deliver a clear message to its constituents,” he said.
Councilmember David Alvarez, who represents San Ysidro, has been a strong supporter of the pathway.
“The community has been asking for this sidewalk for far too long and is it unfortunate that no bidders met the good effort requirements,” said Alvarez, who has participated in past community walks. “It is taking too long to begin construction.”
Flores said that San Ysidro residents wouldn’t stop protesting the delays.
“We will continue to organize the Safety Walks until the City begins the final project construction, not a temporary fix, but the final safe route to our kids’ school,” he said.