By Barbara Zaragoza
Wells Fargo representatives presented a $244,645 check to non-profit Casa Familiar at San Ysidro’s Los Niños playground on Thursday, September 29th to fund the park’s first phase of rebuilding.
Park space is an important issue for San Ysidrans because the neighborhood has the least number of green areas within the county. The Los Niños playground, which was built in the 1960’s, hasn’t been upgraded since then and funding came about only thanks to the private sector.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer attended the check presentation and said, “We’re just getting started in all of the great things that we have planned. It’s part of what I feel very strongly about, which is one San Diego to make sure that every neighborhood and every community is getting resources, is getting support and is getting opportunity for our families and for our children.”
David Alvarez, Councilmember for District 8, was notably absent from the event. In his latest newsletter, however, he wrote, “The City Council recently passed the Mayor’s proposed budget. While there were many things in this budget worth supporting, from increased library services to police and fire training academies, there was something missing. When I look at how our City CIP budget breaks down as far as allocation of resources across Council Districts, I can’t help but notice that the neighborhoods that I represent are receiving less than 2% of that funding.”
Two years ago, community activist Janett Gaytan was determined to see the playground rebuilt. Located in the heart of historic San Ysidro, she asked Casa Familiar to get involved. Casa Familiar then applied for the UrbanLIFT grant, an $11.4 million Wells Fargo community program that helps with neighborhood improvement projects in 25 cities. They won the grant and the upgraded playground is expected to be ready by June 2015.
A group of about fifty San Ysidro residents gathered to participate in the event. Girl Scout troop 5912 was also present and, in an interview, troop leader Irene Barajas said, “I have sixty girls in the troop. I have girls from low-income families. I have girls whose moms hold two jobs that they don’t have transportation. We can get here by walking.”
Barajas was winner of the 2014 Abrazo Award, given each year by Casa Familiar to notable members of the community. For the last five years her Girl Scout troop worked at extensive cleanups of the Otay Valley Regional Park and now they will turn their attention to the Tijuana River Valley.
She said, “We do a lot of community service and through Casa Familiar we’ve done a lot of activities at the Civic Center. The girls will ask me, “Can we go and play?” They want to come and play in the park, but there’s not enough play equipment.”
David Flores, Community Development Officer at Casa Familiar, will be working with the city to manage permits and other issues. He explained, “This is going to be a project that’s probably going to be 12 to 18 months in construction. It’s a long-term project where we are really going to see this whole area change completely.”