Lemon Grove has two seats open in the upcoming November election, with Council member Jennifer Mendoza running as an incumbent, and an open seat being vacated by Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Jones.
Jessica “Jessyka” Heredia is running for City Council. The 48-year-old Democrat is a 24-year business owner in East County, and a native East County San Diegan. Heredia owns a hair salon and has lived in Lemon Grove for a year-and-a-half. Heredia is the president of the Lemon Grove Forward Club and a Team Lead in organizing the Citrus Festival. She regularly volunteers with the Lemon Grove Improvement Council. She was a member of the Community Advisory Committee for the City of Lemon Grove’s 2022/2023 budget.
“I wanted to run because I saw my city was in desperate need of better attention and more of an innovative approach to business and things today that the current council is not addressing,” she said. “It is a very old-fashioned approach there. We need an image redo. Our city looks bad in the way the City runs its business at its City Council meetings. I saw a repetitiveness of disconnect, and as a business owner, I have some bright ideas of how I can regenerate Lemon Grove.”
Heredia said as a business owner, her top priority is to clean up the business district, cleaning up its image, making it clean and safe so neighboring communities will come and shop in Lemon Grove.
“Instead of us going into our neighboring communities and spending our tax dollars there, we could really help revitalize our economic impact by making our business district nicer, making people want to shop there, which will attract other businesses, bigger businesses to come that want to set up shop here as well. That would increase our revenue,” she said.
Heredia said everyone she talks to wants safer streets, and notices that the city repairs streets that are already nicely paved, but the community is “crying out” for all the bad streets to be paved.
“One of the things that I would like to see is to make that our top priority as a city,” she said. “We have neglected our infrastructure long enough, and the longer we neglect the infrastructure, the more costly it becomes, which burdens our budget, which is already tight. We need to address these things quicker than later. It is a backward philosophy. I know that is how cities run, but that does not mean that it is right.”
Heredia said she wants to see safer streets, round abouts, stop signs, and get with the community to find which streets are impacted.
“We have had children hit in the streets. I have heard of people twisting their ankle in front of their own home, so I would like to see that addresses because it is important to the community,” she said.
Heredia said City Council needs to regain its trust within the community, which will increase the city’s transparency, communication with the community, and be better at showing accountability of funds.
“Be a little bit more open to discussing what we are spending our money on,” she said. “When I go to the meetings, I find a little bit of pushback from the City Council. They do not want to address the city’s issues or talk about it at the meeting when people come to them with public comments. They also do not always return emails and I think that does not help the city. It makes more problems for the city in the way the community feels. Like when they wanted to raise the sales tax, it did not pass, because people did not trust where their money was going.”
Heredia said if Council would listen more, reach out to the community, overall, it would benefit the city.
Heredia said in combatting homelessness, the city should do some contracting with the East County Homeless Taskforce and Home Start.
“I would like to see more partnerships with more groups,” she said. “I advocate for PATH because they are a big proponent in getting services to these people. They are a big organization, so they have a lot of power in getting those services, knowing where to locate what they need. We should look at getting more money from the County. Our city has its fair share of homeless. There is probably only so much that we can do as a city and a community, but if we get more resources, obviously that is more helpful.”
Heredia said the city needs more affordable housing, but affordable housing is a term that many people misuse and misunderstand.
“Affordable housing does not necessarily mean that it is affordable for everybody, and we need to do a better job in creating housing for the lower incomes, as well for the lower middle class incomes. They are the ones suffering right now,” she said. “If we are going to address homelessness, we must address those who are about to be homeless. Because I love the business side of things, I love the model of retail at the bottom and housing at the top in a mixed-used format. By doing that, it makes it a nice, walkable community. I would like to see the designs of those buildings fit into the look of Lemon Grove. I do not want to lose the charm of the old Lemon Grove. Like Portland. They make their new apartments look like the older houses.”
Heredia said the Lemon Grove Recreation Center needs to be addressed.
“I am a big proponent of opening the rec center on the weekends to the public,” she said. “With either free or low-cost programs should be offered. In this day and age, we need to find the opportunities for our youth to be engaged in our community and mentored for a brighter future. We are not doing that. Not even at City Hall, let alone for our youth. Even if it is a minimal amount. They started this pilot program on Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and that is a wonderful start. But I would like to see them extend that for Sundays as well. People are coming and enjoying it. The more that we advertise that as a city, and show the community that it is there, more people would come to it.”
Heredia said she is a proponent for Parks & Recreation, creating more access for families, because many of them are looking for free or low cost things to do on the weekend, and get out of their homes. “We have been on lockdown long enough. It is time to get out and have some fun,” she said.
Heredia said that she did not have a definitive opinion on the $27 million Lemon Grove School District bond measure, but that she trusted residents to make the right decision for the school district.
Heredia is a native San Diegan. She said her parents came here during the Vietnam War, owned a print shop in La Mesa, and that is how she learned how to be an entrepreneur and a fighter for small businesses. Heredia has a daughter, a recent graduate from Cal State Fullerton, and is doing social work in nonprofits.