One of my favorite things about raising two children and volunteering in their schools ha
One of my favorite things about raising two children and volunteering in their schools has been getting to know many families over the past 12 years. Through the PTA and PTSAs at these schools, parents have worked with teachers and staff to bring improvements to the campuses in the form of programs, services, and equipment/supplies. I have seen first-hand, the positive outcomes achieved when people work together because they care about their school and community. For that reason, I want to discuss something that impacts us all as residents of Casa de Oro: the deterioration of the Campo Road business district, how it impacts our youth, and how we can bring about change if we work together because we care about our community.
When my husband and I chose Casa de Oro as our home seventeen years ago, there weren’t many empty store fronts, liquor stores, smoke shops, or boarded-up windows that are so prevalent today. My neighbors and I felt pride in home ownership and felt pleased to raise our children in a healthy community having a variety of businesses making Casa de Oro almost a “one stop shopping” center. Spring Valley residents who grew up in Casa de Oro 20 years or more ago remember fondly the variety of family-friendly businesses including a bowling alley and a dinner theater which no longer exist in our community.
The worst part about it now is the kids. The kids who attend the seven schools in the one–mile radius of Campo Road—the ones who walk along the street to and from school every day—don’t know how it could be along this corridor. They don’t have the memory of the Casa de Oro of the past. What they do see are 11 liquor stores, two smoke shops, a lot of trash, broken windows, and weeds growing through the cracks in the parking lots and sidewalks.
Why is this happening? Because Casa de Oro is an unincorporated community, we don’t have a city council to hear our community voice about the character of our community and what we want or don’t want. The Community Planning Group reviews businesses for planning details only. It doesn’t have any teeth for violations or neglect after the fact. Several new businesses have opened their doors over the past five years and add to the positive character of our community. But many more are needed to balance out the high-risk businesses and the vacant businesses that line the Campo Road corridor.
It’s time to realize our community matters and to turn deterioration into revitalization. Until there is an adequate process where conditions can be required through a permit with the means for the County to work with businesses found out of compliance, and a penalty for non-compliance, we risk more of what we are experiencing. Approval of higher-risk businesses such as liquor stores, smoke shops and bars should take place through a public process, allowing for resident feedback. Conditions placed locally would help ensure new businesses are consistent with the character of the community that residents want and need. Without this type of process in place, unincorporated areas become fertile ground for high-risk businesses that can compromise the quality of life for residents and the vitality we desire in our neighborhood.
Some of us are coming together to strategically identify what we can do collectively to improve the conditions in our neighborhood. We already know that the Casa de Oro community is where we want to live, work and play. We want to examine the steps we can take in moving toward a better community. Business owners, parents, residents, law enforcement, code compliance and high school students have begun meeting monthly to learn what other communities are doing to address these types of problems, including safety issues related to alcohol.
We hope you will join us too. Our next meeting is Thursday, November 12 at 6 p.m. at the Casa de Oro branch library, 9805 Campo Road, Spring Valley 91977. Contact the East County Community Change Project at 476-9100 Ext.109 for more information.
Lisa Stewart is a community advocate and 17–year resident of Casa de Oro. The East County Community Change Project, a project of the Institute for Public Strategies, is funded by San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency, Behavioral Health Services.
Casa de Oro