STEPHANIE KLEIN for Lemon Grove City Council

Stephanie Klein

Stephanie Klein is running for Lemon Grove City Council. The 40-year-old Independent works in real estate, with a background exclusively in customer service management in diverse types of businesses, from the corporate level, owned her own client relationship business, working with many businesses as their client relationship representative. Klein has a master’s degree in business, with an emphasis on communication and entrepreneurship.

The San Diego native has lived in Lemon Grove since 2018.

“I am really excited to practice my education and experience, not only in my brokerage, grow in my professional setting, but synonymously with the city, take those skills and make our city grow in a healthy way and make sure we are all taken care of in a healthy way,” she said.

Klein said during the COVID pandemic she noticed that though most people were in quarantine, there were many people outdoors in the community. She said along with her husband Joshua, they were compelled to find ways to get involved in the community, starting with trash pickup events. She said they wanted to learn more about the city’s government. Hosting a large trash pickup on Federal Boulevard with some major sponsors, she said city staff came, friends, and they both felt that they had support in the community.

That inspired them to host a daily trash pick up at the Lemon Grove “Lemon.”

“From 6:30-9 a.m. every morning, where we would pick up trash, learn about each other, create fellowship and community, help our businesses reopen, with a sense of unity, and bring down the vandalism that then, was happening every day,” she said.

Klein said they discovered said this experience organically grew with people from all walks of life coming together under one mission. To make Lemon Grove thrive and grow again.

“What inspired me to run is this incredible group of people really got behind me and said, ‘You are capable, you have the skillset,’ ” she said, adding that she has worked in various capacities from corporate to small businesses.

“Twenty-five years of customer service in my lifetime, professionally, I am able to transfer that energy over to our community through service,” she said.

“And listening, acknowledging, and exploring with them what really matters to them so that we can bring it to fruition at some point, either from a school board, city government, community, or staffing perspective.”

Klein said after getting together at the City’s goals and priorities planning, as a community they equally unified in defining four areas of focus that the city should work on to repair the state of the city and move forward and grow stronger as a community.

“These priorities are public safety including repairs and traffic calming, addressing our vulnerable populations, which is homeless and otherwise and finding how we can meet their needs in the best way, enhancing our community life and finding out what we can do together to bring our communication internally from the city, externally to the constituents so we can operate on the same page, as well as support our parks, open spaces, creating an open space to have more city or private events,” she said. “Really embrace the beautiful community that we have with the rural city feel we have in Lemon Grove.”

Klein said the last priority is economic development, supporting the city’s businesses, welcoming new businesses.

“Figuring out from a community management perspective, what is taking permit processes so long, what is keeping us from opening more businesses, why businesses are frustrated and closing, and why is our community and neighbors afraid to come into Lemon Grove and support our businesses,” she said.

Klein said the city needs to boost its economic development to drive the money back into the city and continue operating in a healthy way.

Klein said with infrastructure, there is no reason to “reinvent the wheel,” and there are many ways to repair the city streets. A pavement management program would allow the city to have more sidewalks. She said the city is currently holding a lengthy survey on sidewalks, take a lot of time and money, but when it is done, she will voice her opinions on accomplishing street repairs sooner than later.

“The timelines, and one of the reasons I am concerned with how the city is operating today is that we have not timelines to pair with our intentions and solutions to solve or resolve anything that is going on in our city,” she said. “There is a general timeframe, but in the business world, you must put a specific time of when it will be discussed again and continue moving forward until it gets completed.”

Klein said the city needs to meet current expectations and hold the city manager and elected officials accountable for meeting expectations.

Klein said regarding the homeless, the city has a single, part-time, contracted outreach service with the nonprofit Home Start.

“I realized while participating in our daily trash pickup, and doing static and homeless outreach, that these people were not being supported by what we already have implemented. What I discovered is that this homeless outreach gets paid a lot of money, and they come out once a month on a Monday, to make sure that our homeless have what they need to be successful,” she said. “They are not spending the time that is necessary, in my opinion, to discover the true needs to the homeless population. And find out and be present when they are ready to accept services or talk to somebody, to deliver that. It has been a wild hunt to find single points of contact, to get a phone call back.”

Klein said she partnered independently with around 20 different nonprofits that currently offer homeless resource services from intake facilities and get the homeless more opportunities. She said she works with her church, and with around 33 churches in Lemon Grove, working together, utilizing this form of philanthropic, volunteer, service work of the clergy to build a Power of the Shower experience, like is done with the East County Homeless Task Force. Klein said the goal is to have this program live in January 2023.

“This will be a one-stop-shop where people can come in and get clean, get some food, talk with an expert on services, get mental health counseling, and put them on a path to success, and set them up for the next time we will see them,” she said. “It is important for them to know that we are there for them, establish trust, and let them be the driver of what they need in their live versus us pushing something on them that they are not comfortable with.”

Klein said she thought the city government had an idea of what community life and experience looked like, but it does not, and the community must show up and speak for themselves.

“We have a neat multicultural city with people from everywhere living in Lemon Grove,” she said. “It is an honor to get up every day and see such a diverse group of individuals cohabiting together and doing it well.”

Klein said one of those experiences, hosted by the community, for the community, was the first Citrus Festival, which was a great experience for the community for all ages.

“With community development, economic development automatically receives a boost,” she said. “You have people excited to come to new businesses that are opening.”

Klein said building more housing along the transit corridor is “not a terrible idea,” understanding that the city is growing, however she said she does not feel safe bringing in 1,800 units along that corridor without any accountability for the activity that is going on in that space.

“We have public transportation with the MTS trolley. We have a great MTS bus system, and we have many people coming here that may not live here already,” she said. “The influx of people has caused concern from a safety perspective. I understand the housing pressure that SANDAG is putting on everybody. We have room, but we have to design it with care and compassion. I would empower our planning commission to look further into details of safety, and what that truly means by inviting that influx of people into our community. How the current community will receive our flow of traffic if we get more people here. Traffic lights are not working right now. Some have been out of commission for over six years.”

Klein said she is not against affordable housing, but that affordable housing is a relative term.

“What is affordable to you and me may not be affordable to another person,” she said. “We need to find out what that number is and make sure that developers are not taking advantage of our city… and are actually putting housing that is affordable to live in.”