By David R. Shorey, East County Program Manager, Institute for Public Strategies
Photo, left: Casa de Oro Fall Festival 2018, courtesy IPS
October 10, 2019 (Spring Valley) - There is no better way to celebrate autumn than Casa de Oro Alliance’s Fourth Annual Fall Festival Nov. 9 at the Spring Valley Academy. The festival is a signature event for the community and highlights a neighborhood alliance that has been successful in tackling alcohol, drug, crime and neighborhood blight issues.
The free family event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will feature shopping, vendors, games, prizes, entertainment and food trucks. The campus is located at 3900 Conrad Dr., just up the hill from the Campo Road business corridor. More information about the Fall Festival can be found at www.casadeoroalliance.org
The annual Fall Festival is part of a bigger plan by the Alliance to create a historically rich, culturally diverse and thriving community that is attractive, safe, pedestrian friendly and a popular destination for dining, entertainment and shopping.
The all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is celebrating the revitalization efforts to balance business interests with community needs while promoting health, safety and improved quality of life. The once-blighted neighborhood is being transformed into an area that is cleaner and more family-friendly.
The Fall Festival will include a community resource fair intended to connect the community with organizations and services that are in alignment with the County’s Live Well San Diego initiative focused on building a healthy, safe and thriving San Diego County.
The Alliance was formed in 2015 with the help of the Institute for Public Strategies to address the large number of alcohol-related businesses, vape bars, smoke shops, marijuana retailers and other high-risk, adult-oriented businesses along the Campo Road corridor.
The Alliance recently received its 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, which followed the secretary of state’s designation as a California Public Benefit Nonprofit Corporation. The Alliance is led by an all-volunteer board of directors and a community advisory group. They work closely with other regional community groups, business owners, county lawmakers, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, County Code Enforcement, the County library system, and local school districts.
Hundreds from throughout the community have participated in the meetings, which take place on the third Thursday of every odd month. Check the web site for location. The group is made up of residents, businesses, churches, schools and nonprofit organizations and regularly stages community cleanup events along Campo Road. The Alliance estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 people have participated in their activities in the years since its founding.
Efforts Bear Fruit
The Alliance’s work bore fruit when the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) awarded a $500,000 grant focused on facilitating a Casa de Oro resident- engaged plan to improve the Campo Road business corridor.
The money is part of SANDAG’s Smart Growth Incentive Program and funded by the half-cent Transnet tax. It’s being used to design a framework called a Specific Plan to upgrade and overhaul the area.
“We desperately need a specific plan with comprehensive design guidelines to put an end to the chaotic, unorganized proliferation of high risk adult businesses,” Alliance President Bob Yarris said.
“We will transform Casa de Oro into a model example of how a determined, committed, concerned and yes, at times very angry, vocal citizens group can improve the quality of life and make a lasting, smart, positive neighborhood difference for generations to come.”
Components of the Specific Plan include specific building, design, and development guidelines to shape the character of the business corridor, and establishes a framework to guide future private investment to transform the area into an inviting, compact, walkable and bikeable environment.
Campo Road is prime for more compact, higher density development and good community-oriented design. The revitalization efforts will balance the needs of business, community and land use planning by considering innovative risk-related business policies that would require existing and new alcohol and other adult-related businesses to maintain higher operating standards than currently exist in San Diego County regulations.
These innovative policies have shown great value in promoting strong, healthy businesses by creating a fair and level set of guidelines for all businesses to operate by.
Most recently the work on the Specific Plan took a giant step forward with the selection of Michael Baker International as the consultant that will help guide Casa de Oro residents and the County of San Diego through the development of the plan.
Community Involvement Is Important
The success of a community effort is only good if the community is involved. Residents of Casa de Oro as well as those who visit, shop, or are otherwise supportive of the revitalization of Casa de Oro are welcome to get involved.
The website is newly refurbished and provides a wealth of information for local residents, businesses, the faith-based communities and visitors. Also on the website you can read and subscribe to the quarterly newsletter that the Alliance publishes.
While on the website, Casa de Oro residents are encourage to participate in an online survey to give input from the community on what they hope to see improved and their thoughts on a potential gateway sign over Campo Road.
You can get involved and stay involved with the Alliance by attending the general assembly meetings at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of odd months at Faith Chapel on Campo Road. Sign up for the newsletter on the web site or contact the Alliance by email at CasadeOroAlliance@gmail.com.
While there is still a lot of work to be done, the Casa de Oro Alliance is a golden example of what a community can harvest when it comes together, digs deep, plants seeds of vision, and tends and waters them with lots of work.