By David R. Shorey, East County Program Manager, Institute for Public Strategies
Photos courtesy IPS
March 4, 2023 (Lakeside) -- For almost 20 years, the Lakeside Community Collaborative has worked to enhance the health and safety of Lakeside residents. The Collaborative is made up of representatives from schools, law enforcement, chamber of commerce, public health organizations, and everyday Lakeside residents. Through monthly meetings, the group shares information and coordinates activities to address important issues facing Lakeside. This includes assessments of community conditions that could lead to substance use and abuse.
A “Walking Woodside” community assessment was conducted by the Lakeside Community Collaborative on a Saturday morning in February 2023. IPS was joined by a representative from the San Diego County Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities and a member of recently formed Lakeside Amity Group. We walked both sides of Woodside Avenue, between Winter Gardens Boulevard and Maine Avenue. A distance of about 1.4 miles.
The goal of the Collaborative was to not only conduct the assessment, but also encourage community engagement. We hope that this endeavor will bring awareness to issues like alcohol retail density. By physically walking down this street and taking in the environment, we were able to better identify with our own eyes, potential areas of concern. What we found was more than concerning, it was outright scary.
We found litter almost every step of the way. The entire street is lined with it. Or it was in a bag hanging on the back of a bus bench or leaning up against a fence. The back of a bus stop bench was broken off and laying on the ground. Another pair of bus stop benches were pushed out of place and onto the sidewalk, painted over in graffiti. There were vacant buildings with chain link fences lined with litter and weeds. There is a lack of sidewalks or designated walking paths and narrow bike lanes. We found drug paraphernalia, disposable vapes and their discarded packages, nitrous oxide canisters used for getting high, an empty male enhancement drink bottle, cigarette boxes and cartons, empty beer, wine, and liquor bottles. In fact, the entire street, in front of every business, is littered with various empty alcoholic beverage bottles. The graffiti is on business signs, pillars, signal controller boxes, and bus benches. There is plenty of unattractive signage. The street is lines with vertical flags and banners frequently used to advertise for a business were tattered and illegible.
This vibe can probably be traced back to the number of police-regulated businesses along Woodside Avenue. In the short time we surveyed the area, we came across several liquor stores, vape and smoke shops. Too many for the small area they serve. There were several other adult oriented businesses including a massage parlor, a tattoo business and a brewery. All of these businesses that cater to adults are comingled with the new library and the school district headquarters. The mix of businesses along Woodside Avenue also includes a child daycare center and preschool, a nonprofit that helps youth, and a church. Woodside is also walked by many residents accessing the skate park and Lindo Lake County Park. It’s a collision course between properties that are family friendly versus businesses that aren’t. Kids on their way to and from school are walking past dilapidated adult-oriented locations that are rife with blight.
It’s time to make sure Woodside Avenue is safe for families and kids. It’s time to make the area walkable. We found almost no designated sidewalks on the stretch of street we assessed. We had to walk in the bike lane or in landscaping or parking lots. That’s too dangerous. We need to follow the lead of groups like the Maine Avenue Revitalization Association whose focus is just one block over. Maine Avenue always looks clean and well kempt. Just like small-town America. In the meantime, the Collaborative can work to organize and host a community clean-up on Woodside Avenue.
We can contact the Safe Routes to Schools Program at the U.S. Department of Transportation in an effort to make the thoroughfare safer for school kids walking to and from campus. We can limit alcohol retailers by adhering to regulations from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. We can urge the ones remaining on Woodside Avenue to make sure their employees are properly trained with Responsible Beverage Service training. We can reduce youth access to alcohol and urge law enforcement to run minor decoy operations. We can continue to do more assessments and follow-up efforts to keep our goals on track. We can offer Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design consultations to business owners.
If you want to improve Woodside Avenue, please contact me. My email is email@example.com or phone (619) 476-9100 x109. As long as the community gets involved and we keep the conversation going, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish in Lakeside.
IPS works alongside communities to build power, challenge systems of inequity, protect health and improve quality of life. IPS has a vision for safe, secure, vibrant and healthy communities where everyone can thrive. To find out more about IPS East County, follow us on our social media platforms: IPS East County Facebook, IPS East County Twitter, and East County Youth Coalition Instagram. Our website is at IPSEast.org. Resources and services are available to assist with screening, treatment, and recovery for individuals with a substance use disorder. The Access & Crisis line is available year-round, 24/7 at (888) 724-7240.