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Community group brings change to Casa de Oro

Report from the Casa de Oro Alliance

March 9, 2016 (Casa de Oro) -- The increase of higher risk and illegal businesses in the neighborhood has lit a fire of enthusiasm for Casa de Oro residents and businesses alike. Instead of turning a blind eye or becoming apathetic, nearly three dozen multi-sector community members have united to strategically develop an action plan for revitalization efforts in the Casa de Oro community.

The Casa de Oro Community Alliance has met monthly since October to discuss issues that range from illegal dumping and graffiti to illegal businesses, public drunkenness and crime.

“When a problem is experienced by one person, we know that many more – sometimes hundreds -- are impacted by the same issue,” said Bob Yarris, co-chair of the group. “It took a little organizing and outreach to get us all together. But you know, Casa de Oro translates from Spanish to “House of Gold.”  We aim to make this a golden place to live for our children and grandchildren,” Yarris said. “We are rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.”

Rolling up sleeves is literal in this case. One of their first undertakings will be a community clean up of the Casa de Oro community, beginning with the business district where they say most of the nuisance complaints are generated.  

Another meeting is planned for Thursday, March 17 at 6:00 p.m. Please contact the IPS East County Community Change Project at 619-476-9100 x109 for more information.

“We will take a look at the cause of loitering, littering and drinking outside of retail stores,” Sonya Heiserman, a member of the group and long time resident. “We have lived long enough with neighborhood problems and we are examining the root causes.  Together, we will focus on solutions,” said Heiserman.  

For now they are focusing on a one mile stretch of the business district in Casa de Oro, from the 9400 block to the 10,000 block of Campo Road.

Some members have grown up in Casa de Oro or have lived there for decades. Participation is increasing as they rally their neighbors, reach out to other groups and recruit business owners who reside, or do business in the 6.9 sq/mile area that encompasses the community. Membership also includes representatives from the adjacent neighborhoods of Mount Helix, members of the Grossmont Mt. Helix Improvement Association, and several business representatives including those from Albertson’s and Gitano Pizza.

Sheriff’s deputies are working with the Alliance to help combat issues such as alcohol sales to minors and to adults who are already intoxicated, illegal marijuana dispensaries, and nuisance related issues.   

“Casa de Oro already has a saturation of liquor licenses,” said Marco Garmo, Captain with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. “Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon to have issues around alcohol establishments, particularly when training has not been required for those who are responsible for selling or serving alcohol,” Garmo said.

The San Diego Sheriff’s Department is working with the Institute for Public Strategies and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to address training issues for employees of all liquor establishments in the area.”

“All alcohol retailers should refuse to serve or sell alcohol to minors and people who are obviously intoxicated,” Garmo said. “More education and enforcement are needed to bring irresponsible businesses into compliance.”

Even more concerning, violent crime has been linked to overconcentration of alcohol establishments, so according to it is a top concern for the Alliance.

Spring Valley, the unincorporated community in which Casa de Oro lies, ranked highest of the seven unincorporated communities in San Diego County in both 2010 and 2013 for violent crime per 1000 population.  It ranked second in 2014, the most recent year the data is available. It also ranked highest for property crime in 2010 and second in 2014, according to SANDAG.

The Alliance would like to secure funding for additional compliance checks and enforcement efforts, for beautification projects and to find ways to bring more desirable businesses into Casa de Oro.

“We have lived long enough with the problems and we refuse to be the dumping ground for illegal businesses who don’t care about quality of life the way we do,” Yarris said.


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