Over the past 7 days I’ve invested a lot of time and energy in my work as the Rolando Community Council’s president. Nearly all of that energy has been an attempt to rally resources to move the needle towards solutions on homelessness in Rolando.
I’ve had limited success. But I’m not done. Not by a long shot.
The Lay of the Land
Rolando is a gem of a neighborhood. As you head east on El Cajon Boulevard, we are the last San Diego community before you get to La Mesa, which is the unofficial capital of East County San Diego. We’re a pocket community– definitely not suburban yet not quite as urban as the rest of Mid-City San Diego. There’s a lot of charm in the mix of post-World War II single homes. It’s very walkable, complete with a series of catwalks which are little sidewalks connect different parts of the neighborhood with one another. The eastern half of the community has tall trees and unique street lamps. Most importantly, the community is made up of wonderful people who have found this little pocket community, love it dearly, and enjoy it with all its quirks and riddles.
At the same time, the City of San Diego has long neglected our quaint village. Perhaps because we’re too nice, perhaps because we’re on the edge of the city, or just perhaps for no reason at all… things just don’t get done around here by the city without us raising up arms about it.
And that neglect has become more acute of late. Our former city councilperson essentially didn’t do her job for the last 2 years of her term as she unsuccessfully ran for Congress. And the person currently in that office is brand new to politics, more enamored with shiny policy’s with Dr. Seuss-like titles and pet projects– bike lanes used by less than 1% of city residents– than he is with the meat and potatoes work of a city: Paving roads, picking up garbage, replacing aging infrastructure, and working on the city’s biggest challenge– homelessness. More specifically, the ancillary damages the unhoused population leaves behind along with the criminal behavior that’s infected that community.
Frankly, community members are tired of inaction by the city on all sorts of issues but they are most up-in-arms about the city’s utter lack of care for the aforementioned homelessness issue. The city has approved a 10-year, $1.9 billion plan to work towards solutions. This amounts to nearly $25,000 per homeless individual in the latest count for 10 years! (All without, you know, getting homeless people into permanent housing. That’s just a program cost!)
What’s at Stake for Rolando?
Here’s the deal: Rolando residents love their community. But they are, at an increasing level, coming to the natural conclusion that the city doesn’t care about this community, they are tired of dealing with the issues caused by the city’s neglect, and they are deciding to leave the community they’ve loved and invested in for decades for greener pastures.
You see, it’s not that this community lacks compassions or empathy. We know city budgets take a long time. We know it’s not just Rolando or San Diego or Southern California dealing with “the homelessness issue” it’s all the West Coast of the United States. But when you’re on the front lines of it and you see the politicians, veneers smiling for the cameras opening yet another park while ignoring yours which has been unimproved for decades, or knowing that community members have painstakingly submitted thousands of complaints about the damages caused by homeless individuals and NONE of them have resulted in an iota of change— even the most compassionate and empathetic person is tempted to move on.
And move on they do. One by one we’ve seen for sale signs pop up. Families who moved to Rolando just a handful of years ago have seen their property values spike, they are taking the money and moving to communities without these problems. But it’s also long-time residents, too.
Change is a normal thing for a neighborhood. City neighborhoods like Rolando are transient by nature. We’ve lived here since 2009 and we’ve seen people come and go. But this migration is something different. It’s not just that those people’s lives have changed or their work is transferring them to another state: It’s that they just can’t deal with it anymore.
Mix into that the nearly daily letters we are all getting from real estate investors offering us double, triple, or even more of what we originally paid for our houses and… quite frankly… the clock is ticking on this pocket neighborhood.
That’s what is at stake for Rolando right now. That’s why my early mornings, after hours, and weekends are spent pulling whatever lever I can get with the city of the county to try to get some relief.
I’m not YIMBY or NIMBY. I’m not Republican or Democrat. My political party is Rolando. What matters is my neighbors.
And, ultimately, that’s what is at stake.