Government, The Neighborhood Files

Mow Your Lawn or Face a Fine

A new code compliance program for the city of Imperial Beach starts next week. Those who don’t clean up in time will face fines.

By Albert Fulcher and Khari Johnson | Email the authors | November 30, 2010

Paint your fence, trim the hedges or face a fine.

That’s the idea behind a new program for the city of Imperial Beach Code Compliance Division approved in August by the City Council.

Starting next week, inspections will be carried out by code enforcement officer David Garcias and a part-time employee.

Inspections will begin in the city’s southeast corner then gradually head west. The first area of inspection will be between 13th and 15th streets, south of Imperial Beach Boulevard and north of Grove Avenue. Letters will be sent out to homeowners and tenants ahead of inspection.

Residents will have four to six weeks to comply before facing fines.

“We’re literally going into neighborhoods, property by property inspecting for the most common violations,” he said, “multifamily, lower income neighborhoods.”

Up until now, code compliance violations were only handed out when the city received a complaint. This will be the first proactive compliance campaign in IB history, Garcias said.

Residents found in violation will first be given a warning and if they aren’t home, a door hanger will be left behind.

If the problem isn’t solved, then they will receive a letter in the mail and given an additional two weeks to respond. Then a notice of violation will be sent to the owner and tenant of the property before receiving a fine.

Code enforcement officials will be looking for things like junk and debris in the yard or overgrown vegetation. If you have a fence with boards missing or chipped paint, that may also qualify as a violation.

“If you say I can’t fix the fence, I don’t have the money, you can take it out,” he said. “You don’t have to have a fence. But if you have a fence, you have to maintain it.

But, he said, there’s no exact timeline and extensions can be offered.

“As long as we get the communication and they give us a date by when they’re going to do it, that’s what we’re looking for,” he said.

Initial results and feedback will be reported to the City Council in April 2011, at which time Garcias hopes to finish the first of 30 areas of inspection.

“It’s a test for us too,” he said. “We may have to go back to the council and say this isn’t possible without more staff. It could potentially draw attention away from violations in the other 99 percent of the city.”

Dan Studebaker has owned his home in Imperial Beach for seven years. He said there are many other positive reinforcements that the city can do to accomplish code enforcement without going door to door looking for infractions.

“It does not help the community,” he said. “Lots of people will be pulling money out of their pockets to pay fines, leaving them less or none to improve their property. There needs to be more money flowing to the residents, rather than it being taken away from them.”

Studebaker said that his neighborhood doesn’t have a homeowners association and if it did, he wouldn’t live here.

“I want my neighborhood to look nice,” he said “but not constrained by city codes. If the city is hurting for money, what position do you think the people of the community are in?”

Rick Bradaender, a 33-year resident, said this has always been a nice quiet community and that his house is his own responsibility.

“I don’t want people coming to my door,” he said. “Send the code enforcers to the homes of the City Council first. I would get rid of Garcias and vote out the City Council.”

“There are other ways to better the community.”


Volunteers in the News

A Lemon Grove Tradition: Thanksgiving at the Grinder

Grove Grinder restaurant provides home-cooked Thanksgiving meals to local military, law enforcement and firefighters.

By Albert Fulcher | Email the author | November 25, 2010

Thanks to the Jones family, a homemade Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings is waiting for active-duty service members unable to be home for the holiday. The owners of the Grove Grinder restaurant have issued an open invitation to local on-duty law enforcement and firefighters as well, who would like a warm home-cooked meal during their shift on Thanksgiving Day.

This is the fifth year the Grove Grinder has opened its doors to those who are far from home because of military service or who must work on the holidays to help keep Lemon Grove safe.

Grove Grinder’s sandwiches, homemade salads, award-winning chili and root beer collection are no secret to Lemon Grove. And neither is owner Sharon Jones. But, on Thanksgiving Day, “Grandma” or “Mom” turns the restaurant with the small-town atmosphere into a home, for a moment, for those working for the community and ones too far away to be with family.

Jones said it is family tradition to share their holidays with those in the military, giving them a home away from home. Her late husband, Chief Petty Officer Robert Jones, devoted his career to the Navy.

“My husband died in March of 2005,” she said. “He was in the Navy for 25 years. We always had military over for the holidays. It was my son Skeeter who said we should move Thanksgiving here with an open invitation to military who can’t make it home, still honoring the tradition.”

Skeeter Jones has worked at the Grinder since his parents purchased it 10 years ago. “My mom and dad always had servicemen at the house,” he said. “I thought it would be great to include our family tradition by doing it at the Grinder. For my mom, it helped us all.” He said the family decided to open the invitation to the law enforcement officers and firefighters too.

“We thought about people in the community having to be away or working on Thanksgiving, the sheriffs and firefighters, so we invited them too,” he said. “Working all day, it gives them a nice place to come. They are welcomed and we have plenty of food.”

Sharon and Robert Jones purchased Grove Grinder in 2000 because they loved the food and had been eating there for years. The restaurant has been a part of Lemon Grove’s history since 1972. “One day I rode by and saw a ‘being sold’ sign, went home and got my husband and bought it that day,” she said. “We opened on April 1, 2000. Our children thought it was an April fool’s joke.”

Sharon Jones said she loves carrying on the tradition and is excited about Thursday. Their everyday menu will take a one-day holiday, but they have everything ready for creating a traditional homemade Thanksgiving dinner. Last year, she said, they served around 125 guests. Many others just stopped to say hello after seeing all of the Sherriff’s patrol cars and fire trucks parked outside.

“They come in shifts, which is great,” she laughed. “We make lots of food. Turkey, dressing, sweet and mashed potatoes, rolls, pies and cakes. We personally invite some of our regular customers that we know that do not have family to share Thanksgiving with. We all love doing things for the community.”

For two years now, Sandy Arnold has worked at the Grinder and is a 20-year friend of Skeeter Jones. She said even though she has known and loved the family for so long, working there was a completely new experience. “This will be my first [Thanksgiving] and I surely plan on coming by and helping out,” she said. “I have been adopted by the Jones family. It helps me just being here. And Mom is amazing.”

Sharon Jones moved to Lemon Grove with her family in 1986. A member of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, Fleet Reserve Auxiliary, American Legion and the Soroptomist International of Lemon Grove, Jones dedicates much of her life to community service. Many of her fellow club members come to help with the Thanksgiving feast, rearranging the restaurant with larger tables and adding extra touches to help guests feel at home.

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time the Jones family uses the restaurant to aid the community. Every second weekend of every month the restaurant makes a special home-recipe barbecue and offers free meals to local on-duty law enforcement and firefighters.

During the 2003 wildfires the Grinder provided hundreds of bag lunches for people affected by and fighting the fires. The restaurant also participates in (and often wins) Lemon Grove’s annual Western Round-Up and Chili Cook-Off, which is a fundraiser that provides food, clothes and toys for needy Lemon Grove families.

Three generations of the Jones family have worked at the Grinder: Jones, her late husband, her three children and six grandchildren. The whole family has contributed to its success, notably the root beer collection. “We all love root beer,” Sharon Jones said. “My son decided that we needed lots of root beer. We went on the Internet and found suppliers. My granddaughter made a ‘rate your root beer’ chart, so that customers could see which brand is most popular. People come all over just for the root beer.”

The Grinder carries more than 50 brands of bottled root beer from microbreweries across the nation. They also carry many other bottled favorites, including orange, grape, black cherry, and vanilla cream soda, and also the old-fashioned Pepsi in a bottle.

“We try our best to find ways to be unique and give the community a reason to eat here in Lemon Grove,” Skeeter Jones said. “We want to be a part of Lemon Grove as long as possible.”

Sharon Jones said the Grinder has undergone many changes in the past decade. Skeeter Jones grows organic vegetables for the restaurant’s use, providing fresh seasonal vegetables all year round. They acquired a space that was formerly an antique store next door seven years ago and converted it into a dining area. Walls are decorated with plaques and antiques. Shelves line the dining room with old-fashioned collectibles.

“The theme here grew on its own,” she said. “It started with a Campbell’s Soup pot given to me. Much of the collection has come as gifts from friends and customers. Antiques for sale come from people within the community. I feel rewarded that it has grown this way and it gives it a nice homey feel.

“Just remember, when you want a real sandwich, come see Grandma,” she said.

The Grove Grinder is located at 3345 Olive St. Doors open at 11 a.m. Thanksgiving Day and closed between 7 and 8 p.m.

Long days journey into long night for SWC candidates

Post Election 2010

By Lyndsay Winkley and Albert H. Fulcher 

Published: Thursday, November 11, 2010

After long afternoons of phone banking and early mornings walking door-to-door, the journey for three Southwestern College Board member challengers and their legions of supporters culminated in one epic election night.

It was 7:30 p.m. at the Hernandez residence.

“It has been a rollercoaster until today,” said former Southwestern College President Norma Hernandez. “I woke up this morning and I didn’t know whether I was numb or dumb. But it doesn’t matter whether I win or lose. I will continue to fight for reform for Southwestern College.”

Hernandez chose to spend the evening with those “near and dear,” including several SWC faculty, staff and students. She said the credit for her successful campaign was owed to her family and friends. While awaiting poll results, Hernandez, with a lot of help from her 93-year-old mother Angelina Arce, kept busy speaking with every person, while simultaneously making sure everyone was fed and cared for. If not for the balloons and t-shirts scattered through the crowd, a stranger might think they had walked into a family reunion.

“My campaign team is my friends and family,” Hernandez said. “These people have supported me through the years. It has been a remarkable experience working together and I could not have done it without them.”

8 p.m., first poll numbers roll in.

 People were huddled around the television and the computer was constantly refreshed for the latest numbers. Circles of people gathered from the front door to the back patio. Finally, the first results were in. A quick homemade news anchor announced the numbers.

“Hernandez – 15,000, (pause) Salcido (another pause) 12,000.”

A blast erupted from the crowd, shaking the house. Hernandez began the “Cha cha cha” in the kitchen followed by hugs, cheers and tears. A celebration began.

Shortly after, at 8:15 p.m., another celebration was raging.

There was enough energy within Phil Lopez’s home to fill Golden Hall. Faculty, classified and students were mingling with the kind of ease that hasn’t been experienced at SWC for years. Lopez, faculty union secretary, hosted a campaign party for faculty and staff to support the union endorsed candidates.

When election numbers came through the excitement buzzing through the air was almost palpable.

Andrew Rempt, English professor, stood in front of the crowd and read:

“Norma Hernandez at 53.9 percent, Salcido at 46 percent! Tim Nader at over 40 percent! And a close race between Jesseca and Terri.”

The applause was deafening but it was trumped by a fevered “victory” chant.

Family and friends shared their thoughts at 8:30 p.m.

Hernandez’s nephew Gabrien Sastorena is a business major at SWC. He said that he volunteered to help with her campaign and has been knocking on everyone’s doors to support her.

“She wants to give students and teachers more priority,” he said. “Right now we are not getting that.”

Sastorena said students are not the focus of resources and the education at SWC. He said class cuts were not good for the students.

“I hope everything changes and that teachers can get back to normal,” Sastorena said. “She is not accepting what is going on at SWC and is coming back to change everything and put everything back in order.”

Hernandez left the house party to make an appearance with her running mates Nader and Saenz-Gonzalez at the Lopez home. All three candidates accepted invitations and met there to thank the faculty and staff for their support.

At 9 p.m. the “fabulous three” arrived at Lopez’s home.

The three candidates were immediately engulfed by supporters upon entering the door. Cheers from every side were deafening. Faculty union president Andy MacNeill hushed the crowd long enough to announce the arrival of the “fabulous three.”

“We had three great people step up to the plate,” he said. “They stepped up to the plate to save Southwestern College.”

Reading poll numbers, Hernandez was now ahead by more than 3,000 votes. People broke out singing “ding dong the witch is dead,” followed by laughter and cheers.

Nader had no idea what the results were when he walked in the door. Right away, two teachers pulled him aside to say he was doing great in the polls. Although he had been awake since 3:30 a.m. dropping off a final round of literature, his smile was evident.

 “What a wonderful bunch of people,” he said, looking around him. “This is what I’m doing it for. For the students, for the teachers, for the community.”

White t-shirts showing support for Saenz-Gonzalez were so numerous they absorbed the flash of cameras continually clicking all night. Little clusters of white were seen in every room, illustrating the support Saenz-Gonzalez received throughout her campaign. Although she was down in numbers, her commitment to SWC never wavered.

“Even if I don’t win I am still going to make sure change happens at this college,” she said. “I will be there every step of the way.”

Hernandez spent her time speaking with her running mates and going through the home thanking all of her supporters for their help and votes. As the night when on, she was comfortable enough with her victory to spend the remainder of the evening with friends and family at home.

At 9:30 p.m., Nader sit-down with student volunteers.

At a picnic table in the backyard, Nader sat down to speak with his student volunteers.

Christiana Dunlop said after hearing the candidates speak at a student meeting she felt it was imperative to get involved.

“Listening to what the candidates had to say really inspired me to read about it and inform myself,” she said. “I picked up an issue of The Sun and… I was just disgusted. Disgusted would be the best word about everything that was going on.”

She was soon offered the position of student volunteer coordinator for Nader’s campaign. Being involved in the process opened her eyes about the misinformation being spread throughout the community, she said.

“Just talking to people door to door, people don’t really know,” said Dunlop. “They really aren’t aware about what’s going on in their community. There was so much misinformation about the whole election. It was startling.”

Nader said he would have liked a little bit more of everything during his election push, more time, more money, more volunteers. He is excited about making changes at SWC.

“We have an administration that lacks the confidence of the teachers, lacks the confidence of the students, clearly lacks the confidence of the community,” Nader said. “I think that’s reflected in this vote. (SWC also) lacks the confidence of the accreditation commission. We need to address that.”

Golden Hall, 10:30 p.m.

With enough light to challenge Las Vegas to an electricity bill contest, Golden Hall was the shining beacon of election central. Even late in the evening, the room was packed with supporters of various San Diego candidates. While faculty, staff and students didn’t number that of some support groups, they stood in solidarity as they chanted, “Norma, Tim and Jesseca.” Television stations surrounded the room like microphone-armed sentries and reporters flocked around political candidates like flies around a juicy story. With exhausted smiles, the SWC group stood, loud and proud, as their supported candidates continued to climb in numbers. Giant projectors on the walls continued to electronically illustrate that the community had officially spoken in favor of SWC challenging candidates.

Golden Hall began to clear at 12:30 a.m.

As SWC students, employees and challenging candidates exited the building visibly exhausted, their smiles still glowed. It was like a weight had been lifted from their shoulders. With signs of support under their arms, walking in the shadow of victorious figures, they filtered out of the bright hall with new hope and a firm resolve.

Change had arrived at SWC.

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