City cracks down on vacant property in South Bay

OTAY MESA, Calif. -  

The city of San Diego is looking to take action on a vacant property in the South Bay that has become an illegal dumping ground and home to squatters.

At first glance, the vacant land south of Interstate 905 and Cilante Avenue near Otay Mesa looks like a landfill.

However, the acres are privately owned, but undeveloped, and for years, people have been dumping trash and debris there -- making it look like a wasteland.

"We have car parts," San Diego public information officer Jose Ysea said of the property. "We have electronics."

Ysea showed 10News pieces of old docks, light fixtures and even a hot tub.

In the past, squatters have built homes, including one with a pool even though there's no plumbing. Ysea said people still come to the area.

"We have either undocumented [immigrants] coming across from the border," he said. "The border is less than a mile away, or you have people coming back here for illegal drug activity. You name it, it can happen back here."

With a high school nearby and families moving into a new neighborhood, the city started contacting the various owners.

"A lot of property owners aren't even local," said Ysea. "They don't even know that there is a mess out here."

One owner, Tijuana resident Francisco Aguilar, came by Friday. He bought a lot in 2003 as an investment property. Aguilar's lot is clean, but if someone else dumps on it, he'll be responsible.

"I worry my property will be dumped on," said Aguilar. "I put up a metal fence before to keep people out, but it's gone now."

Aguilar said he wants all the owners to band together since it's in everybody's best interest.

Measures are being taken to keep people from dumping. A gate has been installed to block cars and trucks, but the owners are finding out it's slowing people down instead of keeping people out.

On Saturday, the city will host a cleanup day for owners before their mess becomes a public safety concern and everyone's problem.

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