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After 3 hours of discussion, Chula Vista Council closes Harborside Park for next 90 days

Posted at 11:16 PM, Aug 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-24 12:22:15-04

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) — Chula Vista's City Council decided on Tuesday night to close Harborside Park for the next 90 days. The council will work to clean, survey, and examine what that park will and can become in the future.

The board heard public comments for over an hour, and then the board deliberated for over an hour after a special presentation in favor of the closure lasted roughly 45 minutes.

Many facts were shown during the presentation, illustrating the disparities between Harborside Park and others in Chula Vista.

Chula Vista Police say that officers spend two times the hours at Harborside compared to any other. It is also the park with the highest crime rates, citations, and arrests.

Mayor Mary Salas says that the council and community have been torn on this issue. However, on Tuesday night, the board unanimously voted in favor of closing the park.

Among those who spoke during public comment were neighbors who were outraged and business owners like Mr. Chen, who was frustrated.

“Just this year alone I’ve seen two dead bodies," shared Chen. Chen also shared examples of individuals shoplifting from his store and defecating in his store's alley.

Residents like Mrs. Crespo showed pictures of what the park used to look like, claiming it is no longer what it used to be, “This is the park that we want, this is the park that we used to have.”

Crespo furthered by saying she used to take her firstborn to the park but by the time her second child was born, the tents, litter, and un-sheltered individuals began gathering at Harborside.

Those in favor of temporarily closing the park for the next 90 days cited safety concerns for children, as the park is directly across from Harborside Elementary.

Chula Vista's Superintendent, Dr. Eduardo Reyes, shared, “Last time I was there there was a drug deal right across the fence."

He furthered in another example, "School administrators had to clear the field because a man was defecating right next to the fence.”

The City's outreach says they have responded to more than 25 public nuisance calls within the past two years when they had non before 2020. These calls refer to litter, trash, noise complaints, and more.

Mayor Salas asked the outreach speakers what the success rate of the park was, to which they responded, "There is none.”

But those who call the park home, like Momma Heather, say closing it is not warranted.

“We respect the children," she shares. "We watch out for the kids."

"Now everyone is respectful, everyone is cleaning up their areas, everything is neat and tidy," she furthers.

Momma Heather has been homeless for 25 years and has lived at the park for 5 months. She does admit that there are drug and crime issues at the park, but she emphasizes that those people are not everyone.

She believes the solution is not kicking them out, “Even though we might be homeless, but we are also people and we like being in a community.”

However, others disagree.

The council unanimously agreed to close the park for the next three months and work with the community to find alternative solutions.

Councilmember Jill Galvez did ask for there to be discussion around the possibility for a grant given to Eucalyptus Park, to be lent to the Chula Vista School District. That will be discussed at a future meeting.

Harborside Park during its closure will have round-the-clock security, security fencing, and host a connect event at the end of August, for those who called the park home to potentially accept services.