Nonprofit to clean community five days a week
By Brent E. Beltrán
Barrio Logan has not been the cleanest community in San Diego. For years this predominantly Mexican American neighborhood has been neglected by the city, the transient population that lives on its public spaces and even its own residents.
Graffiti has been ubiquitous throughout the alleys, walls and fences of property owners and businesses. Trash has been strewn along the streets and sidewalks due to a lack of receptacles and youth not caring. Weeds have overgrown green areas and sprouted through cracks in concrete and asphalt. Trees and bushes on public property have become unruly.
But not any longer.
The nonprofit Urban Corps has been called upon to help clean the dirty streets, alleys and sidewalks of Barrio Logan. Under the direction of the Barrio Logan Association and the city of San Diego Urban Corps began servicing the assessed parts of Barrio Logan in early November.
Urban Corps mission statement says:
“The Urban Corps of San Diego County is a certified local conservation corps and charter school whose mission is to provide young adults with a high school education combined with job training and community service in the fields of conservation and recycling, which will assist youth in becoming more employable while protecting San Diego’s natural resources and instilling the importance of community service.”
Five days a week Urban Corps workers scour the neighborhood looking for things to clean up. The work they provide includes sidewalk maintenance, graffiti removal, power washing, bulky item/litter removal, landscaping and weed abatement, district identity improvements and other needed services to this neglected community.
In addition to the above type work Urban Corps will also run the administration part of the Barrio Logan Association including but not limited to setting up meetings, recording meeting minutes, outreach, mailings, reports, staffing office hours in Barrio Logan twice a week, and all other work related to running the administrative side of the BLA.
From November 6, when Urban Corps began work, up until their report at the Barrio Logan Association meeting on November 21 they collected 246 trash bags full of litter, swept the streets from 26th St. and National Ave. to 17th St. and Commercial Ave., removed 2,256 square feet of graffiti, provided weed abatement covering thirty one blocks and have trimmed fifty one trees. Since the 21st even more work has been provided to the neighborhood through the Barrio Logan Maintenance Assessment District.
The Barrio Logan MAD — known as the Barrio Logan Association — had a slightly controversial beginning. Recognizing the lack of city services provided to the Barrio Logan area City Councilman David Alvarez and Shea Properties — the developer of the Mercado del Barrio — contacted New City America to assess the possibility of creating a Maintenance Assessment District (an area that has an added property tax to provide extra services) within Barrio Logan.
New City America, run by Marco Li Mandri, has had its own share of controversy when it comes to MAD’s and Business Improvement Districts (here, here, here, here, here, and here).
NCA came back with a plan to create the Barrio Logan MAD. They would conduct a weighted vote of all property owners within the to-be-assessed district. Those who own multiple and/or larger properties would have more weight behind their vote. Thus, fourteen property owners within the to-be-assessed district combined for 70% of the vote creating the district.
The majority (99) of the 181 ballots that were sent out came back with a vote in opposition to the plan. But due to the vote being weighted in favor of those that own more or larger properties the vote to create the Barrio Logan MAD was approved.
This created much distrust and acrimony from property owners who did not vote in favor of the tax assessment. One Barrio Logan Association meeting was overrun by pissed off property owners yelling at board members because their taxes would be going up and they weren’t consulted other than receiving a ballot in the mail. This was a futile attempt on their part since the vote already took place and the MAD was going to be implemented regardless of their anger.
Since the formation of the Barrio Logan MAD the group San Diegans for Open Government have sued the city calling weighted votes for MAD’s and Business Improvement Districts an illegal tax.
Another issue that should have been resolved during the formation of the Barrio Logan Association popped up only recently. New City America was supposed to file paperwork for the BLA to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. When Urban Corps was picked over NCA to manage the newly formed MAD NCA dropped everything. Including filing the necessary paperwork to form the 501(c)3.
Thus, as of now, the Barrio Logan Association does not have nonprofit status and cannot create a contract with the city until it does. And to add insult to injury New City America is demanding funds for the startup costs of the MAD!
Luckily for the fledgling Barrio Logan Association Urban Corps and the city of San Diego have stepped up. The city has already collected the assessment from property owners within the MAD. The BLA can’t contract with the city due to not having nonprofit status. Therefore the city, with lots of help from Economic Development Division’s Luis Ojeda, is in the process of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on a contract with Urban Corps to do the work they would be doing under a contract with the BLA.
Though the contract is being held up due to city bureaucracy Urban Corps, working on good faith, has decided to start early in Barrio Logan. They have also chosen to help the Barrio Logan Association file the necessary paperwork to acquire nonprofit status. Once the BLA receives nonprofit status from the IRS they will contract with the city and Urban Corps.
Though the Barrio Logan Association hasn’t had a smooth start it is good to know that work has begun on improving the quality of life for all residents, property owners and businesses with the assessed district. If you see the helmeted, yellow vest wearing workers doing their job around Barrio Logan stop and say hi and let them know you appreciate their hard work.
And if you see areas of Barrio Logan in need of graffiti and/or trash removal, weed abatement and other maintenance or if you just want more information on the Barrio Logan Association or the Urban Corps please contact Barrio Logan District Administrator Karen Garcia via email or phone at (619) 235-6884 x3126.
Disclosure: the author is a board member of the Barrio Logan Association.
One of the problems with MADs is the lack of financial transparency. As a member of the Barrio Logan Association, I hope you will see that the monthly bills submitted to the city for services are made available to the public. This will go a long way towards improving the trust factor.
Brent Beltran says
All of that info is available to the public. You just gotta ask or attend the monthly public meetings of the BLA.
Dorothy Lee says
The meeting agendas and minutes should be timely posted publicly and online, per the Brown Act. No one should have to ask. It’s a law.
The Urban Corps has been contracted by the City for years to provide graffiti cleanup anywhere in the city. No assessment need for their service – all taxpayers already pay for it. Check out their website for contact info. The City also has a graffiti cleanup team, very efficient.
The big myth that privatized taxes are required for basic services is just that, a lying mythic propaganda piece: the services are already in place and are very effective.
You do,however, have to make a call or an online request. How hard is that? Maybe for the indifferent and lazy, it’s too much. But asking for meeting agendas and minutes is not?
Brent Beltran says
Minutes and agendas are always posted in various public locations throughout Barrio Logan. That is how I first learned about the BLA. An agenda was posted outside my apartment complex. If you don’t live around here and want info then ask. The BLA doesn’t yet have an online presence so minutes and agendas have yet to be posted in that manner. They eventually will be.
Urban Corps has been contracted here to do way more than just graffiti clean up. They do stuff the city has refused to do.
Dorothy Lee says
The City has a website, an online presence, as does Alvarez, as D8 councilperson. A huge number of assessed property owners do not live in BL – they live out of state, in La Jolla, Rancho Perfecto, Coronado, etc. However, they have a right to online access to info on how their money is being used, without having to cruise around BL looking for some flyer posted in some window or on some wall.
The City, as a paid administrator (4%) of the tax assessments it imposes on BL property owners, is obligated to post how that money is being managed. The City posts agendas and minutes and budgets and all sorts of Brown Act data. Park and Recreation, which manages over 50 MADs, ensures transparency to a much greater degree compared to Ojeda’s Development Services office. DS has a long history, with Ojeda in the center of the maelstrom, of obfuscation, lying, and making illegal or improper moves regarding its “commercial” MADs. Why Alvarez let LiMandri and Development Services bungle this whole thing is a mystery. He could have opted for a Park & Rec-run MAD.
Your admission that you only found out by strolling around and coming across a flyer is evidence of how under the radar this whole illegal MAD has been and is. Btw, if you don’t own your apartment, you aren’t paying a dime into the MAD. Except indirectly, in higher rent and higher food prices locally. Commercial owners recover their costs, always.
Oh: the original Engineer’s Report budgets for a website, out of higher assessments than would be necessary w/o a website. Only because it’s the law. But it’s typical of Dev Services to ignore the law.
Brent Beltran says
I’m not a fan of those property owners that don’t live here. Many are slumlords that don’t take care of their properties.
The assessed money has yet to be used in any manner so those that have been assessed can’t look up what’s been spent online because nothing has been.
Ojeda has been nothing but helpful towards the BLA. Even attends occasional meetings when he doesn’t have to. Others may have had issues but we don’t.
As far as I know no judge has declared this MAD illegal. If so, it wouldn’t exist. To call it so does Barrio Logan a disservice.
Alvarez didn’t let anyone bungle anything. Li Mandri is to blame for us not having nonprofit status.
There will be a website (as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts). It just hasn’t happened yet. We’re an all volunteer board and no funds have been released to us or the administrators. We don’t even have a bank account or insurance. All of this will come in due time.
The BLA is a good thing for Barrio Logan. It will do things that the city has neglected for too long. And it’s run by residents, property owners and other BL stakeholders. Though the founding could have been done better it has been totally above board since the initial meeting. Barrio Logan needs this. Now if issues arise I’ll be one of the first to call foul and you’ll read it here.
Let’s see. The Barrio Logan Association is not a legal entity for doing MAD business. So it has no contraxt with the city yet. And as stated the provider of the services has no contract to provide services. Who is providing the liability insurance for all this? Are the individual members liable? Perhaps. Then, all bills to the City will be back-dated to some prior date when there was no legal description of the services. Services which were not defined will be paid for. And everybody thinks this is wonderful. Has the city authorized submitting bills for services prior to contract start? That is a question I would like to see answered.
Brent Beltran says
Let’s see if I can answer your questions.
The BLA I was created through a weighted vote of property owners. It has bylaws and a board of 24 stakeholders with a 3 person executive committee. It’s nonprofit status is pending. Due to this it can not contract with city.
Urban Corps submitted a contract with the city on behalf of the BLA. When the BLA receives nonprofit status the contract will be redone. The BLA will then contract services with Urban Corps.
Urban Corps has their own insurance.
Individual board members are not liable because the BLA has not contracted anyone, nor are they doing any work yet. Liability is on Urban Corps and the city. This is a somewhat educated assumption on my part since I’m not a lawyer. My assumption could be wrong.
I don’t know how the bills, backdated or otherwise, will be handled. Services are defined in the contract that has yet to be signed. Is that legal? I’m not a lawyer.
Does everybody think this is wonderful? Nope. It is what it is. Money has been assessed and is sitting in a city account. Property owners and residents want services that have been denied to us for decades. The current situation with services is better than having to wait a year to attain nonprofit status and not have any.
Urban Corps is working on good faith that they will get paid for services provided prior to the signing of the contract.
It is easy for those outside of Barrio Logan to complain about this situation. For those of us that live here, that don’t receive services provided to more affluent communities, we are thankful that aesthetic changes are being made here. Thankful that cluttered and trash strewn alleys are being cleaned. That homeless peoples feces and urine are being disposed of. That hyperdermic needles and other drug related items are being picked up. Trees and bushes where the homeless sleep and hide are being trimmed.
Regardless of the bumps the Barrio Logan MAD is a good thing for this community. In other communities a MAD may not be good. Each neighborhood deserves to figure that out for themselves.
Dorothy Lee says
Once more, all together now:
“The Urban Corps has been contracted by the City for years to provide graffiti cleanup anywhere in the city. No assessment need for their service – all taxpayers already pay for it. ”
Welcome to the world of the ends justifies the means, Brent. Who cares about all the legal-smegal stuff. Jan Goldsmith is proud of you and is smirking at the next-gen recruits to his world. You have arrived at the heart of San Diego politics. Barrio Logan didn’t figure out anything. Outsiders are calling all of the shots but letting you think you are pulling the trigger.