Strawberry field forever

The piece of land that once produced Chula Vista’s strawberries is currently in escrow. But that’s not stopping the newly formed South Bay Historical Society from wanting the land historically preserved.

David Danciu, a member of the organization, said the field located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Main Street should be historically preserved because it is a vital part of Chula Vista’s agricultural history.

“If you’re going to make the claim of having such a good strong agricultural history, then shouldn’t you at least have something to show for it? I believe it is, and it is more than just a few pictures in a museum,” he said.

Chula Vista’s agricultural history stretches back to the early 20th century when the city was both the lemon capital of the world and the celery capital.

The land that is in escrow is 60 acres, but Danciu said he just wants five acres of the 60 to be preserved. Those five acres were where the strawberry field was.

Fred Williamson, co-owner of Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce and the former operator of the field, said to just let the property be.

“We’ve got to accept the future and let go of the past,” Williamson said.

He added that it wouldn’t be fair to the owners of the 60-acre lot if  the strawberry field was saved, adding that the economic viability has run its course.

Williamson said he would like to see the field open just one more year for a community celebration.
Chula Vista’s Historical Preservation Commission is scheduled to hear this item at their Oct. 16 commission meeting.

However, Danciu said he would like the commission to discuss the strawberry field sooner rather than later.

“If it waits too long to be heard by the historical commission, then I’m afraid the property gets sold and it will be gone forever and the citizens of Chula Vista won’t have a say in what that property  becomes,” Danciu said.

According to the city of Chula Vista’s website, the Historical Preservation Commission serves as the authority on historic preservation matters and advises the City Council and other city boards and commissions, as needed, on historic preservation issues.

Chula Vista Councilman Rudy Ramirez said he doesn’t view the strawberry field as a historical piece.

“It is an interesting feature of our agriculture history,” he said.  “Is it a historical significant piece? I would say no.”
Ramirez also said that it would be more complex to designate the field as historical. He said it is not like a home, a strawberry field needs to be maintained and watered and needs someone to take care of it, he said.

South Bay Historical Association member Peter Watry said it would be the end of an era if the field is sold off and not saved.

“It’s history, that’s what we used to be,” Watry said.

Watry said there are many homes in Chula Vista that are historically preserved, there has never been a lot preserved.

He said he is hoping the field will be the first.

Danciu was a frequent customer at the strawberry field. He said Chula Vista’s strawberries were second to none.

“I can’t remember ever having a better strawberry,” he said.