When the Institute for Public Strategies hosted a “Let’s Talk” Zoom session last fall for business owners along Third Avenue in Chula Vista, we got an earful. We heard about how the area was experiencing an increase in vandalism, threats to safety, public drunkenness and other nuisances. Those who live or work in the area were joined by city officials, law enforcement and members of the Third Avenue Village Association. Stories were told about fights breaking out nightly near businesses that serve alcohol. We heard about urine, human feces, vomit and blood left behind by drunken brawlers. The uptick in unsavory and criminal behavior was blamed on the relaxed alcohol laws that went into effect during the pandemic.
A couple of months after that listening session, we set our sights on finding solutions. We held a “Time for Action” meeting in January with the same group of folks. That’s when business owners were urged to call the Chula Vista Police Department to report crimes. There had not been any significant increase in calls for service to the Third Avenue corridor, so police were hearing about many of the new problems for the first time during our Zoom gatherings. Problems like drug deals out in the open, drunk driving, graffiti, fights and broken windows. Problems that are frequently associated with overdrinking.
Keeping the dialogue going and reporting crimes to police are important first steps to improving the deteriorating situation along Third Avenue. And there are several additional measures IPS is taking in collaboration with interested stakeholders. We are walking door to door collecting public safety perception surveys from businesses along Third Avenue. We will be doing the same with nearby residents. It’s a deeper dive than what can be hashed out during a one-hour meeting and will provide valuable data as we look for solutions. The group is also holding monthly meetings to develop an action plan.
IPS South Bay and the Responsible Hospitality Coalition are in the process of creating a relationship with TAVA to facilitate hosting in person Responsible Beverage Service training for the business owners on Third Avenue. We are highlighting the implementation of Assembly Bill 1221. By July 1, 2022, alcohol servers and their managers must have a valid RBS certification from an ABC accredited training provider and pass an online ABC administered RBS exam within 60 calendar days from the first date of employment. This training is also a step in the right direction toward preventing youth access to alcohol.
We are addressing the community conditions that contribute to substance use disorders in Chula Vista. By increasing the economic vitality of this critical thoroughfare, we align with the County of San Diego’s Live Well vision of cultivating and maintaining a multi-cultural business district that promotes healthier choices and the highest quality of life.
IPS is a non-profit public health organization. We specialize in implementing upstream, population-level prevention programs that reduce health disparities and advance equity. We work alongside residents and other stakeholders to advocate for policy and systems change to protect health and safety, prevent community trauma, and expand opportunities so that people can reach their full potential. In recent years, the role of equity in determining health outcomes has become widely understood, and IPS’ approach has evolved. Advancing equity has become a fundamental feature of our work in reimagining our communities.
We will keep listening. We will continue monitoring problems along Third Avenue related to alcohol. And, with your help, we will keep looking for solutions.
Jovita Arellano is project manager of Institute for Public Strategies South Bay, Envision Broadway Chula Vista, South Bay Youth 4 Change and the Chula Vista Revitalization Committee. She lives in South San Diego.