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Calexico Formally Closes Alleys in Another ‘Action Plan’ Step

CALEXICO — Calexico City Council Member Morris Reisen said he expects locks to be up on the gates on a downtown alley no later than Dec. 16, although the city could have had them up the morning after it approved a resolution closing public access to the alleys behind First Street from Heffernan to Paulin avenues.

During a special meeting Dec. 9, the council continued its multi-pronged efforts to secure and restore downtown Calexico with a pair of decisions connected to the on-going Downtown Action Plan meant to revamp the troubled shopping district.

Besides the alley decision, the council voted to restrict traffic flow in the 300 block of First Street from two ways to one-way, westbound traffic. That move is in anticipation of moving where the taxicabs will park. It also helps clear the way to eventually close First Street near Rockwood Avenue for the development of a pedestrian-only promenade area, another element of the downtown plan.

Gates Installed

Meanwhile, several weeks ago, city waste contractor Republic/Allied Waste Services footed the $10,000 bill for a pair of eight-foot wrought iron gates. They are installed at the alley entrances between First and Second streets from Rockwood to Heffernan avenues to help stop the homeless and others from literally trashing the alleys.

Those living on the streets in downtown have been rifling through the trash bins, scattering refuse. Many were openly using the alleys as toilets, and others were setting commercial trash-bin fires.

The gates, with another Republic/Allied-funded pair to be installed at the same alley but from Rockwood to Paulin Avenue, could not be secured with locks until the city either passed an ordinance or a resolution.

“Pretty much that would help us with the stench, the urination, the defecation; you have sometimes the improper use of drugs in those alleys,” City Council Member David Romero said Dec. 9. “It will probably make it easier on our police, so they could focus on raiteros (illegal taxicab services) and more issues in the downtown.”

The council thanked Reisen, a longtime downtown merchant who retired several years ago, for being the driver on the alley issue and other downtown-related efforts.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Reisen said prior to a vote.

Locks Coming Soon

The Dec. 9 action took the form of a resolution closing the alleys and was passed with a 4-0 vote by the council. Council Member Lewis Pacheco was absent.

The resolution could have gone into effect as quickly as the morning of Dec. 10, City Attorney Carlos Campos confirmed to the council.

But when contacted about whether the locks were installed that evening, Reisen said the city was ordering additional locks and having them all outfitted with the same combination. He added it would take a few days to get done, preferably no later than Dec. 16.

The resolution is a mouthful, but necessary, apparently, to allow the city to close off public access to those specific areas for reasons that had to be specifically stated.

The second decision of the meeting, to restrict traffic flow on First Street to one way in the 300 block, was presented by Calexico Police Chief Gonzalo Gerardo. It also was approved 4-0.

The chief explained Dec. 10 the move will ultimately make way to close First Street near Rockwood for the Rockwood Promenade project being developed by the city through a grant from the Southern California Association of Governments.

The promenade, according to city officials, is intended to create a new shopping experience for the downtown. It will allowing small commercial kiosks, and possibly food trucks and other dining experiences, meant to help bring new life to the area.

Taxis Addressed

To accomplish that, city officials have said they needed to address its issues with local taxi services, legal and illegal. The council and police focused on illegal taxi services with a new ordinance a few months ago levying heftier fines on illegal cab operators and those using the cab services. It also laid the groundwork for moving the legal taxicab stands to a different part of the downtown.

The Dec. 9 decision, Gerardo said, is an extension of that. He said restricting traffic to one way in the 300 block of First Street allows the department to confine all parked taxicabs to the south curb of First Street between Heffernan to Heber avenues while not impeding traffic. He also said the move to westbound-only traffic in the area creates new opportunities for existing First-Street businesses to have deliveries made from the street. Gerardo said the department is waiting until after the downtown Christmas parade on Dec. 14 to make the changes. Those will include restriping the streets, painting curbs and installing new signs, all of which the city is ready to do, he said. The work should be finished by early January, the chief added.

This story is featured in the Dec 12, 2019 e-Edition.

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