CALEXICO — Calexico merchant Rudy Kim said fortunes are improving for the downtown shopping district thanks to recent efforts to clear out alleys and clean up streets, but he said concerns over security linger.
“It’s going better than
before. I’ve been here since 2002, and the city has had a lot of change,” Kim said
during a Feb. 24 interview.
He owns Uno Plus discount
store at 219 E. First St.
“Cleaning up; it’s a little
bit improved,” Kim said, adding it smells better downtown and there already is
the appearance of less trash. “Still, we have a lot of bums and criminals
sleeping on the street.”
Kim and other merchants
in past interviews have stressed safety and security need to be a priority for
the city if it’s to entice shoppers and new merchants back to the beleaguered
Yet officials said all is
being addressed in good time, and that cleanup efforts only appear to be
leading the way because work to improve security takes a bit longer and depends
on other factors.
“I’m pleased, very
pleased, that I suggested an action plan in downtown … because we’ve been able
to focus and stay on course on improving and cleaning up downtown,” Calexico Mayor
Bill Hodge said Feb. 25.
Hodge is referring to the
plan the city has been working from for the last nine months or so. It addresses
cleanliness in downtown through a series of actions and ordinances, including
closing off alleys with locked gates, locking trash bins and enhancing
More Cops Needed
Still, Hodge said there
are a number of what he described as “interconnected” issues that contribute to
the overall revitalization of the downtown that are still being addressed. Chief
among them are providing more security and a larger police presence, and
addressing issues with homelessness, both of which take time and are being
addressed through the Action Plan.
Hodge and longtime
downtown business advocate and City Council Member Morris Reisen acknowledged many
short-term successes are playing out in clean-up related efforts, but more is
being done on other fronts.
As far as increasing
security and police presence, Police Chief Gonzalo Gerardo has said he is working
to fill five vacant patrol positions by the end of 2020 and add eight more in
the 2020-21 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Meanwhile, Hodge noted he
supports the Business Improvement District using some of its funding to provide
downtown security. That proposal found favor from at least one BID Commissioner.
“If it’s permittable (under BID rules), I support it,” Alex Perrone said Feb. 25. “Many years ago, we had police walking the downtown. They would walk a beat.”
Noting his parents ran a
downtown business for decades, he added, “As a former mayor, I’ve always been
in support of police downtown. I also believe it’s a joint effort to getting
someone to walk the downtown.”
Use of BID Fees
BID fees are collected through
city business permits at a rate of $100 a year, mostly for business retention,
attraction and marketing. That includes events such as an annual car show and
But some city officials
believe the BID could contribute in other ways. Hodge, for one, said he wants
to see BID funds used for beautification and security.
Such expenses are
allowable under BID bylaws if they benefit the BID-designated areas, Assistant
City Manager Manuel Figueroa said Feb. 26. Figueroa is the city staff person
who advises the five-member BID commission.
Meanwhile, the city is
moving forward on the more immediate fixes that have been showing success,
including installing more alley gates downtown.
“The alleys are clean,
they don’t smell (like urine) anymore and we’re really happy about it,” Reisen, a strong proponent of the gates, said
The first set of gates
went up a couple of months ago between First and Second Street between
Heffernan and Rockwood avenues and were paid for by the BID. Work recently began
to install the second and third sets of gates, both of which have been funded
through $10,000 provided to the city as part of a renewed solid waste contract
with Republic/Allied Waste.
The second set is being
installed between First and Second from the other side of Rockwood to just
before Paulin Avenue, where the Greyhound station is located. The third set is
planned for between Second and Third streets between Paulin and Rockwood.
In March, Reisen said he
plans to go back to the BID board and ask for it to pay for a fourth and fifth
set of gates, which will cost $4,700 a set. The fourth would be located between
Second and Third from Heffernan and Rockwood and the fifth would be between
First and Second streets from Heber Avenue to Heffernan Avenue.
Reisen and Hodge also said
they want to see the BID pay for some 60 plastic trash bins that are used
inside concrete liners throughout the downtown streets in front of the
businesses. These are all expenses the city cannot afford at present, officials
“Those germ-ridden, dirty
cans need to be replaced,” Hodge said.
Perrone, for one, said he
would be amenable to paying for all these improvements if the balance of the
BID board agrees.
“I would support it 100
percent,” Perrone said. “Marketing/promoting is primarily the use of funds, but
if it’s also allowed (for the gates and trash bins), it’s a great thing for the