Councilman Sal Tinajero walks the South Coast Neighborhood in Santa Ana

The City of Santa Ana took over the Neighborhood Associations in town years ago – turning them into controlled sessions run by city staffers.  Today I saw what could be accomplished in neighborhoods when residents take back control of their areas.

Santa Ana Councilman Sal Tinajero invited me to attend a “Walk and Talk” meeting in the South Coast Neighborhood, and we met at 8 a.m. at the corner of Flower and Alton.  There were no city staffers – just Councilmember Tinajero.

One of the neighborhood leaders brought a box of donuts and brewed coffee for everyone.  And then we got to work.

The first order of business was to walk over to MacArthur Intermediate, which was due east on the south side of Alton, past Flower.  The major problem that the residents have is that the school is doing a poor job or controlling parents who drop off or pick up their kids.

The MacArthur lot is empty on Sunday, but complete chaos during the week

MacArthur is a fundamental school, that is located at 600 W. Alton, in Santa Ana.  The Principal is a guy named Martin Smulowitz. You may email him by clicking here.  He is, for whatever reason, not enforcing the contracts that parents at his school sigh, wherein they promise to follow traffic rules and drop off and pick up their kids on time.

A preschool across from MacArthur adds to the traffic mess during the week

What all this means is that the morning drop off time is chaos.  Too many parents opt to do whatever they want to, often dropping off their kids on the wrong side of the street, which results in kids jaywalking across a busy street.

This is where the cars pile up during drop off and pick off at MacArthur

In the afternoon the parents take forever to pick up their kids.  And Smulowitz isn’t keeping an eye on them.  So the kids tear through the neighborhood.  One neighbor told me that he found kids hanging from the tree in his front yard.  When he tried to take a picture of them, as they were hanging upside down by their legs, a parent accosted him.

Another neighbor planted expensive sod in the strip of lawn by his sidewalk, and it is now dead. See the picture above for graphic confirmation of this.

The irony is that SAUSD Superintendent Jane Russo used to work at MacArthur – and these problems existed back then too.  Now she is the boss at the SAUSD and the problems continue.

Street vendors apparently add to the mess by coming to the area in the afternoon to ply their wares to the local kids.  The trash created by this supposedly is dumped on the neighbor’s lawns.

As we returned to our starting point, the residents showed Tinajero a street sign that does not light up properly, and he took note of that too.

Then we walked over to a bike path on the north side of the neighborhood, that borders a railroad track.

The path has a chain link fence next to it, and behind that fence we found grafitti and trash galore.  You can see in the picture above that gangs are using improvised means to hurdle the block wall that separates the right of way area from the chain link fence and the bike path.

Graffiti also has marred the buildings across from the train tracks, which I believe are part of Saddleback High School.

It was all over in an hour, but Tinajero was able to reassure the residents that action would be taken on their issues, and they felt better for having talked it over with their Councilman.

Tinajero told me he would return in a few weeks with an update for the residents.  It is nice to see at least one of our Council Members actually doing something to improve things in his Ward.

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.