Community members have complained for decades about San Ysidro's infrastructure. Old and inadequate streets and the absence of sidewalks and pedestrian pathways were mentioned in the community plan when it was revised in 1990. Since taking office in early December, Councilman Alvarez says most of the calls he’s received from San Ysidro residents have concerned infrastructure.
“This is supposed to be the international gateway— America’s front door —but look around at the sidewalks and the streets,” he says. “No one really feels like it’s a gateway. How could they?”
Between appointments with constituents, Alvarez walks west from the community service center along Camino de la Plaza, heading for Las Americas outlet mall, on the other side of I-5. As we cross the bridge over the freeway, we can see construction crews working on the new footbridge at the pedestrian port of entry. On the south side of Camino de la Plaza, the sidewalks between the border crossing and the outlet mall are new. Alvarez points to the north side of the street, where a section of sidewalk is missing.
As he looks at the dirt, Alvarez says he can understand why some residents accuse the City of favoring the more affluent neighborhoods. “There is some truth to that,” he says, “but it’s also true that many of those wealthier areas are newer than San Ysidro. This is an old neighborhood.”
The councilmember thinks that part of the problem is geography. Annexed to the city in 1957, San Ysidro and its neighboring South San Diego communities are nearly 20 miles south of downtown, separated from the rest of San Diego by Chula Vista and National City.