The State Of San Diego's Inner City
January 15, 2014 2:02 p.m.
Murtaza Baxamusa, director of planning and development with the San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corporation
Related Story: The State Of San Diego's Inner City
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. San Diego Interim Mayor Todd Gloria is going to present the annual State of the City address tonight, and he is expected to access the overall condition as the city moves on from the turmoil of the Bob Filner scandal. A lot can be left out and underserved areas in San Diego are not often included in the plan for city leaders. Today the non-profit Reality Changers will focus on their own address focusing on the inner city. The issues range from the need for quality education to better paying jobs. I would like to introduce Christopher Yanov and Murtaza Baxamusa. Welcome to the program. Christopher, what prompted you to start delivering the state of the inner city? This is not the first year that you have done it.
CHRISTOPHER YANOV: Reality Changers has had the state of the inner-city address for seven years now and the first time that we put on the address, we wanted to give scholarships to students who had lost family to gang violence. We have scholarships for those students, and over the years we have addressed different issues, this year it's a more uplifting issue. Only 3% of our adults in inner-city residents have college diplomas. We would like to go through our five year program, and 97% of all students who have finished our program are on track to finish a four-year program. We have reversed the statistic. We are on the precipice of doing this. We have a thousand 7th and eighth graders cheering on graduates.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As the mayor addressed the inner city usually?
MURTAZA BAXAMUSA: Usually it is really focused on downtown programs but we're seeing a change of direction. I specifically expect to teams to come out of this, people and potholes. The focus is really a focus on dynamic that we see across the United States in major cities like New York and Seattle and LA, Boston and others who have seen economic rebound in collapse were people have,'t benefited and the city's infrastructure has suffered at the same time. This is a turnaround from that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let us find what inner-city means in San Diego. What neighborhoods are we talking about? Obviously Christopher, your organization is focused on City Heights.
CHRISTOPHER YANOV: Inner-city is a catchall term for low income cities. I would like to point out that although our headquarters is in City Heights, our students attend fifty different high schools all over the county. We have all corners of San Diego to participate in getting students to college.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What conditions characterized inner-city?
CHRISTOPHER YANOV: Typically low income and not a lot of of this emphasis on finishing education. Often the parents have not done so themselves, and they struggle with multiple jobs and low-paying jobs, and trying to struggle to get their way out. One of our students recently who is here with me today, came from a family making the $7000 a year. That student got a $200,000 scholarship, and that was the second student that we have had go to Harvard. It is possible if they are able to overcome these struggles.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When it comes to struggles, part of that is being able to survive with a wage that a lot of people that have two jobs, and they have to have these jobs because salaries tend to be quite low in many service industries in San Diego. I am wondering what that does, what is the ripple effect that you see when people spend so much time learned trying earn a living?
MURTAZA BAXAMUSA: It impacts the community as well as the cities fiscal situation. This is quite widespread, one in three households in San Diego are having difficulty making ends meet. Given the recession we still have 6.8% unemployment in San Diego and 50,000 people are unemployed. One in six are still living in poverty. One in five children are living in poverty. These are stark statistics that essentially show that there is not been shared prosperity after the last economic boom. That is the state of the city and how will we change the direction so one week recover by 2020, will add 50,000 jobs and what do they look like? Will they be minimum wage jobs where people are having difficulty making ends meet? Or will we have self-sufficiency and average incomes that everyone can make ends meet with?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And when parents and family are spending so much time working, with multiple jobs, what does that do to the emphasis on education for children?
CHRISTOPHER YANOV: A question of time and energy, sometimes it's easy to put the blame on parents. Yet for us we would like to fix the problem and make sure that students have access to opportunities they need.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What can they city due to improve educational opportunities for young people?
CHRISTOPHER YANOV: Oftentimes the city has looked forward to helping keep the city safe and prosperous. If you drive down University at night you see a lot of cop cars. You have a lot more people going to college instead of going to jail.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What about public recreational facilities for kids when they get out of school and they want to go to the park or play? Is a city investing in those?
CHRISTOPHER YANOV: Often the parks are underutilized and sometimes at night there is little supervision and it is scary to go there at night. A couple of months ago we had a college festival at that part and we brought universities into that part of town, including Ivy League schools. If we looking for people to fill the jobs and educated jobs, have to go to people and places that are not represented enough.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: San Diego city Council recently approved increase in the feed that causes developers to fund more affordable housing, what is the state of affordable housing in San Diego's inner-city?
MURTAZA BAXAMUSA: Throughout the city, about half of all renters pay more than 30% of their income on housing, and the situation is quite dire in those situations. It's one of the major economic factors. How to raise revenue and invest in the community, those will come up in today's state of the city address, and that is how we invest in infrastructure in our people so that we can make sure that we have our water and reliable systems, so when our water lines break we are able to fix them and able to drive to work safely and able to walk or bike, and at the end of the day it's about quality of life for those people working and living in the city. It is also about investment and prioritizing industry and how we will partner with industries and make sure that those that benefit from us actually have decent standards I wish they are paying workers. For example, Los Angeles is proposing a fifteen dollar and hour minimum wage for hotel workers in the city, that is a route potentially that the city could take to make sure that those industries such as tourism and retail, beneficiaries of the city's investment.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What they think of that and I think of the recent Barrio Logan plan, community activists wanted that for years because it separates industry from residential. Is this a problem for other communities as well? I know that sometimes underserved neighborhood say they are dumping grounds for pollution or waste.
MURTAZA BAXAMUSA: That is environmental justice issues where the recipients of unwanted land uses are often the most disadvantaged and subject to pollution. I think that needs to be addressed in the city and regional level, it is not yet resolved in how inner-city communities are polluted and recipients of a lot of the freeway exposure for example that happens, this is to be addressed in terms of energy and transportation and water and sewer infrastructure.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Reality changers is a very forward thinking movement, it's very up heat and I'm wondering when students come to you and they are asking for help, why did they need that help? What is it that is not happening in the schools and neighborhoods that make it that they are not as often going to college?
CHRISTOPHER YANOV: It's an expectation game, but people think that they are not allowed to go to college, that is a problem. People are surprised that they are selected for the program, and the response is often that the cop cars out there is not for me? They think that that is not an option for them. We have these programs to get the grades up and so they can come to UCSD and that spurs the students on. They don't want to be left behind and once they get a glimpse of college life, the world becomes bigger for them and representing or defending their block really is a smalltime gig for the students who now have a greater world in front of them.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How much of a battle is this with the lure of street gangs?
CHRISTOPHER YANOV: If we can get to students, we like to get to eighth-graders. If we wait till night game that is usually too late. They talk to eighth-graders with a 2.0 or less GPA. Over 60% of worst-performing students raise the grades. The hope that knowing that something is out there and it makes it better. They leave gates behind often gain members want to be a part of that too. Or at least one of them is able to get out.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sounds like in addition to other services, but you might like to hear from the address is to have city leaders offer words of encouragement to say that everyone child in the city of San Diego is worthy of success and advanced education.
CHRISTOPHER YANOV: Some people say that not all student can go to college, but I would rather believe that every student can go to college than believe that only a certain percentage of committees go to college.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And what would you expect to hear, would you like to hear time Gloria say when it comes to San Diego's inner-city and people who are struggling to get by in San Diego?
MURTAZA BAXAMUSA: The good thing is that Todd Gloria has been active on this one and knows the issues, the key is how do we continue the momentum on the city council? That is the fundamental foundation of that speech. How to continue work, that is important. Focus on neighborhoods and helping neighborhoods that are historically neglected.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Christopher Yanov and Murtaza Baxamusa. Thank you very much.