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Despite being the second largest city in San Diego County, Chula Vista typically makes headlines for negative perceptions of the city.
A few years ago, Forbes magazine named it one of the most boring cities. In April, a survey showed six out of 10 San Diegans have a pretty low regard for the South Bay city.
Residents came together to debunk some of the pervading myths about their community and come up with possible solutions at a public forum Friday at the Chula Vista Public Library. A few common themes kept cropping up.
Even the moderator reinforced one of the primary outsider perceptions.
“It’s so far to get to, I left two days ago to get here,” said Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna.
Luna’s joke highlighted a fairly typical complaint by San Diegans: Chula Vista is just too far from other populous areas of the county.
South Bay is considered the final frontier for development in the county. But many residents already feel Chula Vista has a tough time making sure infrastructure keeps up with growth.
Oregon transplant Pam Keel, who’s a member of the community group Crossroads II, has lived in Chula Vista’s Hilltop neighborhood for 14 years. Keel said she’s concerned about a lack of infrastructure improvements in the city.
Keel and her neighbors want to be able to venture out to local parks, but the green space in west Chula Vista, she said, isn’t up to snuff.
“Castle Park isn’t really a park,” Keel said. “It’s a power line path.”
Longtime resident Judy Flacke said expansion that started in the 1970s has had a detrimental effect on the neighborhood.
“I think it grew too fast. The growth was hard on the city,” Flacke said. “It couldn’t keep up, and went from a small bedroom community to a bigger entity.”
Chula Vistans are tired of their city being called “Chulajuana.” Resident John Vogel considers the nickname a slur for the area south of Interstate 8.
“Some people just focus on where they live and what they know and accept stereotypes that are kind of like urban legends,” Vogel said.
Part of the negative perception of the border city, Flacke said, comes from unease as city demographics change and the Latino population grows.
Forum attendees want to get outsiders up to speed on what their changing community has to offer. Vogel said that campaign should start with a regular resident who can act as champion of the city.
“Take someone outside of the official structure to promote the city,” Vogel said. “It should grow organically out of the community.”