By MARK RAWLINS
Ever wonder why most North County communities look so clean and attractive? It is not because they are newer communities; there are many communities that start looking run-down shortly after being established.
So, what is the difference? Many of these communities have a maintenance assessment district, or MAD, and older communities in San Diego are taking notice. Kensington, North Park, Hillcrest, and Talmadge are just a few of the local communities who have established MADs to revitalize their neighborhoods and public areas. Take a drive and see the difference in these communities; it is impressive. Beautiful medians, clean streets, new light posts, and maintained parks are just the beginning.
According to the city of San Diego:
“A Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) is a revitalization mechanism by which property owners within specified boundaries of the City can vote to assess themselves for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, installing, or maintaining improvements and providing activities that will provide certain benefits to properties located within a district.”
It’s time for us to ask, can Del Cerro benefit from having a MAD?
The Del Cerro community was built in the 1950s, and after 60 years with no major improvements, our community looks tired. Sidewalks bulge, open space is overgrown, playgrounds require repair, and medians need attention. Take, for example, the College Avenue entrance into Del Cerro. More than 40 containers that once held sprouting pine trees now stand empty, littering the median and causing an eyesore at the doorstep of our community. Meanwhile, the existing trees have reached their urban lifespan and are slowly dying.
How do we get the city to upgrade and maintain our community? The city does not have the financial resources to upgrade and maintain all of its communities. The city’s standard for maintaining medians is the cost of maintaining asphalt. This is called a general benefit; all communities get the same benefit. If our community wants enhanced services (cleaner streets and sidewalks, more street lights, maintained medians, beautiful parks and playgrounds, and open space improvements), we have the right to establish a MAD and assess ourselves.
Keep in mind that MADs are not new and they do not affect Proposition 13. They have been around since 1972, with Tierrasanta being one of the first communities to create a MAD in San Diego. Since 1972, more than 63 MADs have been established in the city, and all are doing exceptionally well. These areas boast safer communities, more attractive surroundings, increased property values, and better quality of life. Alternatively, a run-down, tired-looking community tends to invite more crime due to the “broken windows theory”; if a neighborhood looks unkempt, criminals assume it is an easy target.
The greatest advantage of establishing a MAD in Del Cerro is that every dollar assessed stays in Del Cerro. It is our money for improvements and maintenance in our community — period. We, the residents, manage the funds and we direct the city on what we want accomplished and when. It is the most direct control of managing our community’s quality of life. At a time when Del Cerro property owners are paying $5,000 to $12,000 annually in property taxes, $140 per year to establish a MAD pales in comparison, and our community deserves the investment.
Back to my original question, “Can Del Cerro community benefit from having a MAD?”
Without hesitation, my answer is “Yes.” I have lived in Del Cerro since 1994. Since that time, there has been no major change in our community’s maintenance. The city’s expectation is that we will continue to get the minimal level of maintenance required to maintain asphalt medians. Bottom line: what you see is what we will get over the next 25 years. I believe a MAD in Del Cerro will improve the quality of our lives and keep us safer in our neighborhoods by establishing new light posts, maintaining beautiful medians, cleaning our streets, and providing quality parks and walkable open space areas. Del Cerro deserves to be like one of the communities in the north.
There is an effort underway to bring the proposed Del Cerro MAD to the community for a vote. If you would like to support this effort or want more information, email: email@example.com or call 619-888-9140.
— Mark Rawlins is a resident of Del Cerro and president of the Del Cerro Action Council.