By Geoff Page
Rowdies Language School
The Midway area certainly has its share of problems, with homelessness being the biggest. At the regular monthly meeting of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group on Wednesday, July 20, another less publicized issue was discussed: the rowdiness at the EF International Language School on Kenyon Street.
The discussion began during the meeting’s non-agenda public comment portion when Midway resident Denise Vedder, who lives near the school, described a litany of woes involving the students. Mostly it was the usual stuff like loud noise, late noise and vomit in the bushes.
Vedder described various efforts she made to do something, with little success. She said the campus has only one security guard who does not exercise control. He was advised to call the police – also with little success. Vedder said she’s been hesitant to call the police because she thinks it’s the school’s problem.
She also explained that a neighbor made a public record request for police records regarding incidents at the school. Between October 2015 and January 2021, there were 265 calls to the police about the school and, she added, that included two years of COVID which likely reduced that number.
Vedder expressed his anger that the school is not in control of his problem. She said a multinational, private, for-profit company is counting on the public police service to fix the problem for free. She said the school needed to strengthen its own safety program and not rely on public money to deal with its own problems.
The EF International Language School has been around for about six years. The school took over the vacant 10-story building and associated buildings, which used to be the Cabrillo Hospital in Point Loma. The large building stood empty for nine years and the school’s move in was seen as a great advantage.
The school campus accommodates around 700 students, in residence, with additional students staying with host families. The student population seems to be made up of young college-aged people from all over the world.
On September 23, 2016, Union Tribune Dave Garrick’s article describes the school and how well it was received by everyone at that time.
Former planning committee chair Cathy Kenton had this to say at the time:
“We welcome them with open arms,” said Cathy Kenton, president of Midway/Pacific Highway Community Planning Group. “Having young people in the community is very appealing.”
Kenton’s mood has since changed. She said: “We have been assured that these issues will not occur. This is not what we were promised. »
San Diego Police Department Community Relations Officer David Surwilo attended the meeting and the discussion continued with him. According to Surwilo, there had been a similar problem some time ago and the PD stepped in and met with the school. Apparently the problem was brought under control at that time. Surwilo said this was the first time he had heard the problem had returned.
Surwilo explained that this kind of problem is dynamic and it comes and goes. He said the PD would be happy to step in again and help as he has done in the past by meeting with the school.
Kenton said the school’s conditional use license for the business at the location needs to be reviewed. The school is not doing what it originally promised and despite previous police intervention, the school has done nothing to control the problem.
It is not known exactly where Denise Vedder lives, but there are residential buildings bordering the school to the northwest, many of which are also very new. There are also houses to the southwest. The main outdoor space is off Kenyon Street, next to the residential buildings.
It wouldn’t be a Midway Group meeting without a discussion of homelessness. The main news was an update from Lisa Jones of the San Diego Housing Commission on two Midway shelters. One of them is called a “harm reduction center”, a wonderful language gymnastics that tries to avoid the stigma associated with the word “shelter”. It is located in the old Pier One store building and has been operating since late last fall.
Jones said the Pier One shelter was full and had moved seven people into permanent or transitional accommodation. While any progress is admirable, seven represent only a fraction of the homeless population. Jones also said the average stay at the shelter was 89 days, which is seen as a positive development. Longer stays provide more opportunities to work with people and connect them with needed services.
The second shelter is three times larger than the Pier One facility. The massive tent structure is being erected at the Rosecrans County Mental Health Facility. Jones said utilities were being installed and work would last the first week of August. After that, the beds and interior facilities will be set up.
Jones explained that Project Alpha will provide personnel to the Vault and that they are about 50% of the personnel they need. She explained that they plan to staff the shelter with seasoned staff brought in from other areas along with new staff.
Jones said they had security meetings with internal staff and local law enforcement. As soon as they can, they plan to hold tours of the new facility for interested parties.
In off-plan public comments, a spokesperson for another nonprofit that helps homeless people said they wanted to move to the Midway area. Considering the number of installations Midway already has, the response has been surprisingly positive. Perhaps anyone willing to help resolve the issue is viewed favorably.
Daniel Hershey and Ted Anasis of the San Diego Regional Airport Authority gave a presentation on the airport’s new Terminal One shuttle lot relocation project. The airport consolidates facilities that handle airport shuttles, such as charging stations and parking and transit areas. The new project consists of a large parking lot and staging area for the shuttles and a modular building to house staff and maintenance personnel.
The new facility will be on the east side of Pacific Highway bordered on the north by West Palm St. and West Laurel on the south. According to Hershey, the location is an abandoned parking lot that has seen vandalism, homeless encampments, and is quite ransacked. Hershey seemed to say the airport was doing everyone a favor by cleaning up this mess. They are “revitalizing” the area, not just by building a new shuttle for themselves.
According to Hershey, the parking lot is on land in the Port of San Diego that they lease. The building is in the San Diego city area. The airport has purchased this property. They came before the Midway Group as part of the city’s licensing process. It looked like they weren’t exactly happy about having to do this, judging by Hershey’s demeanor. The airport is used to being the gorilla in the room and rarely has to appear before a planning board where ordinary people have their say.
The airport needs the project because the existing shuttle parking area will disappear due to the construction of Terminal 1.
Shuttle buses run between the rental car structure and the terminals on the airport’s inner ring road. The only time they will be off the property will be driving to the new project using Laurel St. They will exit the facility and enter the airport property via West Palm St.
Cathy Kenton was again unhappy with what she saw. His first complaint was that the project was already underway with no opportunity for public participation. She was concerned about traffic. She was upset that this facility was not entirely on airport property, as they had initially been led to believe that the new improvements would be.
Hershey and Anasis responded to his concerns. At one point it seemed like they were insincere pointing out that it was airport property because the airport had bought the land. It was, of course, not the property Kenton meant.
Ultimately, President Dike Anyiwo introduced a motion to approve the project, expressing a desire not to delay the progress of the airport. This despite the reservations of the board of directors on the fact of not having time to study the project before voting. The motion passed 6 to 1.
New Cannabis Outlet
A request to place a new cannabis retail outlet at 2555 Kettner Blvd. was the second action point for the group. It will be a small 1500 square foot building at the south end of the Midway boundary.
There was discussion about restricting only four cannabis businesses allowed in District 2. There are already four now, but presenters pointed out that the redistricting left only two in the district, leaving two spaces free.
The main concern of the group was the lack of parking on site. There were only a few spaces at the back of the building. Given the type of business, lack of parking is a legitimate concern. The group voted to approve the project by a vote of 5 to 3, with the requirement that the company not allow employees to park on site leaving at least one parking lot for customers.