As the sun set on the chilly evening of March 23, families from the surrounding neighborhood walked with snacks and blankets to Teralta Park. They met their neighbors and settled in to watch a family-friendly movie outdoors.
This screening was the first in a series of movie nights at City Heights parks this year. The screenings, sponsored by a coalition of community organizations, continues monthly at various parks throughout the warmer months.
Movie nights encourage families to enjoy the parks both in the day and evening, said City Heights Business Association Executive Director Enrique Gandarilla.
“It’s their park,” Gandarilla said. “It doesn’t belong to the gangs, it doesn’t belong to the drug dealers. It belongs to the families that live here.”
The association works with the City Heights Foundation, the City Heights Community Development Corporation’s Metro Villas Learning Center and the City Heights Recreation Council to put on the movie nights.
Public safety is one of its major concerns. It provides private security for businesses and parks in the area. The association also meets monthly with other groups in the Collaboration to Keep City Heights Youth Safe to find and promote opportunities for youth to be productive in the community, like an April 28 resource fair aimed at getting teens out of trouble and into jobs.
“We’ve invested a lot of time and a lot of money and a lot of effort,” Gandarilla said. “And the result of that is that you see kids playing in the park and feeling safe, and more of a willingness of people to take ownership.”
You can see video of the event from Media Arts Center San Diego at http://www.youtube.com/speakcityheights.