SALINAS, Calif. - It’s a community that continues to grow, but over the years one thing has remained the same, the people of the Alisal in the heart of East Salinas.
They are hardworking, from many different cultures, although now mostly Hispanic and they all take pride in their neighborhoods.
“What I see here in Alisal that I don’t see in other parts of Salinas is the human energy, you know you see people walking around and you see a lot of small businesses who are supported by local customers,” La Plaza Bakery Partner and Manager Rodolfo Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez helped open the shop on North Sanborn Road in East Salinas in 1994. He says it has always felt like home.
“From day one we were accepted by all of our customers it has been such a blessing.”
Rodriguez said it’s the people living in the area who keep this part of Salinas going.
The community has seen its share of gang crime and deadly shootings, but Rodriguez said the residents do not live in fear.
“Being here 20 years you can see our shop fully windowed top to the bottom and we have never had a broken window, never been robbed and never needed police for anything,” Rodriguez said. “People misconstrue the Alisal community thinking it’s a violent community and it’s not at all. It’s very safe, close knit, a lot of families, a lot of good energy.”
However, it is no secret East Salinas does have a violent past. So far in 2017, 9 out of the 15 homicides happened on the east side. The latest, two ag workers gunned down on Dennis Avenue. It is a past the residents want to change, they just want the city to pay attention to their concerns.
“I would like to see more safety in alisal, not necessarily more policing, but greener spaces, more public spaces and better lighting. That would help greatly,” Rodriguez said.
Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter agrees. Gunter said it is all part of a vibrancy plan the city has been working on.
“The Alisal was brought into the city in I think 64 or 65. It was the great promise, the city was going to take it over pave the streets, put up lights, fix the sidewalks. It didn’t happen as quickly as it should have. We still have streets that don’t have sidewalks so there is a lot coming quickly,” Gunter said.
The city plans to build more parks, focus on affordable housing for families and farm workers as well as continue to work on a new multi-million dollar police station located in East Salinas.
“Those folks deserve our service and I don’t want them to be forgotten. We foresee the future is going to be the Alisal for this city,” said Mayor Gunter.
It is a future the people will also need to fight for.
“I think people want to improve it. People need to take a stand and they need to want to keep their community safe and if they trust us and come forward and report things then I think that would be the first step in making some changes” Salinas Police Officer Kevin Orepeza said.
“I think alisal is an asset to the City of Salinas, not only to the government, but to all of Salinas. It is the workforce for all the agricultural companies and it should be viewed as as an asset not as a problem. It should be valued and respected for what it is and that is an asset,” Rodriguez said.
Mayor Gunter told KION the city is still looking for East Salinas residents to be part of a committee for the Alisal Vibrancy Plan. They’re hoping to create a 23 member panel. They have already received dozens of applications.
For more information on the committee and the plan click here.