Launched in May 2022, the “Clean and Safe” program’s two big areas of focus are business support and community hospitality, and the intent is to complement more traditional public safety activities.
“We are not here to replace public safety officers, but we are here to help safeguard this area in Vista by being consistent and engaged eyes and ears in the community,” said David Aguilar, regional vice president for Block by Block, the company contracted to provide safety and light cleaning services for Vista’s downtown district. “We protect the welfare of cities and businesses in a way that allows public safety officers to focus on bigger, more pressing issues.”
Block By Block’s team of ambassadors can now be seen in the city’s downtown district for the “Clean and Safe” effort and some of their initial activities include connecting with local businesses, cleaning the area of litter, logging maintenance requests that require Public Works attention, and learning the needs of the community. Block by Block Division Vice President Daniela Vasile explains by consistently addressing the “broken window syndrome,” Vista’s team of four ambassadors will be available to the community Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The program is currently funded for two years. To receive more information about the program, visit cityofvista.com/business/economic-development.
“When an area is well taken care of, it looks more inviting, and crime is deterred,” said Vasile. “From the sidewalk to the street, our team is there to make certain that things are clean and safe for the community to enjoy.”
The launch of the program comes as Paseo Santa Fe celebrates one year of being open to the public and as Vista Village marks 20 years of anchoring the community.
“It is important that we continue our efforts to revitalize our downtown area that is so critical to the economic health of our community,” said City of Vista Mayor Judy Ritter. “We’ve been thoughtful and diligent in how Paseo Santa Fe, Vista Village and the downtown corridor connect to one another together, and this program helps make sure that residents can comfortably and safely patronize our great businesses, shops and restaurants.”
In addition to being a visible, daily presence, Vista’s team of ambassadors is syncing with the City of Vista’s Public Works department, homeless outreach team and code violation team to facilitate efficient resolutions of problems that need city assistance. From aggressive panhandling to loitering and trespassing to outreach for the unhoused, Clean and Safe ambassadors are prepared to be the first line of engagement. “We are here to be the first call for businesses, so when they see something outside their storefront, they can get a quick response and connected with city services, if necessary,” said Walter Rekoski, the manager of Vista’s Block by Block team of ambassadors.
Rekoski continued to say that in the few weeks since the program has launched, his team has been welcomed by business owners, and many expressed gratitude for their presence on the street. “Everyone seems excited about the start of services, and as we get to know more businesses, provide assistance, and integrate into the community, our abilities to serve will only grow,” noted Rekoski.
The program is funded by money the city of Vista received through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a stimulus bill that provided aid to support post-COVID-19 recovery.
“I view the city’s investment in our Downtown Clean and Safe Program as an extension of our commitment to create a prosperous and vibrant downtown district,” said Economic Development Director Larry Vaupel. “Vista Village, Paseo Santa Fe and Downtown Vista are important to our city’s community and economic prosperity, and with this program, we can ensure that it is the welcoming and safe place we intend it to be.”
Other city programs supported by ARPA funds include “Vista Is Open” and “Shop Vista” campaigns, as well as the “Small Business Cyber Security Program” and “Vista’s Business Grant Program.”
“We consider hospitality to be part of our duties, so we enjoy getting to know businesses,” said Vasile. “That way, if someone asks us for information or recommendations, we have stories and details to share that can encourage someone to enjoy Vista’s downtown a bit more.”
According to Vasile, a big portion of ambassadors’ roles is also information and observation. “We cannot replace the police or physically remove anyone from the area, but we do inform people about city ordinances and get to know people in the area,” said Vasile. “We see many cities making similar investments to what Vista is doing with its Clean and Safe program. We offer the in-community help and support that many people need. Our ambassadors can receive some interesting calls, but the idea is to know when it’s best to call us and when the police need to be called instead.”