It took three tries, six years and the commitment of a single-minded citizens' group to get the job done, but on Saturday, residents of Chula Vista and what used to be Montgomery will be celebrating what may be the most populous annexation in the history of the state, a Chula Vista official said Thursday.
"Two Great Communities; One Great City," is the theme of the noontime festivities, which will mark the annexation of the formerly unincorporated community of Montgomery, population 23,000, by its larger neighbor, the City of Chula Vista. The actual annexation became effective Dec. 31, city officials said.
"This is going to clear up what has been a pretty confusing situation," said Chula Vista Mayor Greg Cox. He said the newly formed union primarily will benefit the former residents of Montgomery by providing more money for better police protection and for capital improvements. By July, 80 additional city employees will be hired. Only the City Council staff will remain at its present size because charter restrictions prevent it from increasing, he said.
The confusion arose because the densely populated 3.5-square-mile Montgomery was virtually surrounded by Chula Vista, Cox said, but each had a different set of rules. For example, Chula Vista police couldn't handle crime or traffic problems in Montgomery, which depended on the San Diego County Sheriff's Department for law enforcement. Cox said residents of both communities had trouble understanding that, if a crime happened on one side of the street you called the Chula Vista Police Department, but if it happened on the other side, you called the sheriff.
With the annexation, Chula Vista's population increased from 114,000 to about 137,300, restoring it to the rank of second-largest city in San Diego County. Chula Vista was the county's second-largest city from 1980 until January, 1985, when Oceanside crept ahead by 1,000, Chula Vista City Manager John Goss said. The annexation also will boost the city from 36th in the state to 23rd, he said.
Although Chula Vista officials believe the annexation will benefit Montgomery, Montgomery residents haven't always wanted to be swallowed by Chula Vista. The small community rejected the annexation offer in November, 1979, and again in June, 1982. The measure finally was approved by voters on Nov. 5, but the 62% majority indicated that not everyone was enamored with the idea of annexation. Still, it was enough.
"I think it was just a realization on their part that they could receive better services," by joining with Chula Vista, said Cox, who added that 25 police officers are being hired by the city specifically to police the Montgomery area.
Jack Blakely, former president of Montgomery's no-longer-needed Citizens for Annexation committee, agreed.
"It failed twice before. I think it was a matter of educating the people, and that's what we did," he said.
Blakely said his organization was established to educate Montgomery's citizens on the need for annexation.
"Our biggest complaint was that the county was taking about a million dollars raised (in the Montgomery area) from property taxes and sales taxes and spending it elsewhere in the county," he said.
The inevitable result was that the community was paying for the upgrading of every community but its own, he said.
A Chula Vista official commented that the deterioration of streets, sidewalks and other public facilities in Montgomery is apparent when compared to Chula Vista.
The annexation should prove an effective cure, Goss said.
"The money that's being produced there will now be returned to the community," he said.
What's more, Chula Vista will not have to pay for Montgomery's additional services because Montgomery has a strong tax base and can support itself, Goss said.