Residents along Mission and Mendoza Drive in Costa Mesa gathered trash bags, brooms and dust pans and took to the streets Saturday morning to clean up their neighborhood.
The community clean-up day is part of a larger improvement project that the city began in the neighborhoods next to Sonora Elementary School in December 2012, said Mike Brumbaugh, a code enforcement officer and member of the neighborhood improvement task force.
The city is in the process of repaving several alleyways that run behind the multi-level housing units on Mission Drive and Mendoza Drive, and is asking homeowners to put money into upgrading their property. This is all being done to improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood, which for years has been plagued with graffiti and gang activity, Brumbaugh said.
“I want you to have the same neighborhoods that they have in areas like Mesa Verde,” he said to the group, which met at Sonora Elementary to discuss the day’s work before dispersing to begin cleaning. “You all deserve that.”
Maria Morales, who has lived in the community with her family for 10 years, knew exactly where she wanted to begin cleaning.
She directed her two elementary school-aged children toward a dumpster behind homes on Valencia Drive and began sweeping up garbage that had been tossed on the ground.
She’s watched the neighborhood change since the city began taking notice of the conditions more than a year ago.
“There’s more people communicating and security, more patrolling,” she said. “I feel safer here now.”
She hopes community clean-up days continue and that more of her neighbors will get involved.
“Let’s hope that people will start caring about where they live and put their garbage in the trash instead of just throwing it on the ground,” she said as she picked up an empty soda container and chucked it in the dumpster.
Even after a year of cleaning, graffiti on homes is still visible in parts of the neighborhood, but Brumbaugh said it’s a huge improvement from when he first drove through the community.
Elisa Sakaske, a Costa Mesa resident, agrees.
“The cleanliness of the neighborhood has improved tremendously,” she said.
While she doesn’t live in the neighborhood, Sakaske heard about the event through the Parent Teacher Assn. at Sonora and decided to participate.
She pulled her 5-year-old daughter in a wagon behind her as she scouted for trash along one of the streets.
“We’re having a hard time finding trash to pick up,” she said.
During the three-hour clean-up, people loaded trash bags full of garbage and even old furniture into the dumpster that the city placed in the Sonora parking lot. At lunch time, the group gathered back at the school to share a meal.
“My hope is that these types of events will continue to empower people in the community to make change in their neighborhoods,” Brumbaugh said.