Escondido: Roots of a Community Planner

by Emanuel Preciado, MA, PhD student. UCI Community Resilience summer fellow. September 2018.

I am from Central Escondido, California – a place with similar demographics as Central Santa Ana but half the size in terms of total population. It’s a predominantly working-class Latinx city, with very little to no political representation even though the city of Escondido is more than 50% Latinx. I started going to college to find ways that low income communities of color can lift themselves up by taking political action through organizing and activism. In my experience coming from a working-class Latinx neighborhood is that our city could care less about the Latinx population unless we’re somehow spurring economic growth usually through our labor. Even then, Escondido’s leadership has demonstrated that racism trumps capital as decisions are made in a cloud of xenophobia and racial hysteria

Take for example the proposed Southwest Key children’s shelter in 2014 that was to bring jobs and millions of dollars in revenue to the city, but was rejected by city officials due to backlash from the predominantly right-wing conservative community. The shelter was slated to house mostly unaccompanied minors from Central America, but complaints were made that the children would bring crime and disease. Even the shelters themselves have recently been scrutinized in the media for reports of sexual abuse of minors committed by Southwest Key shelter employees. In addition, Southwest Key shelters have made enormous profits housing mostly migrant children. I say this only to highlight the complexity of this issue of housing refugee children and it’s not always clear who are the heroes and villains.

The city of Escondido has made national news several times for their racial discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiment expressed through city ordinances, such as a ban on renting property to undocumented immigrants in 2006 or the city’s partnership between the police department and ICE. My experience growing up in Escondido inspired me to study urban planning and social movements. Today, I am convinced that community-driven planning is the only responsible and just way that communities without a voice can become empowered and make demands to improve the quality of life in their communities. I consider myself a community planner.