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North County 'Eden' Fights Drug Invasion : 3-Pronged Attack Aims at Solana Beach Dealing

July 03, 1988|ANTHONY PERRY | Times Staff Writer

The letter, sent to Steven Luxenberg, a partner in the Rapp & Luxenberg Development firm of Solana Beach, notes the continued concern among Eden Gardens residents about the apartment buildings on Valley Avenue.

"The concern centers around the property's reputation as a focal point for drug-related activity," Huse wrote. "The neighbors complain that dealers and users frequent the facility while little or nothing is done to discourage this illegal activity."

Dale Vogelaar, director of operations for Rapp & Luxenberg, said he resents the implication in Huse's letter that the firm has taken a laissez-faire attitude toward the property.

The firm has owned the buildings for about two years, he said. Most of the tenants receive federal rent subsidies under a housing program for the poor.

Vogelaar said that, in the three months he has been overseeing the management of the buildings, drug users have been removed as tenants, would-be buyers have been chased from the parking lot and the on-site manager has agreed to testify in court against a dealer despite threats to her life.

'It Was a Shooting Gallery'

"When I got there, it was a shooting gallery in the stairwells," Vogelaar said. "Children were watching the junkies puncture their arms. I used to be afraid to go down there, and I'm a pretty large man.

Their soda pop bottle caps, matches, spoons and candles were founde everywhere, he said, referring to paraphernalia used in the preparation of street drugs.

Vogelaar insists that the buildings have gotten better--but improvement has not been as noticeable to the 50-odd Eden Gardens residents who attended a recent meeting with city officials and sheriff's deputies to plead for protection.

"In the past, the legitimate citizens could comfortably avoid or turn their backs on the drug dealing in Eden Gardens," said Sheriff's Capt. William Knowles, head of the Encinitas substation, which has responsibility for Solana Beach. "Now it's gotten so bad they can't do that any longer.

"They have a legitimate fear of the lowlifes who come crawling out after dark," he said.

A complicating factor in cracking down on drug sales on the street has been the tendency of dealers to use illegal aliens to make their transactions, according to Knowles and Kerins.

Fit Dealers' Needs Perfectly

The aliens fit the dealers' needs perfectly: They work cheap, they are willing to take chances, and, if arrested, they are often uncooperative and make poor witnesses.

"The dealers feel the aliens are expendable," Knowles said. "If they get arrested, they can always be replaced."

A group of young men sitting outside the Solana Seashore Apartments last week complained that deputies unfairly pick on them and roust them for petty offenses because they are poor. They said they are not acquainted with any drug dealers.

"Every neighborhood has drugs, not just Eden Gardens," said a young man who would give his name only as Rafael. "The older people are exaggerating."

Still, the drug problem has led to the unusual situation of growing sentiment in a Latino neighborhood for increased sweeps by the U.S. Border Patrol.

Although they cannot prove it, residents such as Granados, Gonzalez, Aleman and others believe the immigrants selling drugs in their neighborhood do not have the documentation needed to remain in the country.

A Drug Users' Paradise

"I used to hate the Border Patrol because I would see the unhappy children in school after their fathers were picked up and deported," said Granados, 46, who works as a community liaison for the bilingual program of the Solana Beach elementary school district.

"Now I would like to see the Border Patrol down here more often," she said.

Eden Gardens has proved to be a drug users' paradise. It is close to the freeway, a 15-minute trip from La Jolla and only 20 minutes from Oceanside. And, in the past, many residents admittedly had a look-the-other-way attitude.

Eden Gardens is bounded by Interstate 5 on the east, Via de Valle on the south, Stevens Avenue on the west and Academy Drive on the north. It was given its name decades ago by an imaginative real estate agent.

Newly built condominiums and small business parks are nibbling at the edges of the old neighborhood.

If the city's plan to draw more residents to La Colonia Park is to succeed, it must reverse an established social pattern in Solana Beach. By and large, the Anglos venture to the heart of Eden Gardens only for its restaurants.

"We have to get away from the notion held by many that the park is for the Eden Gardens area," said City Manager Huse.

Meanwhile, residents wait and hope. When the deputies on foot patrol leave, the people Alice Granados calls the "vampires" arrive.

"They come by at lunchtime and weekends and Friday nights, after they get paid, to buy their drugs," said Al Gonzalez. "It's sad what's happening."

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