Aztecs plan National City’s future

Photo courtesy of Litza Tzotzolis

Photo courtesy of Litza Tzotzolis

by Lawson Navarro

A diverse group of San Diego State students came to Montezuma Hall on Monday to present their proposals on how to improve National City.

“Growing up I thought National City was bland, didn’t think much about it and there were lots of negative things I heard about it,” graphic design senior Franco Garcia said.

Garcia was one of about 70 presenters at the Sage Project Symposium, where students had the opportunity to present their research and proposals for ways to counter some of the economic issues and negative perceptions of National City.

The Sage Project: Community Engagement for Sustainable Cities Program is a partnership between SDSU and local government in National City where students from 14 classes are given the opportunity to assist the government with partner-directed projects that direct smart growth and sustainability goals.

“The purpose was to highlight work that students have been doing all year long and to celebrate our first year doing this since it was our pilot year,” Sage Project Program Director Jessica Barlow said.

The project proposal Garcia worked on outlined plans to create a functional way to find systems using color and graphic elements to delineate the four districts of National City. The proposal suggests using recycled material to place signage across the city directing visitors to each district.

Project proposals ranged from merging law enforcements with San Diego County to exploring community interest in creating microbreweries in National City.

“Students created projects that were already of interest to the city,” Barlow said. “They tackled these projects from different perspectives.”

Sustainability senior Kris Rios worked on a proposal advancing a skatepark some locals call “the sewer,” as well as creating murals to liven up art culture in the city.

“The perception is that it needs care and attention from the inside and outside,” Rios said. “This is an opportunity to make a difference with the little I know.”

Because of its highly urban and low-income community, National City is the city partner for the Sage Project until the 2015-16 academic year.

Real estate senior Joey Zaniboni worked on a project to find the best uses of properties to evaluate a long-range plan for property management. His group proposed certain lots of land be turned into residential areas or a large commercial retail spot, such as an auto industry store.

“As a student, any time you can get real – world experience in an industry you are passionate about to interact with government, it’s a good idea,” Zaniboni said.

According to Barlow, the proposals will be reviewed by the city, but there is no guarantee they will be carried out. However, the information and research will be used in some shape or form by the city as it moves forward.

“These are the kinds of experiences that take students beyond one semester of work,” Barlow said. “It’s an experience that can be transformative.”

Photo courtesy of Litza Tzotzolis