You won’t find rows of cookie-cutter stucco houses with tile roofs in Marycrest, Beverly Green, John S. Park and the other vintage neighborhoods Las Vegans have called home for the last 70 years or so.
The oldest neighborhoods in Las Vegas, nestled in the shadow of the Stratosphere, have charm, character and growing pains.
Investors are swooping in to Ward 3 near bustling downtown, paying cash and top dollar, says real estate agent Jack Levine.
“They’re turning them into short-term rentals. It raises home values, but it pushes out home buyers,” Levine said.
Crime in the area has neighbors fearing for their safety. Homelessness, they say, is rampant.
With early voting underway and less than two weeks until the primary election, more than one hundred residents gathered Thursday evening to let the seven candidates who want to represent Ward 3 know what’s on the minds of constituents.
The standing-room-only crowd packed the hall at the Lutheran Reformation Church on St. Louis, near Sahara and Paradise.
Moderators Dayvid Figler and Patricia Haddad, both Ward 3 residents, asked the candidates if they’d pledge to meet with neighbors within 100 days of taking office to address crime and homelessness.
Not surprisingly, all agreed.
“I think 100 days is too much,” former state and federal lawmaker Ruben Kihuen told the crowd. “I would commit to doing this in 50 days. These issues are so prevalent, they need immediate attention. For too long we’ve been getting the crumbs of Las Vegas. No more!”
The proclamation from Kihuen, who is seeking to salvage his political career after being sanctioned by Congress for inappropriate behavior with several women, drew cheers from some in the crowd and an admonition from moderators to hold the applause.
Olivia Diaz, a former state assemblywoman, took a swipe at current Ward 3 Councilman Bob Coffin.
“As I’ve been walking our district it’s apparent that we need to have an open door and have a public official who will be responsive,” she said.
Candidate Shawn Mooneyham, a political newcomer, said as someone “who’s been homeless in the past, my goal is to create a coalition to solve this issue.”
Resident Mike Balestrero complained about the influx of home investors and liquor stores in the area but lamented the process for protesting zoning matters.
“The Planning Commission should be called the Foregone Conclusion Commission,” Balestrero said, drawing laughs from the crowd. “Meetings start on Tuesday night and don’t end until Wednesday morning. And the Comment Card doesn’t allow for comments.”
“The planning process is skewed toward those who want exceptions to the code,” he complained, adding it’s intended to disenfranchise citizens.
“In this day and age, finding information and commenting on a proposed zoning change should be no harder than taking a picture of the code on the property or finding the item on the agenda and adding the comment,” Balestrero said.
The moderators asked the candidates if they’d commit to creating a system “where residents are informed without having to work so hard to learn about planning items?”
Again, all agreed to do so.
“We need to streamline these programs. Use social media,” said candidate David Lopez. “Taxpayers end up losing if there’s a flaw in the system.”
Candidate George Mingo Collaso suggested applicants cover the costs of notifying neighbors of pending zoning changes.
Aaron Bautista, another candidate, suggested the city send messages directly to constituents’ phones.
“We have to work together and communicate properly,” he said.
Huntridge resident Erica Martinez is demanding more city marshals and a city council person “who will act, not just talk.”
Martinez recalled an altercation with an inebriated person while she was visiting Circle Park with her daughter. The small park located in the median of busy Maryland Parkway near Charleston, is a haven for the homeless and criminals, neighbors complain.
“Like Erica, I’ve been extremely frustrated over urban green space management,” candidate Melissa Clary, a former city parks staffer, told the crowd. “Nationally, cities are facing this issue and it’s tied directly to the homeless issue.”
More questions from the moderators brought more agreement from the candidates.
“Will you commit to hire a staff person who lives in the ward?”
“Will you meet with us in your first month in office?”
You guessed it. They will.