Country club brawl highlights shortage of public green space in Tijuana
The question of whether Tijuana has enough green space was recently dramatically highlighted when the governor of Baja California vowed to take over one of Tijuana’s private golf courses.
Baja California Governor Jaime Bonilla proposed in April to convert the Tijuana Country Club and golf course into a public recreation area for sports and culture for children, arguing that the 120-acre property belongs to the hands of the people, as one of the border towns. some green spaces.
“With the growth of Tijuana – it is the most densely populated city in the country – it has lost its lungs and the young people in the neighborhoods have nowhere to play. There are no green spaces, ”Bonilla said.
Bonilla’s plan has sparked a legal brawl, and some lawyers doubt the seizure of assets will materialize. Because he announced the plan just days before the start of the official campaign season, some have questioned whether it was primarily a publicity stunt.
Either way, the proposal highlighted a problem for the growing border city. The total amount of green space in Tijuana is not enough to meet the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization for sustainable and healthy cities, according to Patricia Peterson Villalobos, secretary of urban and environmental development for the city.
In its publication Health Indicators for Sustainable Cities, the WHO recommends 9 square meters of green space per capita; Tijuana only has 2 square meters of public recreation area, said Peterson Villalobos. That number rises to 4 when you consider the green spaces maintained by private and public universities and private sports facilities such as those on the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) campus, she added.
According to the investigative newspaper Zeta, Villalobos also recently publicly acknowledged that 50% of the city’s parks “still lack maintenance and some equipment”. The city of nearly 2 million people has a budget of just 150 million pesos – or $ 7.5 million – to spend on equipment, landscaping and other works. maintenance for its 209 parks.
Tijuana does have some lovely outdoor spaces, however.
Parque Morelos, a 1,045-acre ecological reserve located in the city’s eastern center, is home to a zoo. On Tuesday morning, Marcela Gonzalez, 44, pushed an empty stroller as her son darted along the park’s large lake.
“We come as often as possible to walk in the park and exercise, and we enjoy it a lot,” she says.
Claudio Ramon Alfaro, 71, said he has been coming to Parque Teniente Guerrero for decades, since it reopened after being temporarily closed in the late 1990s due to crime.
“I think they have enough space here in Tijuana. There are a lot of parks and green places if you know the city well, ”said Alfaro, who appreciates the musicians who come to play in the middle of the day. “I come here just to relax and take a break, and relax my eyes. It is a very safe and peaceful place, especially since the police have installed the cameras. “
But Jesus Aguilera, 31, who played chess at nearby tables, lamented the lack of parks.
“There are a lot of people living in Tijuana and every day more and more people are arriving,” he said. “In order for everyone to have enough space to breathe fresh air and relax, something has to be done.”
As part of the state government’s (and Bonilla’s) plan, the exclusive Tijuana Country Club – known locally as Club Campestre Tijuana – and its adjoining 18-hole golf course would be seized and turned into a park. 120-acre public. Bonilla, of the ruling Morena political party, has offered to convert the exclusive club into a recreation area for children, arguing that it is one of the few green spaces in Tijuana that can be redeveloped for this purpose.
The legal battle is already underway to expropriate the property, located in a relatively affluent part of Tijuana. The club and those who support it have filed legal complaints against the state’s plan.
“There are people who have lived in Tijuana for 40 years and they do not know the [Tijuana] Country Club; they can’t even access the parking lot, ”Bonilla said.
A spokesperson for Club Campestre said the plan to seize him “stinks of political revenge between two politicians.” Other legal experts have said the state is unlikely to win its case in court.
Club members’ lawyer Adolfo Solis said the expropriation would set a dangerous precedent.
“Any opponent, journalist or civil servant, any group that is not aligned with the government, could simply have their assets taken away,” Solis said.
The modern version of the sports and social club opened in 1979 and now includes a spa, massage area, salon and children’s entertainment area for babysitting, according to its website. The private club has around 800 members, including the city’s economic and political elite. (Bonilla maintains that these are her only members.) Membership costs around $ 300 to $ 500 per month, but to join, you have to pay an initiation fee of $ 70,000 to $ 90,000, according to Solis.
For months before the expropriation decree was published in the government’s official gazette on April 13, Bonilla had threatened the action in his daily live streams on Facebook. He accused the organization of not paying property taxes and not paying for services such as water.
Club Campestre is a favorite haunt of the former mayor of Tijuana, Arturo González Cruz, who served as the club’s former president for two terms. González Cruz was embroiled in a major political feud with the governor last year. Even though González Cruz and Bonilla are part of the same political party, the two became public enemies last year, partly arguing over whether González Cruz would be approved to run to succeed Bonilla for governor.
Some observers wonder if the action was politically motivated because of this political beef. Business leaders have expressed concern that the expropriation decree will discourage private investment and undermine the state’s ability to develop its manufacturing industry.
Some residents argue that the city should take better care of the public properties it already manages. In the district of Lomas Taurinas, north of Tijuana, some complain that they have lost access to Pasteje Park because hundreds of families are building a squatter colony there.
Marcelo Alvarez, 34, is one of hundreds of people building private residential structures – huts made from spare wood, tin and other discarded materials – inside Pasteje Park. Alvarez said he and his neighbors decided to build houses there because they ran out of options and didn’t want to live on the streets.
“Look at us, do we look like people waiting for the government to do something for us?” Alvarez asked, as he drove a long shovel into the ground to create a three-foot-wide hole for drainage outside the four-by-four-foot hut he had made from laid plywood. scum. “Mexicans don’t have the luxury of sitting idly by waiting for the government to send us a check or rent relief. It will never come.
Alvarez has said he supports Bonilla’s decision to try to take over Club Campestre.
“For hundreds of years our government did nothing but take the people,” Alvarez said. “At least he’s trying to give us something back.
Tijuana City Councilor Arnulfo Guerrero Leon has offered an alternative solution to seizing private land. His proposal to buy 100 acres in the southern part of the city, near Boulevard 2000, near Cuervo de los Venados, and build an artificial forest is currently under consideration by the planning commission.
“Tijuana needs a forest, a sufficiently large and open space that includes protected natural areas, green spaces, wildlife, vegetation and natural landscapes for the preservation of regional ecosystems, which also contributes to health and to the well-being of the inhabitants of the city by preventing diseases associated with environmental pollution, ”he said.