Chula Vistans tackle graffiti-ridden businesses on Broadway with new mural project

Leona Martinez, 14 and Mike Encarnacion were among a group who took part in a community effort to revitalize Broadway.
Leona Martinez, 14 and Mike Encarnacion were among a group of first-time mural artists who took part in a community effort to revitalize local businesses along Broadway.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The effort, dubbed Envision Broadway, is intended to make the corridor more vibrant


Store manager Alfredo Valdez has repainted the wall of the Firestone auto shop on Chula Vista’s Broadway at least four times.

“It feels like I’m painting the wall every month, honestly, because of the graffiti. It’s expensive,” he said of the repeated cleanup efforts.

The business is one of many experiencing the same problem on Broadway, a main corridor blighted by tagging and trash. Broadway has had the most graffiti incidents, followed by Third Avenue and Palomar. All three account for 25 percent of tagging incidents in Chula Vista, according to the city. Since 2017, the city has spent nearly $31,000 in removal costsfor that area alone.

A group of Chula Vistans is looking to revitalize the area via a series of community efforts they’re calling Envision Broadway, which includes their newly launched mural project that began with a colorful piece on the Firestone wall.

Led by local artist Guillermo “Memuco” Munro Colosio on March 26, the group painted an entrance to the city down Broadway with palm trees, children on scooters and business owners waving hello to pedestrians and drivers. As a graffiti repellent, the artist said he added a clear, paint sealer.

“How do I envision Broadway? I see kids playing back out on the street, everyone being happy, cars driving a little slower,” he said.

Colosio has painted numerous murals in San Diego and Mexico. Most of them, he said, have not been tagged.

“I think (the murals) are a deterrent to that and it also gives the community pride. People want to come and take selfies,” Colosio said.

Chula Vista, CA - March 26: A group of volunteers paints a mural on the side of a local auto shop business wall on Broadway.
A small group works on a mural on the side of a local auto shop business on Broadway.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Local resident Cece Antonetti and her daughter Alina helped paint the mural. The mother said involving youth in community projects, especially artwork, is important to herbecause it helps my daughter understand that it’s our responsibility to take care of our community because it’s our future.”

Plans to improve the area go beyond removing graffiti. It’s about turning Broadway into a healthier and safer area, said Jovita Arellano, program manager with the Institute for Public Strategies South Bay, a public health organization spearheading Envision Broadway.

Surveys the organization conducted in 2019 and 2020 showed that businesses and residents want more inspections on “high-risk businesses,” such as liquor stores and motels, because of concerns that “they are attracting crime and violence to the area and draining much-needed police resources,” read the 2020 report.

Businesses in the area and community leaders want to see more family-friendly shops and designated areas for recreation, Arellano said.

Chula Vista, CA - March 26: Local artist Guillermo Munro Colosio (2nd from left) led a mural project on a Broadway business.
Local artist Guilermo Munro Colosio (2nd from left) led a small group of first-time mural artists.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Chula Vista Councilmembers Jill Galvez and Andrea Cardenas have also joined the group in brainstorming ideas to improve Broadway. Galvez said the business corridor could have a better sense of community, especially with the forthcoming Bayfront project, which is located within her and Cardenas’ districts. Three years ago, Galvez and former Councilmember Mike Diaz launched a graffiti abatement project that encouraged local high school students to paint murals on tagged alleys, walls and utility boxes in west Chula Vista.

Community and city leaders said the first step is to clean up Broadway. The Envision Broadway group hopes to have at least a dozen murals complete within the next two years.

The city recently launched its Create Chula Vista Arts Grant program to fund local public art projects, which Arellano said she will apply for to pay local artists for their murals. Directly on Broadway, the city has also worked to upgrade traffic signals and add new bike lanes from C Street to Main Street.