Santee Center Gets a Grassroots Makeover

New fence for Santee

Gone is the 10-foot-high chain-link fence that once was topped by barbed wire, making Santee Neighborhood Action Center look like more like a detention center than a safe place for families to receive services.

Today, a new wooden split rail fence built by volunteers circles the modular building at 1535 Santee Drive, providing a more inviting entrance to the center that houses Strong Neighborhoods staff and serves as a drop-in center and meeting place for residents.

But the new fence is just one of the improvements at Santee thanks to a $50,000 contribution from the Council District 7 Construction and Conveyance tax funding and $47,695 in contributions, donations and 835 hours of work by 62 volunteers.

Santee Center was surrounded by a chain-link fence.

“It’s the hard work and contribution of many, many volunteer hours of the residents that made it what it is tonight and for many, many years to come,” Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen said at a “reopening” of the center on February 10.

Volunteers included young adults and youth referred by the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force in an effort to give them a sense of ownership of the center and a respect for its work in the area.

Improvements to the office and the community room behind the office included new flooring, new exterior and interior paint, exterior siding repair and new windows, new

Santee Center's new fence, landscaping

LED lighting, donation of office and storage furniture and computers, repair of heating and cooling systems and landscaping.

The Santee/Yerba Buena neighborhood is one of 13 Strong Neighborhoods Focus Areas chosen because of factors including gang activity, crime rates, blight, unemployment and home foreclosures.

In January, the Santee community room was filled with residents concerned over a spike in fatal gang shootings and stabbings in East San Jose. The meeting organized by Nguyen’s office has scheduled a follow-up meeting for 6 to 7 p.m. on Monday, March 14 at the center that will help match residents with services to help them keep their neighborhoods safe.

Residents celebrate Santee's makeover

Vice Mayor thanks volunteers

In February, the gathering at the center was a celebration of hard work and progress toward stabilizing the neighborhood. Dozens of residents received certificates of appreciation along with Strong Neighborhoods Team Manager Paul Pereira and his staff, Tom Johnston, Debbie Bybee and Teresa Gutierrez.

“They’ve been here a very short time but are making a big difference in the community,” said Martin Renteria, president of the Tully-Senter Neighborhood Action Coalition.