Pietro Cozzolino opened his business, Peter’s Foreign Body Auto Repair, on El Cajon Boulevard in City Heights back in 1984. Litter has always been an issue outside of his shop. Lately, however, he says the problem has worsened.
“It’s getting worse and worse every day,” Cozzolino told NBC 7. “Before there was trash but not quite as it is today. Today we have a very bad situation.”
According to data obtained by NBC 7 Investigates, San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood has the third-highest rate of littering citations in the city of San Diego.
Data shows the 92101 zip code consisting of downtown neighborhoods has the highest number of infractions, 90 total, since 2013.
San Diego beach communities Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, and La Jolla have a combined total of 52 citations, and City Heights and Oak Park neighborhoods had 48 citations since 2013.
In terms of streets, El Cajon Boulevard, where Cozzolino’s shop is located, was the location served the most citations, 22 in the last six years.
“I come to work everyday and want to see it clean, not dirty,” added Cozzolino. “I don’t like dirty because I keep my shop very clean.”
In regards to other city streets, the data from the city shows University Avenue had 14 since 2013 and Garnet had 8 citations since 2013.
And while business owners such as Cozzolino have seen an increase in litter in alleys, on streets surrounding his auto repair shop, enforcement of minor littering infractions have decreased dramatically since 2013.
According to the data, in 2013 San Diego Police issued 73 citations for littering. In 2015, the number of citations dropped to 37. By 2018, the city only handed out 33 citations.
Meanwhile, complaints on the city’s Get It Done app have also increased. Last year, 302 complaints were submitted about the litter in San Diego. This year that number increased to 938 complaints.
The rise in complaints to the city comes as Mayor Kevin Faulconer continues to tout the success of his Clean SD initiative, aimed at removing litter in neighborhoods, canyons, and along the San Diego River.
In September, Faulconer celebrated the removal of 4,100 tons of garbage as part of the Clean SD program.
However, for business owners such as Cozzolino, more needs to be done.
“The city should have done something about it. They see a lot of things going on. But they don’t do anything,” Cozzolino says. “They didn't have enough employees to come around and clean up the street. That's the problem.”
A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office told NBC 7 that while much of the Clean SD initiative focuses on large scale illegal dumping and cleaning up of homeless encampments, Clean SD crews also focus on littering hotspots in communities.
"The teams sat down with council districts to identify those locations known for litter and trash and they then head out to clean up those areas."
The spokesperson also said Mayor Faulconer is now working with community groups to help with the larger scale efforts.