For those interested in grassroots organizations, there is the Paradise Hills Village Council, of which Guy Preuss is chair. "The Paradise Hills Village Council is basically an oral newsletter," Preuss explains. "People get together to complain about graffiti, to complain about the board and cares when they're not controlling their patients properly. It's a resource for the politicians to make contact with the community. In the course of a year, field reps from all the elected officials will show up." The complaints and requests of the residents of Paradise Hills then get filtered to the Skyline–Paradise Hills Planning Committee and eventually to the City.
One of the regular attendees at the village council's monthly meetings is Alonzo Alexander, a community relations officer, whose dual duty is to act as both community liaison and patrol cop. He rules his roost from a storefront office in the middle of a shopping center in the neighboring community of South Bay Terraces, a few blocks east of the skatepark. "We take more time out to deal with social issues that might be taking place in the community," Alexander says, by way of explaining his job. "For the most part, I'm still a cop. I'll arrest you, probably faster than most of the cops in the field, even though I'm community relations," he continues, laughing. "Granted, I want to do it with a smile, if I can, so you understand that we're not the bad guys, we are trying to provide a service."
Alexander spends most of his evenings shuttling from meeting to meeting, trying his best to make it to each and every one of 30 community meetings each month. His days start at ten o'clock in the morning and often end in the night hours. He also works closely with the director of the Navy housing and with its private security guards, keeping them up to date on goings on in the area. About a year ago, in an outsourcing move, the Navy partnered with a professional management and construction company in ownership of the housing, which greatly helped remedy some of the problems within it. "It's my understanding there were a lot of people that were asked to leave," says Alexander, "because they weren't within compliance. We also found out that a lot of the people that were asked to leave did not have rights to be there anyway. They had somehow managed to be involved in a sublet format, or they were there living in housing while So-and-So was out at sea. So they weren't concerned about rules or who the neighbor was." He pauses. "As far as now, it feels like a...it's almost like a Ward Cleaver feel to me." And the impact on the surrounding community has been positive. "They have a park and they have ballgames and things like that, so a lot of people from the outer community will come and just sit and relax in there also," he says. "So I've got nothing but plusses about how that change has been seen."
Alexander's goal is to make open dialogue with the community--especially young people--his top priority, and he approaches his task with a firm, respectful grace. "One of the biggest things was getting out there and communicating with everybody," he says, "getting them to understand we're not saying that kids shouldn't be able to go and hang out, but we really need to monitor where they're hanging out, why, and who they're with, make them aware of the dangers that exist out there so they understand when it's time to break up and move on. Don't stand around and let the problem get bigger for you." Alexander thinks it is working. "That has been a change from when I first came here," he says, "because it used to be that people just wanted to stay in the house and stay out of the way, you know, 'I don't wanna be involved. I don't wanna take any chances.' There's one or two knuckleheads who run through here and they'll do something stupid, newsworthy-wise, sensationally. Kids will be kids, no matter where you're at, and we'll expect a certain amount of activity from them. People are gonna be people, no matter where you're at, and you expect a certain amount of negativity, but most of it is positive."
Negative or positive: Guy Preuss is here to stay. Preuss remembers purchasing his house with help from a Navy buddy. Arriving by accident after his fleet orders were changed, he set his sights on property ownership almost immediately. "By the time I knew I was coming to San Diego, houses were selling for $32,000, and when I got here, they were selling for $42,000," he says, "so I immediately said, 'Well, just to keep pace with the market, I need to buy a home.' Besides, I didn't want to live on the base anymore, so I bought a house. And then I discovered, 'Oh, this is really a nice place to live,' and I never left."
Doug, on the other hand, wants out. He tucks his skateboard under his chin, looking out at the park he used to rule with his friends, a crew of skaters who often had to duck into the canyon as gangs strolled through to fight. "I'd really like to get out of this place, like just as far as possible," he says, strongly though without malice. "I'd really like to visit New York. Experiencing downtown and the city life in general, I feel like it's for me, for someone to be, like, social and outgoing and, I don't know. I need diversity, basically. I'm actually getting tired of hanging around my own."
Alonzo Alexander, who lived in Paradise Hills with his wife and four daughters up until recently, loves the area; it's his base, his beat. "It's a hidden jewel," he says. "It's one of those sleepy areas where you can still somewhat afford a piece of land." He pauses, fiddles with his radio. "It's a hidden jewel that seems to be coming back," he says softly.