STOCKTON — Pretty, charming homes drew Miguel Guillen and Julie Contreras into the Yosemite Village district in central Stockton.
“They’re not cookie-cutter homes,” said Guillen, who bought a house in the area this past March.
The abundance of trees, historic storefronts and picturesque front doors, too, had the character each was looking for in a neighborhood, but still, they have a big vision for the community’s future.
Guillen and Contreras recently formed Friends of the Community at Yosemite Village a group dedicated to revamp and revitalize the business district near Poplar and Acacia streets. The two, who are newcomers to the area, met at an open mic event last year at the Blackwater Café and began brainstorming ideas to improve the district.
“We want to elevate the neighborhood,” Guillen said.
On the group’s Facebook page, Friends of the Community at Yosemite Village describes itself as an “action based, a grassroots committee that simply wants to see our small efforts lead towards big changes that make our district a great place to be.”
Contreras, who lives on Poplar Street, said she thinks of Yosemite Street as Route 66 from Pixar’s animated movie “Cars.” A beautiful, old-school block that she and Guillen want to bring back to life.
Guillen, social media and marketing coordinator for Visit Stockton, used his skills to create a Facebook page and an Instagram account, but the duo took it a step further by holding their first community meeting on Nov. 29.
The gathering drew a lot of interest and people really fed into the idea and believed in what could be done here, said Contreras, who owns Stockton Floral on California Street.
On Monday, their most recent meeting, held at Yosemite Meat Market, drew about 60 people. Contreras and Guillen said they’re encouraging people who live, work or own businesses in the neighborhood to offer feedback and input.
Patrick Salisbury, who has owned the Blackwater Café for just more than two years, said it’s nice to see Guillen and Contreras take the lead and organize the effort.
“I think it’s great,” said Salisbury, who has lived most of his life in the neighborhood. “It’s pretty rad to be a part of this.”
Like many of the other business owners on the block, Salisbury said he wants there to be a business and Neighborhood Watch, as well as make the area more visually appealing to get more people from the community out there.
While the effort is in its early stages, the group held its first cleanup event on Sunday morning. The plan is to eventually have a dedicated committee of volunteers who will help keep the area clean.
Leslie Edman, who is executive director of the Central Valley Asian-American Chamber of Commerce and is serving as an adviser to Contreras and Guillen, said Yosemite Village tried to do something similar 10 years ago, but there was not enough interest.
“I think the timing is perfect,” she said, adding that there’s a new energy and business owners so all the pieces are coming together.
Guillen and Contreras, who refer to Yosemite Village as a hidden gem, have big aspirations for the neighborhood. Eventually, they envision sidewalk sales, street fairs and other events to attract newcomers.
Said Guillen: “We want to make it a destination.”
For more information about Friends of the Community at Yosemite Village, email FriendsOfYosemiteStreet@gmail.com or find the group on Facebook and Instagram.
Contact reporter Almendra Carpizo at (209) 546-8264 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlmendraCarpizo.