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Eyes on the Prize

[whitespace] Beach Flats residents

Out on a Rim: Some longtime Beach Flats residents feel that their community has been misrepresented as a crime-ridden ghetto.

Beach Flats landlord Emilio Martinez blames drugs--and years of neglect by the city--for problems there

'OFTEN LATINOS move in to my place, and then within a couple of weeks have cousins or distant relatives asking to stay with them," Emilio Martinez says. "Many illegal immigrants in the flats are subjected to overcrowding."

Martinez, a local private investigator, has been a Beach Flats landlord for more than 15 years. He strongly believes drug dealers, not slumlords, are at the root of problems in the neighborhood.

"Every drug dealer is responsible for the devaluation of Beach Flats," Martinez says passionately, explaining why the Seaside Company has been able to buy the land for so cheap. "The previous City Council refused to deal with the main problem, drugs. For a long time there were no reverse stings, and SCAN always fought anything they associated with increased police presence. The Sentinel won't print the names of white people buying drugs down here when they get busted in reverse stings. They only print the names of Latinos," he says, barely stopping to breathe. Then he lists off towns such as Oakland and Seaside where he feels such programs have worked.

"The City Council ignored us for 15 years. They didn't ask us what we want," Martinez says.

Martinez says his tenants recently went to a meeting called by activists. "They told me they heard people are going to tear down their house, and that they'll be living on the streets. Those rumors aren't helping anyone. They don't want to be a part of any propaganda and feel they will be discriminated against by both sides if they say the wrong thing.

"In 15 years, they haven't allowed us to have a livable community. They haven't taken on the dealers and integrated the flats into the rest of the community. Everybody's turned their backs on us. We're the sacrificial lamb. I'm not against redevelopment. But housing projects aren't going to stop the drug dealing here. I say let's stop dealing, then if Canfield wants to buy the properties at market value, fine."

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From the April 30-May 6, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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