By Kristina Houck
To learn how to improve the quality of life for residents of Solana Beach’s Eden Gardens community, a local foundation and university hosted a focus group April 16 at North Coast Fellowship.
In partnership with La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation, researchers at the National Latino Research Center at Cal State San Marcos interviewed residents to gather feedback on the community’s needs, as well as education, civic engagement and economic opportunities. The focus group was the first step of a multi-step community needs assessment, which was first announced during an informational meeting hosted by the foundation March 19.
“We’re trying to create more community,” said Manny Aguilar, president and board chairman of the foundation. “You’re here tonight to help us do that. … We can’t do it alone.”
More than 70 community members attended the focus group, including Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner, Councilman Mike Nichols and City Manager David Ott.
To start off the meeting, attendees wrote down their education goals for their children. Next, medical ethnography students from Cal State San Marcos led focus groups, asking a series of questions about the background of participants, the cultural and social identity of Eden Gardens, and ways to improve the community.
“We’re here to work with this committee to help document the community’s concerns and the community’s needs,” said Bonnie Bade, faculty director of the National Latino Research Center, which aims to promote scientific and applied research, training and the exchange of information that contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the growing U.S. Latino population.
“We are here to listen,” added Arcela Nunez-Alvarez, research director of the center. “We are here to listen to you.”
The meeting ended with a 94-question community survey. Only residents of Eden Gardens who were 18 or older could participate in the survey, which included questions about demographics, culture, education, youth activities and parent participation in schools.
Using the information collected from the focus groups and the survey, the National Latino Research Center staff and Cal State San Marcos students will prepare a study. Underwritten by Santa Fe Christian Schools, the study will identify and prioritize community needs and opportunities in education, civic engagement and social capital.
The center will present its findings to La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation and its partners in May. The foundation will then present the information to the community.
“Thank you very much,” Aguilar said at the end of the meeting. “This is historic. This has never been done in Eden Gardens.”
For more information about La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation, visit
For more information about the National Latino Research Center, visit