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Good Fences Don’t Make Good Neighbors

Good Fences Don’t Make Good Neighbors

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader November 26, 2014.)


On Thursday, October 17, approximately one hour after Juan Carlos Pastenes arrived home from work, five police officers showed up at his home. The 36-year-old Pastenes sighed, opened the door, and before the officers could announce their purpose, he asked for their badge numbers. He advised them to go brush up on their history and come back when they’d done their homework. Then he shut the door.

When Pastenes’s wife Krysten Cruz came home, the officers had just left. She called dispatch, said she wanted to talk to a sergeant to find out what the issue was, why the police had come to her this time. She spoke with Sgt. E. Lynch. “He basically said he was there because Susan [Gloudeman, a neighbor] needed cops there to preserve the peace,” Cruz tells me. “She needed to go to the garage to get stuff out. Supposedly, we were yelling obscenities at her, but mind you, I was at work.”

Cruz apprised Lynch of her family’s troubled history with Gloudeman because, she says, “He said he wasn’t aware of the situation.”

This ignorance (feigned or otherwise) on the part of the San Diego Police Department has become a more troubling matter to Pastenes and Cruz than the specific issues they have with their neighbor, especially given that they have piles of documents detailing the long-standing dispute. The documents include restraining orders, a letter from the city attorney, and an investigator’s police report that refers to harassment and the filing of false reports on Gloudeman’s part.

While it’s not uncommon for clashes between neighbors to escalate to the point of police involvement, details of the trouble between Pastenes and Gloudeman raise the question: at what point does the city’s continued involvement become harassment itself?

The way Pastenes tells it, the bad blood goes back to 2006, the first night he moved into the City Heights neighborhood known as Fox Canyon, across Lantana Drive from Gloudeman.

“People were coming over, bringing me cupcakes, wine, beer, the whole welcome-to-the-neighborhood type thing,” he says. “And then [Gloudeman] comes in and says, ‘How is it you get to live here?’ I’m, like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And she’s, like, ‘Well, what are you? You’re either a gang member or a drug dealer.’ I was, like, ‘Lady, do me a favor and get the fuck out of my property.’”

We’re standing outside Rosa Parks Field at the City Heights Recreation Center, where he has just finished coaching at his 12-year-old son’s soccer practice. His son Charlie sits near us on the grass next to a large net sack of soccer balls.

“She calls the police on me for anything and everything,” he says. “She calls for noise complaints. If I have more than two people outside my house, she says there are gang members at my house.”

The accusations are unfounded. The 5-foot-7-inch plumber resents that he has to constantly prove that he’s not a gang member, that his associates are not gang members, that he’s not up to no good just because his neighbor says he is.

“At this point, it’s not even a harassment thing, it’s a racial thing. Whenever she calls to make a police report, the police have told me, it’s always, ‘The Mexican, the wetback, the beaner,’” he says. And while he does find the racial epithets disturbing, especially when aimed at his children, it’s the combination of the accusations plus the frequency with which she calls the police that most concerns him.

“Dude, I own a business. I have ten employees. I have never been in any kind of lifestyle like that,” he says. “What, because I’m Mexican, I’m automatically a gang member? I’m a taxpayer.”

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