Decorative street trees, a merchants association, and volunteers to help the city with code enforcement issues - these are some of the tasks merchants and residents pledged Wednesday to take on for the Tennessee Street corridor.

The effort stems from the inaugural Leadership Vallejo class, a year-long program to teach residents how to improve their community. While the first Leadership Vallejo class has ended, Tennessee Team has vowed to continue its work over the long haul.

Wednesday, a Team Tennessee Town Hall meeting in Council Chambers drew about 40 people who discussed issues impacting the street and then broke up into groups to fashion a three-month action plan with city staff members.

Other actions that team members, merchants and residents will take include forming neighborhood watch groups, erecting signs at crosswalks to slow down drivers, installing banners on street lights, and organizing neighborhood clean-up projects.

"We want to try to improve Tennessee Street, and bring residents and businesses together to make it a better place," said team member Misty Ismail.

A survey the team conducted of those living and working on Tennessee identified key issues impacting their neighborhood as excessive trash and illegal dumping, graffiti and crime.

Other problems cited were drug use and dealing in the back of businesses, aggressive panhandlers, speeding drivers, noise, prostitution, broken street lights, lack of foot traffic and empty store fronts.

Believing the busy vehicle traffic signaled a healthy business district, Daniella Avila of Bellisima Salon set up shop a year ago. But, she said, days often go by with no one entering her shop.

"I want to see business getting better," Avila said. She's suggested a weekly flea market or similar event to draw more people to the street to shop.

Business owner Rick Mariani of Rick Mariani Photography said in the last eight years he's been on the street, he hasn't seen much improvement. He is hopeful a merchant association, traffic control measures and volunteers working with city staff will help.

Minuteman Press general manager Marc Salvadori found the list of projects encouraging, particularly relatively small ones to improve the area's appearance.

"It's a really good start to bring more attention to it. It would be nice to see the street look better," Salvadori said.

Several said they also want more police presence, especially at night, while resident Art Miles said the city was not doing enough to clean up and curb squatting in vacant houses and abandoned buildings.

"I don't understand how people in the leadership roles can ignore their responsibility," Miles said.

But while the street may have problems, several speakers said Tennessee Street has a rich history and a lot of potential which needs to be brought into the light.

"We heard hope, hope and hope in so many places from people like me who love Vallejo," said team member Jack Kane.

Those interested in getting involved in the Tennessee Street efforts can e-mail

Meanwhile, Leadership Vallejo is accepting applications for the next class until May 15. For more information go to

• Contact Sarah Rohrs at or 553-6832.