By DAVE SCHWAB
For the first time in 65 years, San Diego has an updated Parks Master Plan aiming to modernize and equalize its park system, making it more equitable and accessible to everyone.
The new Parks For All Of Us plan aligns parks planning with the City of San Diego’s vision to achieve the shared citywide goals of sustainability and resilience, equity, livability, and connectivity.
The development of the Parks Master Plan is also designed to help implement the City’s Climate Action Plan enacted in 2015, which calls for cutting half of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.
Under the new Parks Master Plan, to address current park inequities, a minimum 80% of citywide park development impact fees will be prioritized to park-deficient communities, with at least 50% of that amount to be prioritized solely within Communities of Concern for at least five years.
Public officials reacted to the passage of the new Parks Master Plan.
“I’m committed to ensuring that all San Diegans have access to high-quality parks,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “The Parks Master Plan update will help prioritize park investments where they’re needed most – in park-deficient and historically underserved communities – and ensure that these parks can be safely accessed and enjoyed by all.”
“The Parks Master Plan was improved significantly since it was returned to staff last year,” said District 2 Councilmember Jennifer Campbell. “This new plan, the first update of our parks since 1956, utilized the feedback my colleagues, residents and I provided to create something we can all be proud of. Moving forward, San Diego will have more parks in all neighborhoods, but especially in communities in desperate need of new recreational opportunities.”
“As our City continues to grow and expand, we are proud to have a plan that will give everyone, regardless of their background, identity, ability, and location, access to high-quality parks,” said the City’s Planning Director Mike Hansen. “The last Parks Master Plan was created when San Diego’s population was less than half of what it is today and so this was long overdue.”
“It’s time to make up for the shortfall of parks in our under-resourced communities while getting rid of the old idea that parks were not important in our neighborhoods,” said District 1 Councilmember Joe LaCava. “The key though is the implementation of the plan. How do you take the aspirational nature of this park master plan, and actually turn it into reality with a new financing mechanism?”
Added LaCava, “The other thing we’ve done as part of the parks master plan is to try to create more incentive for developers to create these smaller parks, and these public spaces, as part of their development plans.”
Another change with the Parks Master Plan is that it prioritizes parks funding via a new points system assessing a park’s overall recreational value. The value of parks under this new points system is based on features related to park size, recreation opportunities, access, amenities, activations, and overall value delivered.
But there are some shortcomings with the new plan, contend two local community park planners.
“Time will tell, but on paper, it’s a reduction in park standards and pretty much disconnects the development impact fees from the planned infrastructure,” said Carolyn Chase, a member of Pacific Beach Planning Group, speaking on her own behalf. “Hopefully, it will redirect significant funds to communities that are the most park deficient. But without a new source of funding, it’s a plan for fewer parks for more people.”
“Approval of a new master park plan could endanger a pocket park ready to build in Point Loma,” said Don Sevrens, a community volunteer and member of the Peninsula Community Planning Board. “The new master plan awards rating points for potential park sites. The larger the site, the more supervised recreational activities, the more proximity to public transit, and so on, the more points. Pocket parks, even in underserved and older communities where large parcels are not available, are unlikely to get many points under the new system.”
The solution, Sevrens believes, is that the City Park and Recreation Department needs to shorten its development schedule.
“Parks in progress need to be grandfathered and not subjected to the new master plan point system,” he said. “The City should consider supplementing with general fund money or other funds what should have been finished long ago.”
The current Parks Master Plan was created in 1956. At that time, the City-owned 5,700 acres of parkland and 13 recreation centers across 38 communities. Today, the City owns and maintains more than 42,000 acres of park assets across 54 communities. This includes 58 recreation centers, 13 aquatic complexes, three municipal golf courses, four visitor and nature centers, 10 skate parks, and 17 off-leash dog areas.
— Reach contributing editor Dave Schwab at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW CITYWIDE PARKS MASTER PLAN
- Forms an interconnected citywide park system.
- Provides thriving recreational spaces accessed by walking, biking or transit.
- Facilitates innovative recreational opportunities.
- Expands citywide park system by acquiring new parkland in areas where it’s needed most.
- Creates opportunities for everyone to safely and enjoyably play outside.
- Designs a healthy sustainable park system that preserves critical habitat and open space and protects bio-diversity.
- 67% of residents are satisfied or very satisfied with the City’s parks.
- Residents support the acquisition of new parkland and new public parks.
- Residents also favored upgrades to existing parks.
- There are opportunities to add recreational value within existing public spaces.
- Priorities include small neighborhood parks, open space and trails, beaches and shoreline parks, fitness and wellness programs, senior programs, and nature programming.
Master plan objectives seek to reduce times to get to parks to a 10-minute walk and roll,a 20-minute bike ride, or micro-mobility ride, or 30-minute transit access.