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San Diego Adds To Open Space Land Preserves

Aired 12/3/12 on KPBS News.

The San Diego City Council voted to preserve an additional 6,572 acres of open space, though environmentalists wanted even more.

— The San Diego City Council has voted to preserve 6,572 acres of additional open space, making it off limits to development. The vote was called a victory for environmentalists, even though they wanted the city to preserve even more land.

San Diego canyons like this one were targeted for preservation by groups like San Diego Canyonlands.

The council voted to "dedicate" the open space, which is found throughout the city of San Diego. Dedication is the highest level of protection. It means two-thirds of city voters must approve any building project on any of that land. The action was part of an effort to preserve the wild canyons, mesas and mountains that provide beauty and harbor wildlife. It was backed by groups like San Diego Canyonlands.

City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner was the measure's biggest City Hall supporter.

"I think it's great but we didn't go far enough," she said. "San Diego Canyonlands has been working on this a long time and they did come up with a list of 11,000 acres."

The additional 4,000 to 5,000 acres targeted by preservationists didn't become dedicated partly because it was unclear if they were entirely undeveloped. Lightner wants the city to keep trying to preserve the additional land that was on Canyonlands' list.

The executive director of San Diego Canyonlands said the city already had 22,000 acres of dedicated parkland and open space prior to last week's council action. San Diego has been buying and protecting open space ever since Pete Wilson was mayor.

The land dedicated this year was done under a mandate passed by the state legislature, but that enabling legislation expires at the end of 2012. Lightner and environmentalists want the state to pass future mandates to allow San Diego to dedicate lands in the coming years.

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