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SD City Hall Gives Mixed Signals On Land Preservation

— This year Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that allows San Diego to "dedicate" 10,000 additional acres of open space, making it off-limits to development.

But city staff have recommended only 6,000 acres be protected, saying the remaining land has either legal restrictions or other potential uses. And that has put local environmentalists, and some politicians, up in arms.

Jay Powell, with the San Diego Sierra Club, told others at a rally this week that city staff is shortchanging land protection.

"Open space is not a fungible asset. It isn't something we're going to be bargaining about," said Powell. "We need to dedicate it, and preserve it and protect it for future generations."

Land dedication is the highest level of protection, requiring a two-thirds vote of the people before it can be developed. The City of San Diego has been protecting land in this way ever since Pete Wilson was mayor in the 1970s.

This is one reason San Diego has so many wild canyons that run like ribbons across the landscape.

Eric Bowlby is the executive director of San Diego Canyonlands. He said the City of San Diego already has more than 22,000 acres of dedicated parkland and open space. He added that the wild canyons, mesas and mountains of San Diego are clearly at risk.

"Our open space will continue to be whittled away for various other uses if we don't dedicate it... if we don't give it that layer of protection." said Bowlby.

This week a city council committee told staff to revisit the issue. State legislation says the full city council must act to preserve the land by the end of this year.

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