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Mayor Gloria Begins ‘Parks For All Of Us’ Initiative, Calling For Equity

San Diego Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera (far right) talking to a reporter at ...

Credit: Office of Mayor Todd Gloria

Above: San Diego Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera (far right) talking to a reporter at the Wightman Street Neighborhood Park after a news conference on the city's "Parks For All Of Us" initiative, June 2, 2021.

Mayor Todd Gloria Wednesday launched the "Parks for All of Us" initiative, which includes the first draft update of the city's Parks Master Plan since 1956.

The initiative, which is based on years of public feedback, is intended to focus on equity. It includes an emphasis on acquiring new parkland, designates the Chollas Creek watershed as the newest regional park and identifies other efforts needed to ensure the plan is successful.

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"Everyone, no matter their background, identity, ability or address, deserves easy access to high-quality parks and the benefits they provide," Gloria said. "Historically, there was little incentive for developers to invest in parks where they're needed most, and as a result, many of our residents have been left behind."

In November, the City Council asked city staff to revisit the first draft of the plan. Taking public feedback into account, it was updated to increase the percentage of funding dedicated to park-deficient neighborhoods and historically underserved communities.

"Every person in every neighborhood should have access to quality parks," Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera said. "Sadly, decisions of the past have resulted in unacceptable disparities in who and what neighborhoods can enjoy the benefits of San Diego's parks."

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He said the master plan "lays the foundation for a more just future by prioritizing communities with the greatest need. From the designation of Chollas Creek as a regional park to an equitable funding model for parks, the Parks Master Plan will be a catalyst for social and racial justice by ensuring quality parks and recreational spaces for all."

Residents and stakeholders also asked for a greater focus on continued acquisition of new parkland, according to the mayor's office. The draft plan includes a specific goal of obtaining 100 new acres within 10 years of its adoption. It also prioritizes and designates new regional parks in historically underserved communities.

"I applaud the many San Diegans who have provided input on this plan," said City Council President Pro Tem Stephen Whitburn. This has been a lengthy process with a lot of public engagement, and the community feedback has made this plan better. Everyone should have a park nearby, especially here in San Diego where the weather allows us to enjoy our parks year-round.

To encourage the development of programs in parks, the new plan draft calls for public-private partnerships to create and facilitate programming for adults and youth.

The plan update includes 13 future implementation actions intended to be taken in the early years. Those actions range from creating a citywide trails master plan to making a comprehensive park-condition index and developing engagement measures to give the community an opportunity to be more involved in the process.

The Parks for All of Us initiative calls for the City Council to take three additional actions: formally designating the Chollas Creek watershed as a regional park, adding a recreation element to the city's land-use general plan, and establishing a citywide impact fee paid by housing developers that will allow the city to fund park projects stalled under the current community-based fee.

"This Parks Master Plan will serve generations to come, and we're proud to present a draft that is more reflective of what residents want to see in San Diego's future," said Mike Hansen, the city's planning director. "After collecting and incorporating even more feedback, we feel this new plan addresses long-standing inequities and will truly create a park system that can be enjoyed by everyone."

The announcement was made at the Wightman Street Neighborhood Park in City Heights, which Gloria said was a hard-fought victory for the community. “Obviously, this is a dense neighborhood with a lot of housing and so this is a very important part of the neighborhood’s quality of life here,” Gloria said.

City Heights resident Josephine Arellano and her family enjoy Wightman Street Park on a daily basis.

“It means everything to my kids. They love coming to the park every day. They’re here constantly. They enjoy running, playing, riding their bikes,” the mother of four said. “A lot of families do come here. A lot of kids in the afternoon, this park is full with a lot of little kids.”

Arellano said the park provides a safe space for this community.

“We do need the help to get the park cleaned up for our kids,” she said.

The current Parks Master Plan was created 75 years ago. At the time, the city-owned 5,700 acres of parkland and 13 recreation centers across 38 communities. Wednesday, the city owns and maintains more than 42,000 acres of park assets across 54 communities, including 58 recreation centers, 13 aquatic complexes, three municipal golf courses, four visitor and nature centers, 10 skate parks and 17 off-leash dog areas.

The plan is expected to go before the City Council for consideration this summer.

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