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San Diego City Council Passes Parks Master Plan Focusing On Citywide Equity

 August 5, 2021 at 10:59 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Pandemic lockdowns and school closures have emphasized many inequities in our cities, but the changes made Tuesday to the San Diego parks master plan may help solve one glaring example. The city council approved the first overhaul of the plan in 65 years with an emphasis on serving neighborhoods that have been underserved by park development. In the past. Joining me is KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, Andrew. Welcome time-oriented. Now the claim is that adequate park development has bypassed some lower income communities in San Diego over the years. Why would that be the case? Much of Speaker 2: 00:38 The funding for parks in the city of San Diego comes from impact fees that are paid by developers when they build new housing. The result was that newer neighborhoods north of interstate eight, mostly got 80% of the park fees in the city over the past decade and the older neighborhoods, mostly south of interstate eight, uh, that have less vacant land, uh, that are, are more fully developed. And, uh, haven't seen as much, uh, new development over the past decade basically got short changed. So even if they have a higher population density, even if they face other systemic inequities, uh, they still got less money under the status quo, Charlie, Speaker 1: 01:17 At least one city council member pointed to the pandemic lockdowns for making the lack of parks and open space in some communities everybody could see. Yeah. Speaker 2: 01:28 Vivian Moreno, the council member for district eight, a which includes Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, Santa see DRO said in the meeting that parked efficiency is really visible in her neighborhood. You see kids playing soccer on basketball courts or on parking lots and, uh, you know, uh, seniors not having a safe space to walk and exercise. And during the stay at home orders, when everyone was cooped up inside the need to be outside and get fresh air and just feel like you're not trapped in, in your home was all the more urgent. And the inequities of the status quo were just even more obvious in those underserved communities. So what does the Speaker 1: 02:07 New parks master plan change the funding mechanism for? Well, for one, it Speaker 2: 02:12 Creates a uniform park development impact fee for, uh, development across the city. So it's more consistent and more predictable for developers. Um, whereas previously they might be paying different fees depending on where they're building and a portion of the fee will stay in that community. But a greater portion of it will be put into a city-wide park fund. And 50% of the money in that fund would be dedicated to, uh, improving parks or getting new parks in communities of concern. These are historically disadvantaged and underserved communities and the city has a very data-driven method of defining what is a community of concern. Uh, in addition to that, there's another 30% of the funds that would be reserved for, uh, park deficient communities in those communities where there just isn't enough park space, uh, at all. Um, they would also get a, uh, pod, uh, sort of a set aside in this citywide park. And how many parks is the city hoping to develop Speaker 3: 03:13 The city? Doesn't have, I Speaker 2: 03:14 Have a goal for the number of new parks, but it does have a, it did set a goal this week of 100 more acres of park land over the next 10 years. And part of the update this week was expanding what the definition of park is. So, uh, when a new park that counts toward those a hundred acres might look a little different than the more traditional park that takes up a full block, or, you know, it's got grass and a playground, et cetera. It could be a linear park. So, you know, you might decide we can shrink the size of this roadway, uh, and then just put in a line of trees and benches and other amenities that, that make sort of a long and skinny park. Um, it could be a mini park. So like a public Plaza, similar to the, um, Piatsa de LA Emedia and in little Italy, uh, they could also just be setting up a many amenities on a vacant lot. Um, this is the, what the city calls placemaking Speaker 1: 04:08 Now council member, Chris Kade was the one member on the council that did not vote for the new master plan. He says the new funding method is unfair to his constituents. Why is that? Well, whenever you Speaker 2: 04:20 Make a change to the funding structure, there's typically a winners and losers. And so council member Kate kind of saw his district is coming out on the short end of this. Um, his district includes Kearny Mesa and Mira Mesa, and both of those neighborhoods are slated for a pretty substantial increases in housing and density over the next several years, they've, um, occurred in Mesa, already had a community plan update, and Mira Mesa is community plan update is, um, underway. And so he said, he just couldn't get past this idea that those neighborhoods might see all of this extra growth and, and new residents and everything, but because they're not, uh, communities of concern, you know, historically underfunded and underserved communities, they won't get this extra boost in park funding. Um, under the new system, if they are deemed park deficient, which I would imagine Kearny Mesa is it's not a very residential neighborhood, so it doesn't have a lot of park space. Now they would still be eligible for the 30% of the citywide park fee money. Um, but he just kind of felt like, uh, you know, his constituents would come out on the losing end of this new system. Speaker 1: 05:28 And Andrew, will there be further changes to the parks plan or is this all set to go into effect Speaker 2: 05:35 To go into effect, but the city does plan on, uh, monitoring the implementation pretty closely. They want to ensure that it's accomplishing the goals that it actually set out to do. And it's also planning on creating a park prioritization list. So we understand that, you know, all of these formulas that the new that the city has created, um, which parks in which neighborhoods are actually going to be, um, slated for getting improvements and, and, um, more park funding, uh, under the new system. I've been speaking Speaker 1: 06:05 With KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, Andrew. Thank you. My pleasure, Maureen.

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The San Diego City Council Tuesday approved a citywide Parks Master Plan that prioritizes funding for park-deficient and historically underserved communities.
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