San Diego issues new Parks Master Plan draft to tepid response in La Jolla

 Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores
The management of Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores would fall under the guidance of the updated Parks Master Plan, set to be reviewed by the San Diego City Council in coming months.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria launched a “Parks for All of Us” initiative on June 2, which includes a new draft update of the long-debated city of San Diego Parks Master Plan, which is expected to go before the City Council for consideration in coming months.

The 246-page revised draft lists the Parks Master Plan investment priorities as improvement and maintenance of existing parks and facilities; neighborhood parks; open space and trails; off-leash dog parks; aquatic facilities; fitness and wellness programs; senior programs; nature and outdoor programs; senior programs; efforts to make parks safe and more active; and acquisition of land for new parks.

Within the initiative, the city has a goal listed to acquire 100 acres in the first 10 years following the Parks Master Plan’s adoption. “This goal will help us to provide parks and places for recreation where the needs are the greatest,” the draft states.

It also keeps a controversial point system for determining how population-based parks are planned, acquired, created and managed. In the past, the city has used a standard of 2.8 acres per 1,000 residents for community parks, neighborhood parks, miniparks and joint use facilities.

The new draft plan integrates what the city calls a “recreational value-based standard,” which “establishes a point value to represent recreational opportunities within population-based parks,” the plan states.

The point system came under fire locally when La Jolla’s community planning groups reviewed the previous Parks Master Plan draft, with some calling the point system “untested, subjective [and] can be confusing.”

However, the city calls implementing the point system “a critical first step in transforming our parks system.” The goal within the new Parks Master Plan to reach a park standard of 100 points per 1,000 people, and scores a park based on its size (seven points per acre), availability of active and passive activities, accessibility, and “park activation” that creates social connections.

In addition to concerns about the point system, some in La Jolla still feel that the community is not being given enough time to thoroughly review the plan.

The new draft comes seven months after the ill-fated first draft was presented to the City Council in November as part of the four-part Complete Communities initiative. Three of the four parts were approved, but the council at the time asked that the Parks Master Plan be reworked and revisited. Since then, five new councilmembers were elected and sworn in.

The initial draft was presented after years of community meetings and feedback-gathering sessions. However, in the last few months before it was presented, several La Jolla groups expressed concern that local recreation councils were not being included in the later stages of planning.

A group calling itself the Parks and Recreation Coalition, or PARC, reviewed the plan, raised questions, proposed solutions and circulated its findings to community planning groups before the November City Council review. The La Jolla Community Planning Association also wrote a letter to the city at the time, supporting PARC’s efforts and encouraging the appropriate city departments to work with PARC members to ensure the raised concerns were addressed.

PARC member and LJCPA President Diane Kane told the La Jolla Light that she hadn’t reviewed the new draft but attended a 30-minute briefing with city representatives that provided a summary of the changes.

“There appears to be some accommodations to our concerns, but not enough time scheduled to adequately review the details to determine whether the changes are substantive or cosmetic,” she said. “PARC believes that once again the community planning groups and recreation councils are being shut out of the process. This plan will most likely chart our citywide parks system for the next 50 years. Allowing public review over the summer, with adoption in September, is a more reasonable schedule.”

La Jolla Parks & Beaches community group President Claudia Baranowski said the working group for the Parks Master Plan had not yet reviewed and discussed the updates.

La Jolla Shores Association President Janie Emerson said she had only reviewed the new proposal “briefly,” and while she agrees “we need parks in all neighborhoods,” she said “we also need to dedicate serious resources to the parks that get maximum use by all of San Diego — shoreline parks.”

“Not only do shoreline parks serve all of San Diego with free, safe family areas, they also bring much needed tourist dollars to San Diego,” Emerson said. “This benefits all of us. For that reason, resources need to pour into these parks to maintain them from the heavy usage by residents and visitors.”

At the June 3 LJCPA meeting, Kane said said she would work with Parks & Beaches and the La Jolla Shores Association to draft a community response and get it to the appropriate city departments ahead of the City Council hearing at which the plan will be presented. ◆