Progress on the Avenida de Portugal Park in Point Loma – Workshops Set

by on June 16, 2017 · 6 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Don Sevrens and Jon Linney

Great news! Public workshops are finally scheduled for the pocket park on Avenida de Portugal.

Well, that is half true.

Workshop No. 1 will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday July 26 at the UPSES Social Hall at 2818 Avenida de Portugal. There is ample public parking and ADA access. The United Portuguese graciously agreed to waive the rental fee and chair Steve Riddle and the Point Loma Recreation Council graciously agreed to hold their meeting offsite instead of in a 40-person capacity room.

Workshop No. 2 will be at the same location in September. The date and time are still to be determined.
At the first workshop, the public will be asked to provide ideas and a landscape architect/moderator will gather that information. At the second workshop, the public will be asked to discuss what it likes and dislikes.

We encourage everyone to turn out for the workshops if they are interested and provide ideas and opinions.

We want everyone to feel a part of this, that this is their park. This park is on city-owned land and has been on hold since 1987. There is an opportunity for this to a special park, not just ho-hum.

We get questions so feel free to lay them on (jonlinney11@gmail.com and donsevrens@rocketmail.com). In the meantime, we try to answer most questions in the following “Q&A”:

Q: The park is happening, right?
A: Yes funding was approved unanimously by Peninsula Community Planning Board in September 2015 and unanimously by the City Council in April 2016.

Q: Where again is the park?
A: At the upper end of Avenida de Portugal. You know, the street with the UPSES Social Hall, the Portuguese Historical Center, Saint Agnes Church, the former parochial school and more. One edge of the site is above Canon Street – 10 feet above – and you don’t see it as you drive by. It is anticipated the main access will be from Avenida de Portugal.

Q: What kind of park is this?
A: In city jargon, a pocket park. It is about three-quarters of an acre. The size, shape and topography suggest it will be a passive park. No ballfields, rest room, huge parking lot and such.

Q: The history again. Briefly.
A: It was put in the Community Plan in 1987. There was no group to push for it. We took on the challenge in 2014. We found a required nonprofit sponsor, organized a team, did three years of outreach to the community, and paid the incidental upfront costs as they arose. The city said it had no money so we found the money in a developer fees account the city had forgotten about.

Q: Why haven’t you guys put out an email update in quite a while?
A: Not for lack of wanting to. We have been unable to get a meeting with Public Works officials since an informal one in June 2016. We were not able to get a briefing on the workshop process itself until 36 hours ago. Such a lack of City communication with the public is regrettable. A Public Records Act request has been filed for pertinent park documents.

Q: Has there been progress in past months?
A: Yes. Kudos to the city’s public art and culture folks. We have met with them and they agreed to a piece of public art at the park determined under their rules. They have promised it will be in keeping with whatever theme is adopted. Margaret Virissimo is serving as the community representative on the selection panel. Thank you, Margaret.

Q: Tell us more about the workshop format.
A: We still have questions. So does Steve Riddle, chair of the Rec Council, for that matter. We’ll keep pushing for answers. We anticipate a large turnout and will work hard to get the word out. The city only requires notification within 300 feet. No! We’ll get the word out via traditional media, social media, probably an ad in The Beacon (at our expense) and doorknob leafletting.

Q: Do you need help?
A: Yes. Anyone know of youths willing to help us distribute doorknob fliers in return for volunteer hours?

Q: What is the landscape architect like?
A: We’ve never met him or talked to him. He comes from an established, well-respected firm. By the way, he was selected under the city’s “fast process.” That only took six months.

Q: What will go into the park?
A: That will be up to the public at the workshops. Our opinion does not count nor should it.

Q: After three years, you must have a glimmer of what the public wants.
A: Yes we have presented – and LISTENED – at civic group meetings, by going door to door, at a public meeting, while doing a site cleanup and more.

Q: Tell us more.
A: At every presentation we were hammered for not having a visual to show. So, finally we hired landscape entrepreneur Shawna Kenny, at our expense, to do a visionary drawing. It is designed to distill what the public has said so far into what could be. Could be, not will be. It is not The Plan, it is not the Official Plan, it is not the Only Vision. It has not been shown to any official in the loop. It will be available to the public at the workshop to help stimulate imaginations.

Q: What’s in it?
A: Winding trails, wonderful plant species choices that can guide Point Lomans relandscaping, nautical sails from our community to serve as early shade structures, bits of fantasy for the children’s playground, conversation-pit style gathering places for adult conversation, picnic tables with glimpses of the bay, a history wall telling of neighborhood culture and history. A stylized Portuguese compass seating area. An anchor from a tunaboat.

Q: Fantasy playground?
A: No one wants a traditional tot lot of slide and swing. Not the parents in the neighborhood, not Park and Recreation. We’re offering conversation starters: A fanciful replica of the San Salvador for kids to play on with seating for the parents. A “walk the plank” manufactured-wood trail maybe 12 or 18 inches above the ground. Bean bag toss, shuffle board, bocci ball are other ideas. We’ve asked for playground supervisors at the Rec Center to suggest ideas. We’ve reached out to Cabrillo Elementary and the Portuguese Historical Center about field trips to the park with docents.

Q: Can the public help?
A: Yes. Point Loma Kiwanis is interested in sponsoring an annual adopt-a-park cleanup. Rotary, Point Loma Association, Optimists, Point Loma Garden Club and more know who we are and welcome return visits.

Q: How about donations?
A: So many people have said they want to donate. We need more guidance from the city and have been unable to get it so far. If you would like to donate, please query Kathy Ruiz, deputy director of Park and Recreation at kruiz@sandiego.com and cc donsevrens@rocketmail.com. We will ask that donation guidance be provided at the workshops.

Q: The timeline on the park?
A: Ms. Ruiz warned us were making a six-year commitment. Current completion date is February 2020.

Q: The bottom line here?
A: The park will happen. It can be a ho-hum park or it can be special. Please help us and our growing team in making it special. The first step is showing up at the workshops.

Jon Linney and Don Sevrens

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Geoff Page June 16, 2017 at 3:52 pm

I think everyone needs to understand where the money for this little park is coming from. The developer who built all the apartments, soon to be condos, on the old Barnard Elementary school site paid $890,000 in fees. This money was available to the whole Peninsula, including Ocean Beach. For reasons that have never been explained, the City allowed the Peninsula Community Planning Board to decide on how to use the money and every dime of it went to this pet project of the budding politician who is currently the PCPB chair. This person is cozy with the mayor and our current council member.
About $200k will go to design and planning alone.

The use of this money should have been discussed in open community forums because I am sure there are many other ideas of how to use the funds. The community never got the chance to talk about it. This tiny park will only benefit the people in the immediate neighborhood and the political career of the PCPB chair, one of the two people listed as authors of this piece. This park will not benefit the Peninsula community as a whole or address any more pressing problems.

I live near the Pt. Loma Plant Reserve on the east side of Collier Park. This gem was created by community volunteers and is maintained that way today, along with the help of people who walk through it and help keep it clean. It is a great little park, but I doubt that many people drive here just to see it, it is mostly used by the people who live within the surrounding neighborhood. This park did not get a big chunk of money from the city to get done. Makes me wonder why this same model couldn’t have been followed at the little park that is the subject of this article, but, hey, it’s much easier with lots of other people’s money.

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avatar Cliff June 17, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Adding additional park space is always preferable to alternatives such as condos, especially when there is a limited amount of space to create park space. I don’t give a flying buck about who created the project or where the money is coming from. Creating a park is a legitimate and valuable use of public land.

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avatar nostalgic June 19, 2017 at 11:35 am

This is a park without parking. The PCPB quickly agreed that it was not to be a designated park (this it is NOT under the protection of the city charter). Children’s play equipment not permitted because of safety requirements. Just a few extra facts

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avatar Geoff Page June 19, 2017 at 12:08 pm

I’m curious, nostalgic, what do you mean it is not to be a dedicated park? You said the PCPB agreed it would not be, can you tell me where you learned this? I’ve followed this pretty closely but had not heard this before. Thanks for anything you can add.

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avatar nostalgic June 19, 2017 at 3:03 pm

I am sorry. Let me clarify. I stated it incorrectly. It will be a designated park. It will NOT BE a dedicated park. Dedicated Parks are protected as parkland under City Charter Section 55, http://docs.sandiego.gov/councilpolicies/cpd_700-17.pdf. However, recently a type of park has been invented, a “designated park” which doesn’t have to “go through all the paperwork.” This makes it just another piece of property owned by the city. It can be converted to another use.

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avatar Geoff Page June 19, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Nostalgic, thanks for the clarification. I am still interested in what you said that the PCPB “quickly agreed” it did not need to be a dedicated park. Can you tell me where you got that information? I had heard there would be no children’s play area but the why is also not clear. The children’s park they are trying to stuff into OB’s beachfront has a lot of play equipment figured into it. I wonder if the issue of a dedicated versus non-dedicated park has something to do with that? Seems to me that, if $890,000 of this community’s money is going into this thing, it needs to be dedicated so there is no chance the city could do anything else with it later.

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