Collier Park in Ocean Beach – The Incredible Shrinking Park

by on March 28, 2017 · 6 comments

in Environment, History, Ocean Beach

(Originally p0sted Dec 6, 2010 as part of a series, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to OB”)

By Citizen Cane

The Incredible Shrinking Park can still be observed in Ocean Beach at the intersection of Green and Soto Streets. It’s officially known as Collier Park, and consists of approximately 6.7 dedicated acres if you include the Point Loma Native Plant Reserve. That might sound large, but it’s barely a fraction of the original size of the park before it began shrinking.

Travel back in time with the aid of the Fall 1957 Thomas Brothers Map, and you can see the park was bounded by Soto, Green, Valeta, and almost to Wolcott (about two blocks from the present day Stumps Market.) If we make a comparison to some streets that are more familiar in Ocean Beach, then readers should be able to visualize the size of the park a little better. Plunk the park down on the map with one corner at Newport Avenue and Abbott Street, and the length of the park would stretch all the way to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. The width would go all the way over to the alley between Cape May and Brighton Avenues. That’s 3 long blocks in length, and 3.5 short blocks in width.

1957 Thomas Bros. map of Ocean Beach. Click on the map to see a large version of it.

There are a number of reasons and justifications that have caused the park to shrink. You can read about some of that unpleasantness here. Take your children to Collier Park, and tell them the sad story of The Incredible Shrinking Park. It’s a lesson worth learning.

Overlay of old Thomas Bros. map on recent Google map

Visitors probably won’t be able to see the park shrink. The shrinkage isn’t linear and gradual. It shrinks in sudden chunks. It’s pretty complex stuff, but a team of scientists at Lucys Bar have estimated that by the year 2023 the Incredible Shrinking Park will have to be renamed as the David Charles Collier Memorial Parking Space. Enjoy it while you can.

Collier Park, then and now.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie March 28, 2017 at 3:16 pm

How about some real OB history? Today, 3/28/17 we have a plethora of posts about Collier Park and the Collier Park Riot of46 years ago.

Please see Why the Collier Park Riot in March 1971 Was a Watershed Event for Ocean Beach

and March 28, 1971 – The Most Violent Day in Ocean Beach History and …

Chapter on Collier Park From Future Novel on Ocean Beach,

for more, do a word search on our search bar for “Collier Park”.


Alex March 28, 2017 at 3:53 pm

How is it that the city can just sell off land that was given expressly for a public park? Did the donor not tie it up with appropriate legaleese to keep that from happening? Can the city sell off Balboa Park piecemeal? 20 years ago a Torry Pine was planted in memory of my dad there at the corner of Soto and Green, not far from where he had lived. I love Collier Park! Is it currently under the ax?


nostalgic March 29, 2017 at 12:52 pm

If the city does not dedicate the parkland, it is disposable. The current scheme is to call parkland “designated” parkland. This means nothing. Only dedicated parkland is protected by the city charter. All these changing park uses have an underlying motivation, as we see with Collier Park.


Judy Swink November 17, 2021 at 12:01 pm

Not an accurate account of the status of this or other parks. The 60-acre Collier Park was dedicated park land under Section 55 of the City Charter. A 2/3 public vote is required to remove that dedication, achieved by City Council through a ballot measure approved by voters. Eventually, the city re-dedicated the Bill Cleator sports fields. To my knowledge, no parks are designated, all are dedicated. There has been set-aside open space land that was designated only so the city was free to do with it as it wished but a legislative measure by Senator Chris Kehoe a number of years ago made it easy for the city to dedicate designated open space land.


retired botanist March 28, 2017 at 7:42 pm

Wow, what an interesting read- I had no idea Collier Park has that history. .. all I knew about the park was that there are 6 or so beautiful Torrey pines that we need to ensure get on the Heritage Tree list!
I must say its been discouraging to keep discovering older stories about OB fighting for its public space, public trees, and public shoreline. I am still finding articles that are more than 20 years old about the OB community defending its trees… why does OB have to keep ‘nailing’ everything down? Geesh- which part of the picture doesn’t the City get?! And clearly this little pocket park has been nibbled at for too long-let’s get this one ‘nailed down’ before any more of it disappears!


Frank Gormlie March 29, 2017 at 11:21 am

Interesting – that old Thomas Bro. map had Greene Street spelled “Green”.


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