Reader Rant: ‘Silver Gate School Playground in Point Loma – Ocean Beach Area Should Not Be Off-limits to Local Children’

by on August 22, 2017 · 21 comments

in Ocean Beach

Police Reluctantly Kicking Out Kids and Families from Playground During After-Hours

By Brian Clulow

Most of the OB Rag readers with families already know that the area around Ocean Beach and Point Loma has few playgrounds for kids.

This fits with a broader city trend as there have been numerous articles and studies over the years regarding park deficient communities in San Diego.

One highlight for our local communities of the Peninsula has been that for years the families around Silver Gate Elementary have been able to take their kids to the playground area there after-hours and on weekends.  This has been a great community resource and us parents with small children have felt lucky to have it.

I’ve personally been fortunate to meet many other families there as our kids have played on the play sets and ran across the open areas.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anything good that someone doesn’t want to ruin.

Recently the police have been showing up to reluctantly chase away the disappointed toddlers, parents, and grandparents.  A couple weekends ago I pulled my children into the playground in their red wagon only to find that the area was locked up like a fortress.  This quickly led to my 3 and 4 year olds to cry for over 10 minutes.

A couple days ago another parent in the neighborhood talked to some employees at the school who stated that they were turning Silver Gate to a closed campus.

So now we have a neighborhood with a shortage of parks and play areas and we have an excellent play area sitting unused and off limits.

This is an area that was built with and is maintained with our tax dollars.  What are they thinking?

Silver Gate playground – thanks to google maps 3D

The city recently announced a program named “Play all Day” which details a partnership with San Diego Unified School district to create joint use parks on school property when school is not in session.

Apparently they plan to build 32 of these joint use parks.  They even have a nice flier with some details .

This is a great idea but begs the question: why is there a program to build joint use parks while at the same time the existing spaces like Silver Gate are being closed off?

Why are we locking up playgrounds?

The good news is that there is a simple solution to this problem.  Stop building the fence around Silver Gate and return that play area to the community.

Our children will thank you.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

RickD. August 22, 2017 at 12:46 pm

The idea of fencing off Silver Gate from the surrounding community is news to me. As a former student there waaaaaay long ago (1960s) and where my son was also lucky enough to attend, the SG playground was always a fun place to hang out to shoot hoops or race cars or throw a tennis ball for the dog. Guess nothing good ever stays the same? I would bet from school administrators’ viewpoint, this is a plan to reduce potential vandalism/vagrancy that has plagued some other local public schools along with closing the campus during the day. Sign of the times? So maybe it has been a long time coming. For much of the 90’s and early 2000s skateboarders ran amok, scraping up wall edges & stair bannisters, but when the playground was redeveloped a few years back anti-skate devices were installed.
As with so many public education issues, seems like parent volunteers/monitors might be part of a solution, to keep the place open at certain times, if not 24/7 as has been the case. There is a new principal at SG who has gotten good reviews; maybe she would be receptive to keeping the old place available to the community. No harm in asking–


Brian August 23, 2017 at 11:19 am

Hi Rick, I understand the vandalism concerns but appreciate your point that this is not a new issue. Unfortunately vandals have probably been around for all of history. Since we don’t have alternative park options there must be some compromise to keep it open and monitored like all the other public parks. I have called the school and left a message for the principal but haven’t received a call back yet. I’ll keep trying.


Christo August 22, 2017 at 3:06 pm

The locals can’t play there, but is it okay to rent Silvergate out to a church and have the congregation park their cars (complete with oil leaks) on the playground.


Tia August 22, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Not even gonna pretend I know what’s going on here, but… I am going to suggest you talk to someone at Silver Gate & ask a couple of questions. I’m wondering if SDUSD maybe considers this a liability issue. Have you asked if there are problems with vandalism? Unescorted children? Skateboard damage? Etc? I rarely get over to that area these days, but know that playground has long been enjoyed by folks just like you. It was a valuable community resource. Your article makes me sad. I hope you will find the time to talk to school and/or district officials. Pls. do report back as to the reasons.

And school officials: our kids need places to play!


Christo August 23, 2017 at 8:41 am

I have 2 children at Silvergate and have talked with Principal Fowler about this.

The fence and gates were put in for 2 reasons:

1) SDUSD want to be able to secure every campus during school hours to prevent unauthorized access and egress (basically adults who shouldn’t be there and keep kids from wandering out).

2) Campus access after school hours is partially at the discretion of the Principal (SDUSD and the Principal can authorize access for rentals such as church, scout groups, and other renters).

As of last year, Friend of Silvergate (The Parent Association of Silvergate) was discussing with Principal Fowler a rotation of keyholders to open access to the campus. As far as I know, nothing had been nailed down- mainly because the gates had not been completed by the end of the school year.

More information will probably come out as school gets going.


Brian August 23, 2017 at 11:36 am

Hi Tia, so far I’ve called the school and they informed me that this was a district decision and I would have to call the district. I’ve called the Family and Community Engagement office but they didn’t have an answer. They directed me to the Facilities Planning and Construction department. The person who answered in that department didn’t have an answer either but took my number and said the lead project manager would call me back. I’m still waiting for a call.


Jenn M August 22, 2017 at 9:51 pm

I spoke with one of the employees, and she said they are not closing it because of any particular problems with vandalism, only because San Diego Unified has been closing off Elementary schools, and they were finally getting to Silver Gate.

I have loved being able to walk over with my two little boys and let them play on the playground and run around in the open space. We go often and enjoy meeting other families in the neighborhood. Other parks such as Liberty Station are far away and very crowded. Keeping Silver Gate (and other schools) open would be the smartest way to provide much needed park and open space to communities. Can do something to change this policy, before it becomes the new sad normal?


Tina August 22, 2017 at 11:17 pm

if they stop building the fence the school is not secure during the school year and anyone can walk on campus at anytime. That may not ever be a real problem but it could and it sure would be bad if something happened.
As a parent of children that attend the school I have to tell you there has been multiple occasions when we have taken our kids to their classroom only to have to clean up broken beer bottles, cigarette butts and trash that was left behind when someone obviously not a kindergartener came to hang on the campus.
Then there is the little bit of grass that the kids have to play on that people with dogs use as a toilet.
I know it sucks but there are two sides to every story. It would be wonderful if everyone could use the playground and it would be wonderful if everyone showed the property the same respect.


Brian August 23, 2017 at 11:39 am

Hi Tina, I definitely understand that there are two sides to the issue. Maybe they could continue with the gate but leave it open during daylight hours? I’m guessing most vandalism would occur after dark. As for the inconsiderate dog owners, I have no idea how to fix that. If I did I wouldn’t have to clean unwanted presents from my front yard almost daily.


Leslie August 23, 2017 at 8:02 am

As a Silver Gate parent and neighbor, I am sad that we will not be able to play on the field and playground during non-school hours but I understand the district’s decision to make our school a closed campus. As a parent that is there ALL the time, I know that the campus is vandalized on an almost weekly basis (grafitti, umbrella bases shatterd, dog feces, drug paraphernalia, stolen items and sometimes, when approached, disrespectful skateboarders). The kindergarten playground (that has always been locked) gets destroyed as well. In fact, some of the playground equipment there has had to be removed completely (and not replaced) because of damage!

On the bright side, there is a church that rents the space from the district (they do NOT park on the playground as someone suggested in the article comments) and the campus is open when they are present.

I think it’s also important to remember that the gates didn’t go up to prevent neighbors from enjoying the grounds. They went up to protect the safety of our children during school hours. I think most schools in San Diego Unified are headed in this direction.


Brian August 23, 2017 at 11:42 am

Leslie, the damage and vandalism are extremely upsetting. There are a lot of parks around the city that manage to deal with these issues though. Maybe there is a way to create defined hours and some sort of monitoring? There just isn’t another option for my kids besides driving to Liberty Station and dealing with the crowds. Bottom line is that I believe this local community needs a park/play option and since there isn’t any open space left we need to make Silver Gate work.


Christo August 23, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Leslie- I too am a Silvergate Parent and I am the one who said church goers park on the playground.

I have seen it happen on multiple Sundays over the last 2 years.


Judy Dibble August 23, 2017 at 10:40 am

Whaaaaat? I, my cousins and friends used to have pickup ballgames there all summer long. What is happening to our community?


Joe August 25, 2017 at 1:06 am

Silver Gate is only now catching up with the BS playground lockout policy that Sunset View has had for a few years.

The fences won’t keep out vandals and ne’er do wells, they’ll just keep out law abiding parents and grandparents who want to take kids to a playground and would keep an eye on the place after hours.

The school spent $90K+ on bars and fencing to make the campus look like a m Duim security prison, then they have the audacity to ask the parents’ foundation to raise a quarter million dollars. You don’t need $250K, you need $160K if you don’t waste money on stupid crap!


Leslie August 25, 2017 at 7:33 am

Just wanted to point out that the school did not pay for the (bars and fencing). That is district funded. Foundations raise funds to enrich the education of these children through school programs, support staff, fine arts assemblies, grade level enrichment programs, field trips, teacher and classroom grants, and so much more.


Joe August 27, 2017 at 6:11 pm

My tax dollars paid for the prison-like bars and fences. When you waste $90K on stupid crap like this, that’s $90K you don’t have to spend on actual instruction.

District funds or school funds, it’s still our tax dollars. If this was in fact a case of (district dollars) then perhaps Point Loma cluster should secede from SDUSD. We could take La Jolla and Mission Bay with us. Leave the corruption and incompetence of SDUSD behind.


Bobbi Seelig August 26, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Unfortunately this is the day we live in. I taught for over 30 years in Carlsbad and had to get used to the “prison” feel of a community/family school when it became a gated school. But I did get used to it, only because I knew it was for the safety of our students on campus. When my grandchildren attended Silvergate Elementary a couple years ago before they moved, I was shocked that there was such easy access to the campus at anytime of the day from many entry levels. It was scary to me. I have been through many lockdown scenarios in a nice neighborhood school, and it was reassuring that the locked gates were a deterrent to criminal behavior on campus. As a teacher, I felt safer for my students. I am sure the school district will eventually work out the neighborhood concerns, but in the meantime, be grateful they care about the welfare of staff and students during school hours.


Brian August 29, 2017 at 1:28 pm

I understand the fear you’re describing and that there are good intentions behind these lock downs but I have to disagree with the basic premise of prioritizing safety above all other concerns. It seems to me that there is a good bit of hysteria regarding the safety of our children. We’re constantly told that children need more supervision and protection because times are more dangerous now than they used to be. Kids can’t walk to school or the park alone because “something” might happen. It was fine to have open schools in the past but now we have to build walls around them to keep them safe. The fact is that crime rates have steadily dropped over the past few decades and we now live in the safest time in history. The misconception that things have become more dangerous is likely due to the fact that any bad incident anywhere in the world receives 24/7 news coverage. It skews our ability to actually evaluate and assign risk. The fact is that there is no such thing as 100% security and we’re fooling ourselves to think it can be achieved. In my mind we need to start thinking about the balance of protecting our kids against the need to allow them to take risks and grow. Our job as parents is to put ourselves out of a job by turning our kids into independent adults who can function in this world. Locking them up behind walls and preventing them from using playgrounds is counter to that. I for one never want my kids to get used to a “prison” feeling.


Brian August 29, 2017 at 1:32 pm

I wanted to provide some updates on this rant.

First I called Silver Gate and was told that the decision to lock up the school was made by SD Unified school district. I then called several departments at SD Unified and they all told me that the decision was solely with the Silver Gate principal. I haven’t successfully gotten through to the principal, only her staff. I plan to keep trying and then contacting the superintendent if that fails.

Second, I contacted the city parks department and received this response: “At this time Silver Gate Elementary is not a Joint Use site. At one time it was proposed as a “Play All” site but was removed.”

So this was a decision by one person, the principal. Maybe if enough of us call her we can get her to change her mind. Otherwise potentially a petition to the superintendent?


OB Dude August 29, 2017 at 1:38 pm

Send some mula to the school for maintenance and security and maybe you can get somewhere. Like lots of mula! Nothing comes free anymore.


Brian August 30, 2017 at 3:49 pm

Hi OB Dude, not sure if you’re being serious or not but I’ll try to respond anyway. According to other readers the school district spent over $90K to build the wall. In this case it would have been free to leave the space open but instead significant funds were spent to lock it up. The money that was spent came from our tax dollars so we are paying for it. In addition, our tax dollars are being spent on new park areas in other areas of the city as we speak while this already existing and free space is being removed. Most respondents to this article and similar posts on Facebook and Next Door who have knowledge of Silver Gate didn’t think there was a major vandalism issue. It has also been pointed out that a fence is very successful in preventing access to law abiding parents but not successful against criminal vandals. Hiring security would likely be required in any event to prevent vandalism if it is indeed occurring at any significant rate.


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