Coalition Warns Midway Planners About City’s New Master Park Plan – But Midway Doesn’t Care

by on January 25, 2021 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Geoff Page

The Midway-Pacific Highways Planning Group held its first monthly meeting of 2021, Wednesday, January 20, using the Zoom meeting on-line system.  The only action item was a request for support from an all-volunteer organization that is advocating strongly for how parks are treated in the City’s new Complete Communities Plan. They don’t like some of what they see and they are alerting the public.

The “Parks and Recreation Coalition,” or PARC, consists of “city planners, landscape architects, architects, and community planners, each volunteering to improve the Parks Master Plan.”  Some of the names are familiar including activist Tom Mullaney and former Planning Commission member Carolyn Chase.  Here is the fill list of volunteers from PARC’s presentation:

Susan Baldwin, Nico Calavita, Carolyn Chase, Julie Corrales, Howard Greenstein, Diane Kane, Debby Knight, Stacey LoMedico, Tom Mullaney, Deborah Sharpe, Rene Smith, Mike Stepner, Andy Wiese, Wally Wulfeck

PARC has an immediate need for support of comments and requests PARC is putting to city council concerning the Parks Master Plan, or PMP, component of the Complete Communities Plan. These volunteers have pored over the city’s plan and found it wanting. The most serious concern, among a number, is the city’s proposal to completely drop the current design standard of 2.6 acres of park land per 1,000 residents in favor of a highly flawed points system.

According to PARC’s Susan Baldwin, the city is substituting a complicated point system for city facilities that allows points for what are dubbed “amenities” to offset the need for land.  One extreme example Baldwin offered showed that the new point system gave a 10 square foot interpretative sign the same point value as a one-acre park.  Beyond the absurdity of a trading sign for an acre of land, a sign does not fit the definition of the word “amenity.”

PARC stated “We have found no other city that doesn’t have a clear land standard.” PARC has a number of suggestions starting with the idea of “Simplify by separating Land from Recreational Amenity points,” that’s the gem.

It is easy to see why the point system is attractive to the city and development interests.  “Amenities” can be added to existing park land to reduce the need to provide additional park acreage.  Think about it, by adding enough signs or other simple “amenities,” San Diego can absorb the population increases in the next decades and not provide any additional actual park acreage.  This, of course, makes no sense at all.

An equally serious concern of PARC’s is that the public was shut out of the planning process.  The standard presentations of city plans to community planning groups or the Recreation Advisory Groups were not made.

The city, according to PARC, rushed the Parks Master Plan through last fall with an unsupported deadline of the November election. Because of this unnecessary haste, the planning and recreation groups were not included in crafting the “vision.”

This is an extremely important point because a 50-year plan for our park lands will have been created by only a few public officials. Considering the historical influence of the development community in city politics, this scenario just spells trouble for San Diegans.

Another of PARC’s concerns is park commercialization. The city is eliminating and adding language that could lead to open commercialization of the parks.  The city removed “Protect parks from commercialization and privatization.” That says a lot right there.

The city then loosened the language regarding what was been previously permitted on park land.  The previous uses were specifically listed as “restaurants and cafes, food trucks, carts and kiosks, youth-oriented facilities, bike rental and repair, museums, and cultural centers.”  The city inserted the words “but are not limited to” before the previous list meaning that list is no longer a specific list of the only permitted uses.

To make sure it was understood that the door was now wide open to commercialization, the city added “other retail uses, and other similar uses” to the end of the previous list. It would be difficult to find a more amorphous way of saying something like this.  They should have just said the welcome mat is out. PARC suggests the following language.

“Protect parks from commercialization and privatization. Ensure that commercial uses within parks contribute to the recreational use and value of the park and are sufficiently limited.” Much better.

PARC’s presentation included a section devoted to funding that is too detailed to summarize here.  It is clear that the volunteers understand the funding mechanisms and believe the Park Master Plan needs to address funding much more specifically and strongly.

PARC also discussed equity in how parks are sited and funded. For example, the existing systems allow developments to waive as much as 100% of the Development Impact Fees if the developer satisfies park standards on the development site.  PARC points out this leaves nothing for parks in other parts of the city where development may not be taking place.  It’s easy to see how discriminatory this practice is.  PARC suggests all developments pay a fee of some sort to benefit the whole city.

Baldwin concluded her presentation with a suggested motion they wanted support for:

“Support the improvements to the Parks Master Plan and Recreation Element recommended by PARC and send letter of support to the Mayor and City Council requesting that city staff be directed to work with Community Planning Groups, Recreational Advisory Groups, and PARC for input.”

Seemed pretty benign, who wouldn’t want to support parks?  Turned out Midway didn’t, they tabled it.

The Midway group pushed for removing the coastal height limit in their area.  Now that the limit is gone, they clearly do not want to see anything get in the way of developing every square foot of the area.  The first comment on the presentation came immediately and predictably from the chair, Cathy Kenton.

Kenton laser focused on PARC’s request that the city not do away with the 2.6 acres per one thousand residents.  “I don’t want to be hamstrung by an overriding requirement.”  The way this was stated was very telling.  Kenton is one of the board members who own property within the Midway boundaries.

The height limit removal was not just for the city’s property, which is a small part of Midway.  All of the private property in the area was immediately revalued much higher when the limit was removed. Anyone who owns properties in Midway can either develop their own land and make lots of money or sell it to someone who will.  Kenton at least made her personal aversion to any restrictions on development in Midway clear.  The points system works for these Midway leaders. They definitely do not want to be required to give up 2.6 precious acres for every thousand residents in the Midway area.

Kenton reiterated the same argument used during the Measure E campaign, that without the height limit removed, there would be no park space in order to provide all of the density called for in the community plan. This was used to scare people into voting to remove the limit.  The huge flaw in this argument was that there is some kind of mandate that all the possible increased density has to be built out.  In fact, it could have been parks and just fewer residents.

To see the complete detailed presentation, email and ask for it. Or email this reporter at

San Diego Housing Commission

A presentation was also made by the San Diego Housing Commission about – Fiscal Year 2022 Affordable Housing Fund Annual Fund.  This fund is built by two sources, the “Inclusionary Housing Fund” and the “Housing Trust Fund.”  The first comes from fees charged on residential developments and the second comes from fees on commercial developments. According to the SDHC website:

“The city’s Affordable Housing Fund Ordinance (Municipal Code Section 98.0513) requires the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) to adopt an Annual Plan for the use of the Affordable Housing Fund revenues.

The ordinance also sets the parameters for the distribution of those projected revenues.

In addition, the ordinance requires an annual report on Affordable Housing Fund activities.”

The presentations are designed to explain what is being done and to allow for public input.  The same presentation is being made to the Chollas Valley Planning Group on Monday, January 25, and to the Del Mar Mesa Plannning Group on Thursday, February 11.

There will also be two citywide Zoom meetings on February 18 and again on February 25.  The information can be found at the SDHC website  The website also provides for public comments.  All comments are due by Tuesday, March 23, 2021.  Copies of the Affordable Housing Fund Annual Plans from previous years are located on the same web page.

Other Items

A commenter during non-agenda public comment spoke about an organization that helps seniors called the Shepherd Center.  The center is not well known but provides all sorts of services for seniors.  They are located at 1475 Catalina Blvd.  This is the address of All Soul’s Episcopal Church, which was not mentioned in the comments.  The website is

Of the eleven government reports listed on the agenda, only three representatives showed up.  The agenda now lists “Council President’s Office” for Jennifer Campbell instead of Campbell’s actual governmental position as the councilmember from District 2.  Midway, unlike the rest of District 2, is very fond of Campbell because of Campbell’s push to remove the 30-foot height limit after telling the community she would fight to protect it when she ran for office.

The new mayoral representative is a young man named Kohta Zaiser.  Josh Coyne is still representing Campbell’s office.  The new representative for the county board of supervisor’s office is Makana Rowan.

Lastly, the Midway group again listed a website on the agenda as old business, which it has been for several years.  While there has been talk about a website for some time, it seems Midway is not making it a priority.  To be fair, only 15 of the 52 planning groups have websites, but two of the 15 are the adjacent Peninsula Community Planning Board and the Ocean Beach Planning Board.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Webb January 25, 2021 at 12:22 pm

When I look around at all the vacant retail commercial space, particularly space included in recent “mixed use” developments, prioritizing commercial uses in parks is misguided to the point of insanity. I look at the three “mixed use” developments on Voltaire, two of which have never had a retail tenant and one which had a Coffee Bean that closed a couple of years ago. The last thing we need is more retail.

On top of that, restaurants and other food service uses are one of the classes of “amenities” that allow reductions in park space. Sad!


Frank Gormlie January 25, 2021 at 7:37 pm

Comment from Tom Mullaney sent to email:
Geoff, An excellent article in the OB Rag about the city’s proposed parks plan.

How bad is the proposed Parks Master Plan? By removing the current standard of 2.8 acres per 1000 population, and replacing this with a “points system”, city officials would in effect cut the current park standard to about one-sixth of the current amount.

The new plan would result in about 0.5 acres per 1000, which is much, much less than any major city in the U.S. 3.0 to 5.0 acres per 1000 is considered a reasonable standard for Community and Neighborhood parks.

The city’s plan, if adopted, would be a crime, gradually squeezing more residents into existing parks as the city’s population grow.

Tom Mullaney
Parks and Recreation Coalition (PARC)


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