San Diego’s Master Plan for Parks Will Mean Less Parks for San Diego

by on March 3, 2021 · 1 comment

in Environment, San Diego

There’s a group out there who firmly believe San Diego is heading the wrong way in its current Master Plan for parks. The group – Parks And Recreation Coalition (PARC) – is made up of a network of volunteers who are highly critical of the city’s Parks Master Plan. They’ve been going around lately and giving presentations to local planning boards and other civic groups, called “Parks for All”.

For instance, they’ve given presentations at the Midway planners and the Peninsula planners.

But their point – in a nutshell – is that the master plan – the first one in 50 years – is wrong, and will actually translate into fewer parkland for this growing city.

So, here is an introduction of PARC and their concerns – from their powerpoint presentation. (Go to this link for their full 22-page presentation.)

Parks for All

PARC is made up of volunteers who signed a coalition letter and testified requesting improvements to the Plan and the process at the Nov 9th, 2020 City Council hearing where the Plan was sent back. PARC includes city planners, landscape architects, architects, and community planners, each volunteering to improve the Parks Master Plan. Also, We cover a lot of ground so please take notes for questions at the end.

Why are we here?

WE NEED PARKS! Parks are VITAL to everyone and this has been especially illustrated during the pandemic. The city proposing a new Parks Master Plan with significant changes to park standards and the way Development Impact Fees are calculated.

This is the first Parks Master Plan for 50 years! The goals are good but changes are required to meet them. PARC supports addressing inequities in the parks planning and allocation processes, including the Citywide Park fee, though we have questions about how it is being calculated and how it will be allocated.

We appreciate the amount of time and commitment that staff was able to put into the Plan. The artificial deadline of the election did not provide enough time to address significant concerns that can be addressed now.

Issues with the Parks Master Plan:

    • Limited vision: Less parkland for our growing city
    • Limited resident participation after release of Draft
    • Equity, Funding & Prioritization Framework for Citywide Park Fee
    • Untested: Points system and park standards
    • Commercialization, MSCP, Historic Resources, Design Review, Implementation issues

 One of the biggest issues is the elimination the current land standard just when we’re increasing housing density and incentivizing smaller units.

We support the need for flexibility for communities to choose to add recreational amenities into parks but there should still be an easily understandable land standard. More people need more parks, not just more amenities added into existing parks.

As with Affordable Housing, just because you can’t meet the goals doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them. We have found no other city that doesn’t have a clear land standard.

While the city held many meetings for input into the Plan, after the Draft Plan was released, the prior administration invested most of their time in the Housing and Mobility portions and we feel pushed the PMP forward on the artificial deadline of the election.

Presentations were not made to Community Planning Groups or Rec Advisory Groups.

Since this Plan will be the basis for any bond measures on future ballots, it’s critical is that public support is built now. We need to love this Plan as much as we love our parks!

Funding – we all know there’s not enough and we are suggesting ways to help. The Prioritization Framework refers to how the new Citywide Park Fee will be allocated. This should be released as soon as possible and the Plan should not be adopted without it.

The points system is complicated and as the first such approach being tried by any City, needs more discussion and changes.

Due to the time crunch from the outgoing administration, the Planning Department did not involve individual Community Planning Groups or Recreation Advisory Groups after draft Plan was released. It also appears that more time was spent working with the development community than community groups. Since this is likely to be the Plan for the next 50 years and the basis for any park bond, the plan needs to be easy to understand to be able to gain the support from voters for future funding approvals.

Limited Vision: Less parkland for our growing city-

The problems with the existing system are not related to the standard of more land for parks – the need for additional parkland remains the same yet Plan & Recreation Element devalue & reduce standards for more parkland.Higher density housing, smaller-sized units and more people increases the need for more parkland.

More housing without more parkland will not create a world-class parks and recreation system.

Parkland is significantly devalued; policy is only “continue to pursue.”


    • Retain the park acreage standard
    • Include minimum protections for passive recreation in parks
    • Increase minimum % funding for parkland acquisition

Higher density housing, smaller-sized units and more people increases the need for more parkland, not only adding “amenities” in existing parks. Having no benchmark for new parkland means there’s no standard to weigh it against as communities and the Mayor & Council make choices.-

We understand that “limited open land and rising acquisition costs make it increasingly difficult to meet the acreage-based standard” but should we give up? NO! The land standard is not the problem. With a projected population increase of 350,000 people during the next 30 years, it would be harmful to adopt a policy which aims to primarily use existing parks to satisfy the residents’ park and recreation needs.

More people need more parks.

Existing passive park lands are put at risk due to the incentives in the points system. Protections for open park land for passive recreation need to be improved.

The only way to really ensure more parkland is to set-aside a fund for it. This was added into the Resolution and the percentage should be increased.

For the balance of the 22-page power point presentation, go to link above.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

nostalgic March 3, 2021 at 2:50 pm

The prior plan discussed the protection for parkland provided in the City Charter. The City Charter is supposed to be for San Diego like the US Constitution is for the US, but you don’t see much about it anymore. The current plan deletes all references to protection, at least last time I looked.


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