Monday, December 17, 2012

McKinley Elementary joint-use field

Posted: December 7th, 2012

North Park Recreation Department holds meeting to solicit input

By Dave Schwab | SDUN Reporter

It will be up to neighbors to help decide how best to redevelop the park at McKinley Elementary School in a joint-use agreement between San Diego Unified School District and the city.

That is what city Park and Recreation Department officials and landscape architects told local residents at the North Park Recreation Council’s (NPRC) Nov. 26 meeting. The council, which is an advisory group that makes recommendations to the Park Department and Park and Recreation Board, held the meeting to seek public input on the planned joint-use field. The school is located at 3045 Felton St.

“This is really a neighborhood park for you,” said Lynn Elliott, one of four NPRC board members.

“There’s a lot of energy around this and it’s really a great opportunity for us to come together and work with the school district and the city.”

Elliott said District Three Councilmember Todd Gloria’s office has allocated approximately $250,000 for design work for the improvements.

Debbie Van Martin of the city’s Public Works, Engineering and Capital Projects Department gave an overview of the joint-use field improvements. She said it was an outgrowth of several years’ effort by residents to better utilize the school park by opening it up for public use.

Van Martin introduced Vicki Estrada and Joe Esposito of Estrada Planning, Inc., the landscape architects chosen to do project-design work.

“Today we’re going to dream,” Estrada said, who lives near McKinley Elementary School. The meeting was the first public workshop held to gather input from residents on how they would like to see the park redeveloped.

The corner lot is being renovated as a joint-use park 
 (Photo by Anulak Singphiphat)

“You know every nook and cranny, where every kid plays,” Estrada said to attendees. “We can’t do a good design until we glean every bit of information we can from each of you.”

Calling McKinley “a small neighborhood park,” Estrada said it is important the area be reconfigured to “blend with what the neighborhood is” for residents.

Distinguishing features of the four-acre park include several large trees, a stone fence, a blacktop area and a section of grassy open space.

Estrada said there are numerous options for redeveloping the park, such as working around existing trees or replacing them, as well as placing a sports field, exercise equipment or structures to provide shade. She said other options included replacing the stone wall with other fencing, replacing grass with synthetic turf, utilizing public art or adding a picnic area with tables and benches.

Those in attendance reacted to Estrada’s comments, including a couple who expressed strong opposition to removing the existing trees, which they said were local landmarks and part of the community fabric.

When asked for a show of support as to how many would like to see a playing field created, hardly anyone raised their hand.

Most reacted favorably, though, to suggestions of more passive uses of the park, calling it a community hub and a popular place for people to walk their dogs or play with their children.

The majority of residents cited the community character of the park and its “naturalness” as qualities they would like to see preserved in any effort to improve it, and some advocated for an enclosed, leash-free dog area.

One attendee suggested adding restroom facilities, to which Van Martin responded was not possible based on the extra cost and problems presented by potential vandalism.

Anthony Bernal from Gloria’s office said future McKinley Park improvements will now move forward, after funding had been secured.

“We have $250,000 for the initial [design] phase,” he said at the meeting, adding that the next step would be to get a general development permit from the Park Board.

“After that it would go out to bid, and a contract would be rewarded,” Bernal said. He estimated the entire process from beginning to end would likely take several years.

During the NPRC meeting, a survey questionnaire was passed out to attendees soliciting their comments on prospective park improvements. Respondents were requested to return the surveys to Van Martin by Friday, Dec. 7.

“We’ll come back in a couple of months, probably in January, with some actual real plans based on what we heard today,” Estrada said, adding that the survey results would be taken into consideration as well.

For more information, contact Van Martin at 619-533-5414 or

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