Locals push for PHR park

Residents seek additional space for recreation

Residents in Pacific Highlands Ranch have made an effort to create a real neighborhood: neighbors become friends over pancake breakfasts and celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo draw a crowd.

But space for outdoor gathering is somewhat limited, some say. Of the 1,600 homes in the community, more than half don't have useable yards for recreation since many just have small outside courtyards, said Manjeet Ranu, one of the Pacific Highlands Ranch representatives on the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board.

Residents need a park, Ranu said; something that is long overdue for the 5,000 people living in the community.

They've got the space - 15 acres are reserved for the future Gonzales Canyon Neighborhood Park on Pacific Highlands Ranch Parkway and they've got the money, about $8.5 million in the facilities benefit assessments funds.

They are now waiting for the city to acquire the property and kick off the design phase, which, per the facilities financing plan, was supposed to have begun in 2006. Construction was planned to begin in 2010.

"Acquisition is the critical path right now and it's taking much too long," said Ranu, who works as a planning consultant. "That needs to get done six months ago."

Lane MacKenzie, supervisor of acquisition and relocation in the city's real estate division, said his office is currently in the process of appraising the land. Once the appraisal is done, it will go to the City Council for approval. MacKenzie said that could be done in a couple of months.

The ensuing design phase would take about 18 to 24 months and will also involve the Solana Beach School District, which has space reserved for their seventh district school next to the park site.

Recently, the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board sent a letter to Mayor Jerry Sanders to remind the city that the neighbors are "anxious" for a park.

"We have three other parks of a similar nature in the city that we're working on," MacKenzie said. "We're trying to serve all of our community groups."

Pacific Highlands Ranch has a recreation center with a pool, gym, and meeting and dining room space. But there is no real outdoor space and only 600 households of 1,600 in the neighborhood have access to the center, Ranu said.

Ranu is interested in finding out whether residents would approve of including the park in the Pacific Highlands Ranch's Maintenance Assessment District.

If it was included, Ranu said homeowners could have more flexibility with what goes into the park. When it's maintained by the city, Ranu said they usually only allow standard amenities.

Pacific Highlands Ranch residents paid $50 to their district last year, which helped pay for landscaping medians within the residential streets and along Carmel Valley Road.

Ranu said it's important for people to continue to be involved in the process.

"In this era of dramatic budget cuts, we need to keep the attention on the park so it gets done," Ranu said. "We are entitled to these services and it could be another two years before this park gets done if we're not involved."

   
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