Pacific Highlands Ranch may have to wait until 2013 or beyond to get their neighborhood park, a delay the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board said is unacceptable. The money is there to design and build the park; $8.5 million in facilities benefit assessments are ready to go. But the city's current fiscal situation is putting the park and the community's residents on an extended hold.
"Due to budget constraints, the city has currently postponed the construction of any new parks throughout San Diego that will require additional maintenance and operations obligations," a news release from the mayor's office stated in response to a planning board letter.
"We need to take a strong response here because otherwise we may never see this park," board member Manjeet Ranu said.
Gonzales Canyon Neighborhood Park, to be located on a 20-acre spot on Pacific Highlands Ranch Parkway, was slated for construction in 2010. The park will not only serve residents but 5 acres will be joint-use with a future Solana Beach School District campus.
Board member Scott Tillson wondered if they could force the city's hand by getting the school district more involved. But the Del Mar Union School District's plans for another school in PHR depend on construction the Interstate 5/Highway 65 connectors, a project that isn't expected to be complete until 2013 or beyond.
About 5,000 residents are living in Pacific Highlands Ranch neighborhoods, many in homes with small yards or no yards at all. Children are constantly playing in the streets, said Bonnie Degraw, her young son Bowen sleeping in her arms.
"How can the city continue to authorize permits for new residents when there are no parks or no playgrounds?" asked Dirk Degraw.
Currently the project "languishes at city hall" as the city continues negotiations with Pardee Homes to acquire the land, Ranu said.
Pardee has challenged the city's real estate assets department on the appraisal for the land. It is in the process of being priced again by an appraiser agreed upon by the city and Pardee. The mayor's office said the appraisal and ensuing acquisition could happen by the end of the year but their budget constraints would prevent them from moving any further on the park.
PHR residents do have the option to attempt to have the park included in their Maintenance Assessment District and pay for the park's maintenance and operations themselves.
"I'm pro-parks but you should be careful to set a precedent that homeowner associations and MAD's pay for something the city has a right to pay for," said former board member Ken Farinksy. "MAD parks are above and beyond the city standard. This is a community park."
Anne Harvey said, in a sense, the lack of a community park for those residents is a violation of Proposition M, which was written to ensure that PHR would be its own self-contained community.
"For the city to drag its feet like this is unacceptable," Harvey said.