Del Mar Mesa board questions delay on planned neighborhood park


By Suzanne Evans

Del Mar Mesa Community Planning Board members expressed their dismay to city engineers Jan. 9 that the most recent plans for building a $2.1 million neighborhood park at the southeastern end of the mesa will not be finalized until 2016, although plans have been underway since 2004.

“Why has it taken so long to take the plans to bid?” Mesa planning board chair Gary Levitt asked city engineer Mark Calleran, who presented the park’s plans to board members at the board’s Jan. 9 meeting, along with city representatives Kevin Oliver and Jim Neri. Levitt has said the 3.7-acre park was designed to act as a head for trails into the surrounding open space preserve. A favorite feature is the corral to enable equestrian users to “park” their horses before and after rides.

The park will also include a parcourse (fitness trail), water fountains and bathrooms for trail users, half a basketball court, a tot lot for younger kids, and casual grass areas for kids’ games and play. The park will retain its native landscaping, including a grove of eucalyptus trees on the property, and its acreage is in accordance with the city’s General Plan.

Levitt noted the planning group previously “went through two or three levels of meetings and bureaucracy. Plans had gone to bid, but there was no money.” Now, there is approximately $2.1 million available for the project in the city facility assessment benefit fund account for Del Mar Mesa-related capital improvements.

Calleran noted a variety of factors delaying construction, such as cost reviews, work contracts, updating to halogen lights, and stormwater runoff regulations that have changed. That did not mollify Levitt, who countered, “Stormwater is affected by hardscape, but we have only a basketball court and a small play area.”

Levitt has long maintained that the transformation of the patch of weeds adjacent to Duck Pond into the neighborhood park, in addition to inviting children to play outside, “will increase the value of our homes.” He noted a need for additional parking.

Mesa board member Lisa Ross said original plans were to have less concrete and more rural lighting. “You have a community who loves this [original] park plan, but now we have to go back to them and say it will not be ready until 2016. It has taken all this time for [only] 4 acres, and now it will take seven more months,” she said.

“Parks take a period of ‘grow-in,’ where the grass matures so that kids can play on it – it is a question of turf establishment,” Calleran said. “Once we get rolling, everything will go quickly.” The bidding and award schedule will take place from December 2014 to May 2015, with construction scheduled from June 2015 to May 2016.

Calleran assured Levitt they want to beat the deadline while “making sure nothing is left sitting on the desk.”

•On other Del Mar Mesa matters, traffic calming plans are still a priority as cars speed down Rancho Toyon Road while little children try to cross.

“The city is looking into a solution,” Council District One liaison Laena Shakarian said. Officer Tracy Williams offered his help in the speeding problem, introducing himself as the new Northwest Division Community Relations Officer.

•Friends of Del Mar Mesa treasurer Preston Drake will hold a trail clearing project Jan. 25 and needs volunteers to help clear Angel trail (named after his wife, Angelika) Volunteers will be asked to pick up debris, cut pampas grass, and trim hedges.