The San Diego Union-Tribune
By Jennifer Van Grove
SAN DIEGO — After years of planning, the city of San Diego is moving ahead with an $8 million overhaul of Children’s Park that, if successful, will attract regular use by families, nearby workers and downtown residents — as opposed to serving as a hangout for homeless persons.
The renovation effort, which is expected to be finished in the summer of 2021, will keep the current Civic Pond adjacent to West Harbor Drive, but replace the urban forest area with a number of family-friendly amenities intended to activate the entire space.
Built in 1995, Children’s Park is located along the south side of Island Avenue between Front and First streets. Today, it’s a mostly amenity-less space with no play equipment and little activity. The park is described in the city’s staff report as “passive,” “frequented mostly by downtown’s transient population,” and surrounded by trees that limit views into the park.
The makeover calls for unique playground equipment with a forest theme, a picnic and lawn area, an off-leash dog park, adult exercise equipment, a vendor kiosk and public restrooms with an attendant. The plan also includes a simulated wood walkway over the shallow pond so people can walk through the elevated spray fountain.
In addition, the city wants to thin the existing urban forest to create more light, and replace the Italian Cypress street trees with canopy street trees to allow for better views into the park.
Children’s Park is not only highly underutilized, but it has been the source of police incidents in recent years. The community has requested improvements and amenities for their use, and after several public workshops a design was finalized and construction will hopefully begin in early summer,” said Brad Richter, who is the deputy director of the city’s newly created Urban Division department.
“We hope the redesign will bring new life to the park and give families a safe place to relax, play, exercise and even bring their furry friends,” he said.
In 2016 the city’s then-downtown planning agency, Civic San Diego, hired a consultant to craft a new general development plan for the park to remedy its perceived flaws. The plan was later approved by the city’s Parks and Recreation Board in 2017. The following year, Spurlock Landscape Architects drafted construction documents.
Now the city is ready to move forward with a budget that calls for $6.6 million in construction costs, and $1.4 million in staff time and permitting fees, if approved by council members. Funds are primarily coming from downtown’s developer impact fee fund.
With the City Council’s sign-off, Civic San Diego will advertise for construction bids and award a contract by June. The agency will continue to manage the project as part of its role in overseeing the wind down of redevelopment activities.
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