By Chris Pocock
A small group from the Normal Heights Community Planning Group (NHCPG) convened for the first time last week to discuss a prospective multi-purpose facility for Adams Elementary and Global Visions Academy.
The ad-hoc subcommittee hosted an open forum to discuss the proposed construction’s effect on Normal Heights’ already austere park space, which would reduce the playing area, a blacktop owned by Adams Elementary, by approximately 3,000 square feet. The joint-use field adjacent to the blacktop would not be reduced.
Attendees from the NHCPG and the Adams Avenue Business Association (AABA) denounced the removal of park space, citing the General Plan Standard, which states that Normal Heights has just less than 15 percent of the park space it should have. Plans to create additional park space, including an off-leash dog zone in Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park, have taken longer than originally stipulated, giving rise to concerns that the loss in park space used for the multipurpose facility may never be recovered.
“The community uses that [blacktop] … there’s always a handful of people playing basketball on that space,” said NHCPG Chair Caroline McKeown. “My kid learned how to ride his bike there. It’s my opinion the community would be much more damaged losing the green space over the blacktop space, but we’d rather not lose anything.”
Despite the impending loss in park space, McKeown was encouraged by the project, seeing it as much needed attention toward the underserved area.
Other issues facing the space brought up during the forum included the poor quality of bungalows being used by Adams Elementary, inadequate parking for teachers and parents, and the joint-use “green space” adjacent to the school, which members of the NHCPG and the AABA said was being used illegally by the community as an off-leash dog park.
Many from the NHCPG and the AABA argued that most of the issues facing the space would be resolved if the city was more proactive with purchasing properties up for sale bordering the contentious area and repurposing the land for school and park use — a strategy used most recently in 2004 to create space for the Normal Heights Elementary school building and adjacent park space.
“It’s partly a question of scope,” said Alison Flynn, chair of the Business Planning and Development subcommittee of the AABA. “The school district is looking at it and asking ‘what can we do in the next two to three years, the bond money [from Propositions S and Z] needs to be spent, what improvements can we make in that time?’ whereas the community has a longer perspective … the school will still need more space in 10, 15, 20 years.”
According to members of the NHCPG and AABA, more long-term solutions to the space have largely fallen on deaf ears. San Diego School Board member Kevin Beiser and other city officials have been mostly absent in discussions regarding the issues facing Adams Elementary and the park space, said members at the meeting, though feasibility studies have been performed by the city for the construction of the multipurpose facility.
Beiser and other school board members did not respond to requests to comment on the proposed project by press time.
“We have expanded this site three times over the years when we had a district that was willing to work with us,” said Gary Weber, a retired city planner and a member of NHCPG. “Now [city and school board officials] are trying to cram more stuff on a small site instead of expanding a fourth time to get the land that they need for their operations.”
—Contact Chris Pocock at email@example.com.