Expansion of Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park, new library top community wish list
By Anthony King | SDUN Editor
Sponsored by the Normal Heights Community Planning Group, over 50 residents and community members gathered Aug. 17 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. to discuss and prioritize future projects for Normal Heights. The meeting was held at the Normal Heights Community Center, located at 4649 Hawley Blvd.
The purpose was to help “create a vision” for the neighborhood and encourage participation from the community, organizers said, and included opening remarks by Council President Todd Gloria. Gloria remained at the Community Center to listen and participate in the brainstorming workshop.
John Hartley, a Clean Elections Campaign coordinator, Uptown realtor and Normal Heights Community Association member, helped organized the workshop, and said he wanted to help the neighborhood where he lives.
“I suggested that we do this mainly because I heard about the CIP process,” he said. The CIP – Capital Improvements Program – process involves neighborhood community planning groups recommending larger, long-term and more expensive construction projects to the City in hopes to earmark funds for future improvements.
The City says the process is not simple, and can include recommendations like police and fire stations, street improvements and bridges, as well as parks and recreation centers and new libraries. At the Aug. 17 workshop, expanding Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park and building a Normal Heights library topped suggestions.
Attendees overwhelmingly supported continued construction of the park, located between 39th and 40th streets on Adams Avenue and expanding south to Normal Heights Elementary School. The City has a joint-use agreement with the school through the San Diego Unified School District.
As a main priority within the park, residents favored the completion of a community garden and expanded off-leash dog park. Both are also main priorities of the Community Association, Hartley said, and the newly formed group was well represented at the workshop.
“Their main focus immediately is Ward Canyon Park,” Hartley said. “The Community Association would like the first funds to go to a dog park and community garden.”
Based on sketches presented at the meeting, the garden would be situated in the Southeast area of the park, near 40th Street and Madison Avenue. Hartley said the garden could be implemented immediately, however the dog park – potentially placed just north of the garden – would require relinquishing part of 40th Street.
“Our biggest need here is programs for kids,” Hartley said. “South of Adams [has] a tremendous amount of apartments and lots of kids, and very little recreation.”
To help provide more activities for neighborhood children, Hartley said constructing a Normal Heights library would be a huge benefit. The closest library is the Kensington-Normal Heights Branch Library on Adams Avenue in Kensington.
“I think we should have a library for kids, as part of that recreation,” Hartley said. “We’re so in need of recreation and facilities … and we have so many kids, we have to think outside the box.”
Not all suggestions at the Aug. 17 workshop are considered CIP projects, which means community members can move forward as they wish. After presenting all ideas, the group – led by Planning Group chair Jim Barros – voted on each, prioritizing the proposals.
Top non-CIP projects include creating a mini-park with a stage, bike rack and benches, and reestablishing a neighborhood farmers’ market on Adams Avenue. Communication and promotion of Normal Heights public events and neighborhood beautification were also considerations.
Workshop members also favored creating an urban trail with access to Mission Valley, sidewalk and drainage improvements, and creating traffic roundabouts at the intersections of Adams Avenue and East and West Mountain View Drive. All these are considered CIP projects.
Whether sending recommendations to the City through the Planning Group, or taking initiative to implement the non-CIP priorities, Hartley said the process helps identify short- and long-term goals, giving residents a way to take action in their neighborhood.
“It’s great to see young people … have an interest in this,” he said, calling the feeling at the workshop “rejuvenating” and “empowering.”
“That’s part of what we’re doing, to demonstrate how we can actually advocate and get things done,” he said.
The next step is to create a plan to allow participants and interested residents to work together on what was prioritized during at the workshop, Hartley said.
The Normal Heights Planning Group will address the CIP priorities at their following two regular meetings, which are the first Tuesday of each month at the Hawley Boulevard Community Center. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m.
Additionally, the Community Association will also address the workshop results at their next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 10. The resident group gathers for a potluck and meeting the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m., also at the Community Center.
For more information on the Community Association, visit normalheights.ca or call 619-798-6116.