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26 San Diego Uptown News | Aug. 5–18, 2011 FROM PAGE 1


mained there until they’d raised the full amount needed for re- turfing. But they didn’t have to, as District 3 Councilmem- ber Todd Gloria came up with matching funds for the project. “Generous donations ranged

from $1 to $150,” noted Kroll. “I gave $80, and the cost has been nothing for the pleasure it’s given me and my dogs. It’s been one of the best buys of my life,”said 86-year-old Chuck Peters, a resident on Elm Street eight blocks away. Peters has walked numer- ous dogs in the park since 1979, before it was legal to do so. He recalls the battle waged against those he described as the again- sters and the NIMBYs, to con- vert the park for dog use. The turning point came when Christine Kehoe was the City Councilmember who supported us, and eventually the park be- came leash-free, he said, add- ing that followed a period when the city’s Parks Department outright opposed its conversion to dog use, actually sending in rangers to discourage people from bringing in pets.

But opposition to dogs at

Grape Street had the opposite effect.

“The dog park became insti- tutionalized: It became part of the neighborhood,” concluded Peters. And no politician would dare come in and say, “This can’t be leash-free anymore.” Peters credits turning Grape

Street into a dog park with clean- ing it up.

“Back in the ’80s and early

’90s, the park was not utilized,” he said. “We had drug dealers lined up in the parking lot, but nobody in the park itself.” “Now,” Peters said, “it’s a beautiful place,” noting the park brings “people, and mutts alike,” together. “We’ve had marriages, fu-

neral proceedings, memorials. It’s inculcated into the neighbor- hood now,” he said. “It’s a posi- tive thing.” Mike Tully, grounds mainte-

nance manager for Balboa Park, said a marked-off dirt section of Grape Street Dog Park will be returfed Aug. 3.

He cited limiting irrigation due to the city’s drought ordi- nance as one reason why resur- facing became necessary. “We will be installing Bermu-

da sod to about a 5,000-square- foot heavily used spot between the north and west end,” Tully said. “It’s a very active area where people like to throw their balls and have the dogs bring them back and gets a lot of wear and tear.” Tully said the freshly sodded

area will be fenced off and post- ed the entire month of August and likely be reopened some- time in September. Fencing off the resodded

area will allow it time to rest, said Tully. “Bermuda grass literally

grows laterally,” he noted. “If you allow it to rest, it allows it to fill back in.” Tim Doyle, now a Kensing-

ton resident, no longer lives right near Grape Street Park. But he still likes it so much he’s

see Park, page 27


and never had any problems,” said Hanna, whose business stays open until 8 p.m. “Now, after 5 p.m. we do have a challenge.” Hanna also said that drunken pa-

trons from Gossip Grill leave a mess in the parking lot beside his salon. “I know they’re trying very

hard, and they send somebody to walk around to clean around the parking. But still there’s a lot of residue in the morning on the street next to the salon, with trash and people throwing up and stuff like that,” Hanna said. However, Leo Wilson, chair of Uptown Planners, said sidewalk cafés increase the pedestrian feel of the neighborhood. That’s part of living in a community that’s walk- able. The controversy has [usual- ly] been leaving enough sidewalk that people can walk on without having to go through an obstacle. “The city requires a six-foot clearance; however, there can be an application for deviation from that …if there’s a finding that it won’t result in congestion,” Wilson said. Shaw, who also owns Urban Mo’s and Baja Betty’s, said Gossip Grill’s proposal is in compliance with the requirements, and Wilson noted that Hanna’s concerns are more of a code enforcement issue than an issue related to the permit process. Wilson added, however, that Uptown Planners listens to all public comment regardless of its nature and attempts to address any issues that arise. “We’ve looked at several out- door cafés, and I think the board has approved all of them because [they] help the urban experience. But you’re going to be concerned if there’s too much noise for neighbors, and so there might be some recommendations to miti- gate [disturbances].” “You could argue that an outdoor café might be noisy, which then, you would talk about hours of operation. But as far as having an outdoor café, I think the Uptown community plan calls for these to be encouraged as part of the urban experience.” Nevertheless, Hanna said he expects Uptown Court residents to oppose the proposal when it comes before Uptown Planners. “There are a lot of complaints.

There are letters being sent [to the city],” he said. “I’ll tell you now, there’s going to be some let- ters regarding the noise about the update at Gossip Grill.” Wilson said the earliest Gos- sip Grill’s proposal and commu- nity reaction to it will make it onto the Uptown Planner’s calendar is October.u


2003, the project was to provide for the design and construction of a .33-acre mini park at the northwest corner of West Lewis and Falcon streets that would be a model for future canyon-rim pocket parks. City Council had allocated the $450,000 budget in the form of Development Im- pact Fees (DIF). Felhman said, the developers of One Mission and Mission Hills Commons apartments paid those fees to the city prior to the buildings’ construction and that they were to be used toward neighborhood improvement and beautification, as cited in the Uptown Commu- nity Plan and Public Facilities Financing Plan. Both plans spe- cifically call for the development of mini parks.

“The bulk of the cost of the park is engineering, consulting, architectural services and per- mit fees, with the balance going toward construction. This is re- ally ass backward as far as I’m concerned,” Felhman said. Proposed community im-

provements included the addi- tion of benches, an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant pedestrian path, upgrades to existing trails, public art, and na- tive plants landscaping, as well as an educational kiosk featur- ing information on the area’s birds. Felhman said he felt the design proposal was minimal. “I just don’t understand how it is we had all this money to spend, yet the city is going to get most of it,” he said. One Mission Hills resident who has been involved with the park project since its inception, who spoke with San Diego Up- town News on the condition of anonymity, said she felt a large part of the problem came from city consultants’ desire to modi- fy the original plan.

“They kept taking what had

started as a very basic concept and wanted to make it com- pletely different than what we’d envisioned, and we had to keep telling them to simplify it back to the original vision,” she said. City additions to the plan, she noted, included large tree planters and poured concrete. “We were told that the final cost for the project would be in excess of $600,000, and we just didn’t understand that,” she said. “We didn’t want tons of concrete and big tree planters. We just wanted a simple passive park next to our canyon where people could hang out and relax.”

In a Sept. 17, 2007, email obtained by San Diego Uptown News, the city’s project contact, Sheila Bose, wrote that a num- ber of additional costs unantici- pated during the planning phase would need to be covered. Such costs include $7,000 for profes- sional geotechnical services and $76,000 for geotechnical recommendations during con- struction; $15,000 in additional construction costs for inclusion of donated art pieces; $5,000 for resurveying the project site after a storm drain break, and $54,000 in Development Services De- partment permitting fees. “Lessening the scope to re- duce costs to fit into the total project budget is not a practical option,” she wrote, “as above costs will remain the same in their entirety and not be re- duced proportionately. This will result in a project with a very small amount of constructed amenities to be enjoyed by the park users.”

The University Heights Rec-

reation Council (UHRC) dis- agreed with the city’s proposed changes.

“[This] project has been drastically changed in its de- sign,” wrote UHRC chair Mar- cia Boruta in an April 2009 let- ter to the DSD. “The URHC [requests] the total budget be capped at the original DIF allo- cation of $450,000.”

Felhman said that construc- tion of the park will begin in September. However, although he added he’s excited to see the project in the final phases of fruition, he’s disappointed that due to city processes and fees the final construction budget is barely more than $100,000. He’s also disappointed that the city vetoed the installation of donat- ed artwork.

“Originally we were sup- posed to have these beautiful sculptures, but the city didn’t like that idea,” he said. “And right now what we’re trying to do is find out why the city is charging so much for in-house engineering and construction engineering fees.”

District 2 City Councilmem- ber Kevin Faulconer, whose dis- trict includes Mission Hills, said he’s requested accounting num- bers from the city to ensure the numbers match. Faulconer said he expects to receive that infor- mation by mid August.

“I think this should be ques- tioned,” Faulconer said. “The community had been given this money and we need to have an accounting of what all of this money was spent on, where it has been appropriated and to learn if anything should be cred- ited back to us. Performance at the city level needs to be held accountable and the very issue of how long projects take and then city staff billing toward it needs to be looked at.”u

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