The San Diego City Council on Tuesday voted to buy $11.2-million worth of open space, including 692 acres for Mission Trails Regional Park.
Some of the land purchases, which totaled 724 acres, are concentrated in the city's older, densely developed areas, where the task of acquiring open land is more difficult and costly than in the newer, suburban neighborhoods.
The Mission Trails purchases, when completed, will make the facility the nation's largest urban park, according to Councilwoman Judy McCarty's office.
The purchases also represented the last large expenditure from the city's diminishing open space fund, which was created in 1978 with a $65-million bond issue. City Manager John Lockwood said that only $4.8 million remains in the fund, and the final open space purchases will be brought before the council within the next four to eight months.
Tuesday's vote was made with relatively little debate or public comment, but Mayor Maureen O'Connor said it was very significant.
"Although it's quiet here, this is a historic moment," said O'Connor. "It's not often that the council votes to acquire--potentially--800 acres, especially in the older neighborhoods. . . . I think in years to come, the future children will be very happy with this decision."
O'Connor's estimate on the acreage included 91.3 acres in Serra Mesa that city staff members have recommended buying for $1.1 million. But that purchase was postponed for approval until next week when Councilman Ed Struiksma, who was absent Tuesday, will be in attendance. The tract is in Struiksma's council district.
While the land purchased Tuesday is supposed to be held as open space, O'Connor said she wanted the city attorney's office to see what it would take to officially designate the properties as public parkland.
Once put into that category, it would take a two-thirds majority of San Diego voters to use the land for anything else. O'Connor reasoned that that would deter future City Councils from turning the properties over to development.
Councilwoman Judy McCarty said she was happy that her colleagues voted to approve the $8.2-million purchase of 692 acres on West Fortuna Mountain for Mission Trails Regional Park. The parcel is east of Tierrasanta, between Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and the future path of California 52.
On Wish List
The property, which lies in McCarty's district, ranked second on the city's so-called open space wish list for acquisition.
"This is No. 1 on the God-We've-Got-to-Have-It List," said McCarty.
Of the Mission Trails property, 680 acres is owned by the U.S. Navy, which has agreed to sell the land for $7.85 million--pending congressional approval--and will use the money to buy another site in San Diego for military housing, said Nancy Acevedo, the city's open space administrator.
A 12.8-acre parcel will be purchased for $350,000 from the San Diego Unified School District, Acevedo said.
With Tuesday's purchase, only 500 acres remain to be acquired by either the city or county to complete the 5,700-acre Mission Trails park, which will then be the largest urban park in the United States, a McCarty aide said. The park would be five times as large as Balboa Park, and significantly larger than Mission Bay Park, including both its land and water area. The land at Mission Trails is owned by either the city, the county, or both jointly.
Other purchases approved by the council Tuesday:
- $1.2 million for 14.8 acres in the scenic Dove and Goldfinch streets canyon system, which cuts into Mission Hills west of the UC San Diego Medical Center, from the southern walls of Mission Valley.
- Nearly $1.5 million for 6.1 acres in Albatross Canyon, which runs east of Reynard Way and Curlew Street in Hillcrest. Council members also voted to wait a month before deciding what to do about purchasing eight canyon lots owned by Deborah Szekely and her family.
City staff members suggested buying six of the lots from Szekely, who owns the Golden Door spa in Escondido and since July, 1984, has been president of the Inter-American Foundation, a federal agency promoting self-help in Latin America. The lots are lower into the canyon and lie along Eagle and Dove streets.
But an attorney for the Szekely family said it would donate the Dove Street property if the city dropped plans to buy the three lots on Eagle Street. That way, the attorney said, the family could "preserve the right" to develop the three lots later, said Rebecca Michael, the attorney.
Council members voted to refer the matter to the Uptown Community Planners for study and make a decision in October.
- $325,000 to buy 10.25 acres on the southern slopes of Mission Valley, across from Mercy Hospital on the east side of California 163.
Tuesday's council vote authorized the city to buy the land, and offers have already been made to many property owners contingent on the council approval, Lockwood said.
In cases where property owners refuse the city's offer, the council will have to resort to condemnation, which could take months, Lockwood said.