Mission Bay Park is one of several regional parks that could be impacted by a ballot initiative known as Measure J.

Measure J would direct money from Mission Bay Park’s commercial leases to fund improvements projects at regional parks. Measure J’s gotten unanimous support from the City Council and an oversight committee for Mission Bay Park. But some Mission Bay Park supporters have concerns with it.

The other park-related measure on the November ballot is called Measure I. Despite state law and city charter rules against it, a school has called Balboa Park home for nearly 135 years.

That school, San Diego High, was established years before those rules were in place, butits lease with the city will be up in 2024.

That’s triggered a debate about the future of San Diego High, and now San Diegans will decide the school’s fate by voting on Measure I. A yes on Measure I would amend the city charter so San Diego High can remain in Balboa Park, and a no would mean the school would need to relocate after 2024.

In this week’s San Diego Explained, NBC 7 San Diego’s Monica Dean and Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt detail the two measures involving city parks.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

    This article relates to: 2016 Elections, Politics, San Diego Explained

    Written by Kinsee Morlan

    Kinsee Morlan is the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. She works to expand our reach and helps community members write op-eds. She also manages VOSD’s podcasts and covers the arts, culture, land use and entrepreneurs. Contact her directly at kinsee.morlan@voiceofsandiego.org. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter. Subscribe to her podcast.

    Judith Swink
    Judith Swink subscriber

    On Measure 'I', the Balboa Park/SDHS measure, there's a hidden poison pill in the City's determination that only a simple majority is needed to approve it. If it passes and is allowed to stand, this measure will essentially nullify the 2/3 majority vote required since 1931 for any non-park change in dedicated park land. This could become a troubling precedent. Two other educational groups approached the Charter Review Committee earlier this year requesting special amendments to enable their educational use of public dedicated (a legal term) park land. It seems likely they'll be back to try again if Measure 'I' stands.

    However, there's a bigger problem for the City with Measure 'I'. There are two state laws that prohibit the City from retaining a school on public park land. Public Resources Code 1054 explicitly prohibits schools on park lands. 

    Another Code section (don't have number at hand) prohibits a jurisdiction from giving any of its property or resources to another entity which has a purpose other than that of the owning jurisdiction. The SD Unified School District is a State agency separate from the City of San Diego. The City of San Diego has no role in providing schools for the local population.

    Bjorn Steller
    Bjorn Steller

    @Judith Swink That law, you are referring to that parkland can only be used for park purposes is outdated by the existence of that school, founded 1882, by over 70 years at that location. If that is not "grandfathered" than there are no Grandfathers.The school was there before there was even a single tree planted in Balboa Park.

    This small parcel, 32 acres, the school is sitting on, is also separated from Balboa Park, which is about 1,200 acres, by the I-5 s-curve and Naval Hospital and includes Balboa Stadium , which is open to the public and used by the school.

    Voting no on that measure will require the Unified School District to provide a new High School for the kids feeding out of the boundaries of Mission Hills, University Heights, Mid Town, North Park, South Park, Downtown, Golden Hill, Grant Hill, Logan Heights and Barrio Logan within those boundaries. This will cost the taxpayer a minimum of $100M.

    Voting "yes on I" would force the Unified School District to fairly renegotiate that lease to make it permanent and would not cost anything while freeing up all the improvement money for that school that is currently tied down due to the questionable legal situation.

    Judith Swink
    Judith Swink subscriber

    To be clear, Measure J would direct a larger share of Mission Bay lease revenue to regional parks. Regional parks currently receive 25% of the revenues above $20 million (which goes into the General Fund); 75% goes to Mission Bay Park. Measure J would change that ratio to 35% to regional parks and 65% to Mission Bay Park.

    There are other parts of the measure, one of which is the most important in my opinion. That is to relax the rigid requirement, currently in Charter Section 55.2, which now mandates that the money be used for a prioritized list of projects of which one must be completed before the next can be undertaken. 

    This means that many of those prioritized projects will not be implemented during the lifetime of some of us older people because several are quite complex (improvements to water quality and wetland habitat). Measure J will relax that rigid priority list to enable several of those projects to begin and proceed in parallel as long as the preceding project is well along the way. The priority list itself should not change.