Last Monday, Keighan Christenson and Scott Irwin were invited to meet with representatives from the city of San Diego to discuss the construction of a community bicycle park that was torn down last month.
I had an opportunity to meet with one of the supporters, Scott Irwin, last week to learn more about the events leading up to the destruction of the bicycle park last month and how he and eight* other community members are working on restoring the space so children in the Peninsula community and beyond can again have a safe, protected space to be outdoors and on a bicycle.
The bicycle park was created on an unused, vacant piece of land called Site 22 at the intersection of Nimitz and Famosa Boulevard. The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) purchased Site 22 from the city of San Diego years ago. The land was purchased with the intent of developing low income housing on the location. However, nothing has been built on that piece of land due to lack of funds and community support.
The meeting last Monday was attended by Council President Pro Tem Kevin Faulconer, Victoria Joes – Policy Advisor for the mayor of San Diego, Stacey LoMedico – Director of the San Diego Park and Recreation Department, Michael Patton – from Kevin Faulconer’s office – representative for the Midway/North Bay/OB/Point Loma area, Debbie Rhuan – Senior Vice President of Real Estate for the San Diego Housing Commission (owner of Site 22), Keighan Christenson and Scott Irwin – both supporters of the bicycle park and members of Freeride Famosa.
At the meeting last Monday, Christenson and Irwin shared the community park proposal titled, “Make Having Fun Legal”, with the meeting attendees. I’ve highlighted some of my favorite talking points below:
After talking to Irwin, I learned that the bicycle park has repeatedly been built and then torn down despite community support and support from Councilmember Faulconer. I also learned that the local police was aware of the bicycle park and often would show up to ensure that nothing was awry. However, the park was never officially sanctioned and thus occasional complaints from a handful of naysayers would result in getting the park torn down.
This time however, through the power of social media and a petition to gain a broad spectrum of support, the supporters of the bicycle park now had a powerful voice:
The eight members who are part of Freeride Famosa and are spearheading the efforts to get the bicycle park rebuilt acknowledge that the city of San Diego has limited financial and personal resources. They listened to the mayor’s message to be proactive and they proposed being creative when it comes to making this project happen. According to Freeride Famosa,
The Grass Roots model is similar to what currently exists but is sanctioned by the city. The benefit is community buy-in through sweat equity. Features are designed and maintained by the people who ride them. The park is respected and utilized. The professional model is an option but there is a cost factor.
At the meeting last Monday, Freeride Famosa prepared this proposal on their vision for the bicycle park,
At the meeting last Monday, Faulconer and LoMedico expressed their support for the proposal. Faulconer supported the idea of incorporating a community garden into the park design. Faulconer mentioned his office has received letters from community members in support of the community bicycle park proposal. LoMedico said the Park and & Recreation Department have a process for identifying the purpose/focus for new parks in San Diego. This includes collecting input from the community regarding the types of activities to be included (riding bikes, frisbee golf, walking dogs, etc…).
However the San Diego Housing Commission representative Debbie Rhuan said the SDHC was not interested in using the land for the development of a community bicycle park because they did not want to be responsible for the liability. LoMedico said Park & Rec. wanted to expand the number of parks available to our community but they were not interested in entering into a temporary agreement with the SDHC for the purpose of developing a community bicycle park. Park & Rec.wanted to own the land before they would willingly invest in the development of a park.
At this point, SDHC offered to sell the land to the city for the current market value rate. Although no one at the meeting knew what the current market value rate was, Rhuan shared the steps necessary to transfer ownership of the land from the SDHC to the city. Rhuan expressed interested in trading Site 22 to the city for another piece of land for equal value. Freeride Famosa was interested in exploring this idea and discussed a couple of potential options.
Rhuan stated the SDHC did not support bicycle riding on their land and that they would be posting additional “no tresspassing” signs, and requested no one ride bicycles at Site 22.
Christenson and Irwin proposed a “grass roots approach” to the design, construction, and maintenance of the proposed community park. See p.2 of the proposal for details.
Faulconer reaffirmed his support for the development of a community bicycle park at Site 22 and asked Freeride Famosa to continue working towards this goal.
Toward the end of the meeting, Faulconer asked the SDHC to appraise Site 22 for the purpose of identifying market value. Rhuan said this will take one to two months but they will fast-track the process. Faulconer then asked Freeride Famosa to identify other city real estate holdings that could potentially be used in a trade with the SDHC. Christenson and Irwin promised to contact the Peninsula Community Planning Board regarding being added to the April meeting agenda. Christenson and Irwin agreed to contact LoMedico once the item has been added to ensure that city staff would be present at the meeting. Christenson and Irwin also promised to share Faulconer’s support for a bicycle component to the community park when meeting with community groups. The group agreed that once PCPB support is obtained, they would work with the city designated City Planner to change community plan designation of Site 22 from affordable housing to community bicycle park. The group will meet again once the appraisal process is complete to discuss the status of the project which should take approximately two months.
* The eight main community members who spearheaded the efforts to ensure that a safe and dedicated space will created for the children who want to be outdoors and on a bicycle are: