The county’s Waterfront Park will get new sports facilities and a dog park, under a plan to add more active recreation downtown.
The county plans to redesign a one-and-a-half acre portion of the site at Pacific Highway and Grape Street, which now includes a garden and walking paths. San Diego County Parks and Recreation officials aired the project concept at a virtual meeting Wednesday.
The entrance to the park will lead into a dog park, Park Project Manager Nina Pisano said. Directly south of that will be two pickleball courts and a full-sized basketball court. Below that will be a tee-ball field, open for programmed and pickup games, she said. There will also be table tennis equipment near the existing restrooms, she said.
“All the perimeter trees will remain in place, and we will preserve as much of garden as can,” she said, adding later that an art sculpture in the garden will also be relocated.
Waterfront Park opened in 2014, after a $49.4 million makeover that included interactive fountains, a children’s playground, low-water-use gardens and expanses of lawn. At that time the project, which replaced street-level parking lots on the property, was billed as the largest San Diego urban park since 1915’s Panama-California Exposition grounds. Officials did not provide a cost estimate for the planned changes to the site.
Parks and Recreation officials began exploring options for new facilities after the Board of Supervisors asked them to identify sites for more active recreation in the downtown area, Pisano said. They analyzed several sites, but this property was already in the county’s portfolio, and was less used than other parts of Waterfront Park, she said.
The department held several workshops to seek public comment, and on Wednesday officials fielded text questions on the final plan. Some participants at the virtual meeting asked why the county is displacing the gardens, rather than building the recreation facilities on other portions of the site.
“The project area is already very nice with wandering paths and nice plants,” a participant at the meeting said. “Why not use the grass area off Harbor (Drive)?”
Pisano said that portion near the port has more restrictions, so the basketball and pickleball courts would not be permitted there.
“We did look into other newer, underutilized spaces that could support active recreation, but decided this northeast corner was the superior location,” she said.
Another person asked about capacity at the dog park, noting that crowding at the site could be unsafe for the animals and people.
“Has there been consideration to the size of the dog park versus number of dogs likely to be in the park at any one time?” the participant asked, identifying herself as a dog owner and trainer. “Too many dogs who don’t know each other in too small of a location can be a recipe for not only the worst case of disease and fights but creating an overstimulating environment that can lead to long term anxiety and/or fear issues in dogs.”
Christine Lafontant, a recreation manager for the county, said the county will determine how many dogs that facility can accommodate, and will direct park security guards to enforce those limits. She also answered questions about use of the pickleball and basketball courts, saying they will be available for pickup games now, but the county would consider introducing a reservation system if that need arises.
Listeners also asked whether the county had considered installing sand volleyball courts or a rollerskating area at the site. Pisano said those facilities aren’t in the blueprint for this project, but could potentially be added elsewhere in subsequent downtown improvements.
With the concept plan completed, staff members will begin drafting construction documents for more detailed design of the site, Pisano said. Those will include elements such as the construction plans, materials for the facilities and layout of pathways. The next step will be to request a coastal development permit from the California Coastal Commission.
The process will likely take a year, she said, and then the county will open the project to public bid and award a construction contract. Officials expect construction to start by spring of 2022, and and to be completed by that summer.