A New Idea for Bay Park: A Town Center Park

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UPDATED 1/27/16

By Glen Schmidt, FASLA

As many people know, the City of San Diego is in the process of creating a new Specific Plan for the Morena Corridor to provide a vision for potential improvements and development guidelines.  This effort is partially in response to the future construction of the Mid-coast Trolley that will be built along Morena with stops at Tecolote Rd., Clairemont Dr. and Balboa Ave. With proximity to the freeway, Mission Bay, Downtown and beach communities, as well as the future Mid Coast Trolley, Bay Parkwill certainly attract more development interest to improve properties that are not being utilized to their ultimate potential.

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Bay Park has a very rich history of development that dates back to 1887 when the Morena Subdivision was mapped in Bay Park’s current location adjacent to False Bay (Mission Bay) and a small train station that was built near what is now Morena Boulevard.  Soon after the land sale for this new development the economy experienced a sharp decline and only a few home sites were sold.  Some of these beautiful craftsman homes remain jewels of the community.  In 1937 a new subdivision was re-envisioned and named Bay Park Village.  The new road layout designed for this development remains today.  The central core of the design for Bay Park Village was a commercial and civic district surrounding a public park and plaza.  The park encompassed the entire block between Morena, Chicago, Ashton and Napier.  It was a public open space transferred as a gift by the developer to the City of San Diego unfortunately, in the 1950’s, the City in their wisdom (or lack thereof) decided they didn’t want to maintain the park anymore.  They sold off portions of the property and built a fire station on the site.  Much of the discussion of the Specific Plan has been focused on the potential negative impacts of growth along the corridor.  Certainly we should ensure that any future development in Bay Park matches the character of our community and brings us positive change, but there is also the potential to use this opportunity for community improvements; improvements that, in my view, would enrich the lives of all of the residents in Bay Park.  There are a number of potential opportunities, including making Morena Blvd more pedestrian and bicycle friendly and adding public parks as future development occurs.  The idea I would like to focus on for this article is bringing back a park that was once in the central business core of Bay Park, to create a Town Center Park.

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Today there is a taco shop, office building, and an outdated fire station surrounded by an ever improving commercial district with local businesses and restaurants.  It would be a huge improvement to our community to bring back a public park again in this location.  A place for gatherings, picnics, farmers markets, movies in the park, and many other activities to bring open space to the central core of Bay Park and to bring us closer together as a community.  I am a professional landscape architect experienced in park design so I decided to create a design to open this discussion and help us all to visualize what this might look like.  My ideas are grand and certainly represent an ideal solution without identifying funding.  But sometimes it’s good to dream.

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One of the concerns of the neighborhood surrounding this site is parking impacts.  My firm was the landscape architect for Waterfront Park on Harbor Drive downtown where we constructed a large parking structure under the park.  Using that example as a model, my design includes 80 to 100 parking spaces under the park that would relieve parking in the neighborhood even as the businesses become more successful.

The park would be a little over 1-acre and would be a simple design inspired by the original 1937 park design with a central open space of turf for flexible play and gathering lined with palm trees.  It could include a shade structure and performance platform, shade trees, elevator and stairway from the parking below, gardens to stroll through and enjoy, and a community identity monument.  We can also think about simpler solutions that don’t include underground parking, moving the fire station, or using the entire site, but the idea of recreating a park in this location that was once a place for families to gather and play is one I think we should consider.

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If you like this idea I hope you will make your desires known to the City of San Diego.  You can email community planner Michael Prinz at mprinz@sandiego.gov and our Councilmember Lorie Zapf at loriezapf@sandiego.gov.  Or feel free to contact me at gschmidt@schmidtdesign.com.

Glen Schmidt, FASLA, is a landscape architect and planner and a 35 year resident of Clairemont and Bay Park.  His landscape architecture and planning firm, the Schmidt Design Group, Inc. has won over 100 local, state and national awards for design excellence, including 11 local Orchid Awards from the San Diego Architectural Foundation.  

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