The Green Spine
by Glen Schmidt
Clairemont is one of the largest communities in San Diego. With over 81,000 residents it is larger in population than 9 of the 18 incorporated cities in San Diego County. Clairemont is also large, geographically encompassing 13.3 square miles. With a significant network of canyons and mesa’s, the community is rich in topography, character, and natural open space. But we are deficient in population- based parks and green corridors which are local parks and open spaces easily accessible to the community. As a member of the Community Plan Update (CPU) Subcommittee for the Clairemont Community Planning Group, and a professional Landscape Architect, I was intrigued by an opportunity we discussed in our CPU meetings regarding open space. I believe we have an exceptional opportunity to take advantage of some underutilized land in our community: the SDGE power line easement corridor that runs north south from Marion Bear Park to Tecolote Park. I like to call it the “Green Spine”.
The SDGE power line easement through Clairemont spans a total of 4.5 miles in length and is 150 ft wide. That represents approximately 80 acres of open space. To give you a sense of scale, one football field is a little over 1 acre. The northern and southern sections of the easement within Tecolote Park and Marion Bear Park are open to the public with trails and an unpaved service road. Those areas provide over 2 miles of trails that are accessible to the public. The middle sections that are more immersed in residential areas, however, are mostly closed to public access. This is roughly half of the easement (approximately 36 acres). My hope is that more of the closed portions of the easement could be opened for public access. The simplest and most easily accomplished is allow access to the trails that already exist in this easement. My wife and I hiked most of the corridor and we found many of the spaces were quiet and peaceful places to stroll, jog, walk your dog, or just to experience open space. There are also some exciting opportunities to expand public benefit near street outlets that could be used for such improvements as community gardens, neighborhood pocket parks, dog parks, or other uses.
The Green Spine can act as a central organizing corridor for Clairemont that will connect neighbors to neighbors, and to also connect them to shopping and recreation. Our Community Plan Update is potentially modifying 8 focus areas in our community to allow more housing near transit centers and transit corridors. Accepting additional housing should come with infrastructure improvements and public benefit. The Green Spine would be a simple yet effective way to provide a highly impactful benefit to our community.
More planning and public input for this idea is critical and no improvements should be implemented without meetings with the public and neighborhoods for feedback and their recommendations. But, conceptually, I hope you will join me in supporting the idea. If you have a chance to speak with our Council representatives, Councilmembers Cate and Campbell, please put in a good word for Clairemont’s Green Spine.