Accessing San Diego’s Canyon Parks
How money and safety are in conflict
by Louis Rodolico
San Diego topography gives us beautiful intercity canyon parks. One of the most popular is The Marian Bear Park in San Clemente Canyon, just north of Clairemont, see photo. San Clemente Canyon was originally planned to be a commercial corridor, but Marian Bear and groups like the Audubon Society fought the development, had Route 52 built to the north and created the park we have today. And yes, the neighbors who ended up being closer to Route 52 complained. But in the end, Marian Bear and company created a beautiful park that functioned within the urban core. Roads go through the park so we can walk under the bridges and bikers and pedestrians can travel over the canyons.
Marian Bear Park welcomes visitors with: parking lots; bathrooms; water fountains & picnic tables, see photo. In stark contrast Rose Canyon Open Space Park, further to the North, has none of these items. In fact the Rose Canyon website points to bathrooms in Marian Bear Park. The Friends of Rose Canyon (FORC) have had a decent budget to work with but much of it has gone to the salary of its director.
Why does Rose Canyon remain undeveloped? FORC has devoted much of their efforts to fundraising and trying to prevent the construction of the Regents Road Bridge. FORC is not lacking in political clout, they could easily achieve the same list of amenities at other parks. They simply do not want any of these items and, to enhance fundraising, have maintained Rose Canyon as a private back yard. The Genesee Avenue road and High School entry were graded to accept a parking lot at Rose Canyon. FORC has remained disinterested in recent proposals to remove the train from Rose Canyon.
Let’s look at FORC’s allies.
- Individuals who purchased their homes adjacent to Regents Road purchased their homes at a discount because of the looming bridge, if the bridge is removed from the plan their houses go up in value. If Regents Road becomes a residential street some of these lots have long unused frontage which could be sold as separate lots bringing these property owners a half million dollars or more.
- Owners with a view of the canyon do not want the bridge, but they seem to be OK with the trains.
- Homeowners who believe building the bridge will drop their property values by one or two hundred thousand dollars and bring crime to their neighborhood but somehow not police. Ironically, without the bridge these homeowners are working against their own mortality with the increase in ambulance times to a hospital.
- Westfield Mall financed the EIR to remove the Regents Road Bridge from the plan. If the bridge is removed zoning can be changed and houses can be built on the land, removing the possibility of the Regents Road Bridge forever. At that point we would likely see another EIR, this time to widen Genesee and bring all those shoppers to the mall.
- Candidates need the Regents Corridor for fundraising each election cycle. Building a bridge is difficult political work. So politicians can collect money if they promise not to build the bridge & take a job they do not have to do! The council president could have put the bridge on the ballot and let the voters decide, but leaving the bridge as an uncertainty maintains it as a FORC & an election fundraising tool.
These 5 allies are reasons why the bridge was never built, the environmental argument is a shill. Money matters here. The only real environmental tragedy is the 10 million pounds of CO² pumped into the atmosphere each year as a direct result of the additional traffic on Genesee because the Regents Road Bridge was not built.
Marian Bear, Tecolote and Los Peñasquitos are three parks that could be a model for Rose Canyon Park. The Rancho Peñasquitos Trail Head West is a good example of what it feels and sounds like to walk under a highway bridge. The Regents Road Bridge crossing at Marian Bear Park is another good example as well as Carmel Mountain Road just east of Manorgate Drive, see photo. These bridges are all much lower than the bridge planned to cross Rose Canyon at Regents Road, see rendering.
So, for now, about 30,000 residents and workers in UTC, UC and Clairemont have to put up with the extra traffic, about 15 additional major accidents yearly, poor conflagration egress, elevated cardiac risks, longer emergency vehicle travel times and about 14 million dollars each year for; a second fire station, man hours in traffic, gas and the cost of the accidents. The fate of 650 acre Rose Canyon does not hang in the balance because the bridge will have draping greenery and at most a two acre footprint, or less than 1/3 of 1% of the Rose Canyon Park, see rendering.
Communities with incomplete road systems are vulnerable. Ambulances arrive late and may not be able to revive a pulse, since the ambulance must loop around the community to get to an emergency room patients, including children, expire in route.
City Council will vote in November on the Regents Road Bridge issue. Who will win: the money interests or the safety of the community?
Louis Rodolico has been a San Diego resident since 2001 and is a candidate for City Council District 1 Webpage: www.louisrodolico.com