continued And there's a half-acre parcel on the access road along the south bank of the channel, on which sits an ugly cinder-block pump station. In her testimony, Frye stated that she did not understand the rush to dedicate portions of the roads and the pump station as park land. "It seems that this is nothing more than an attempt to increase the amount of land that can be leased for development," she said. "It is also unlikely that there is any demand or public interest for a picnic area at a pump station."
Jim Peugh, coastal and wetlands conservation chair for the San Diego Audubon Society, shares Frye's concerns. "Transportation corridors and highways should be omitted from the countable acreage in the park," he says.
Even though the city council approved the incorporation of the parcels on October 30, city officials refuse to admit that the amount of leasable land has increased. The day after the designation, a Union-Tribune article reported that former mayor Susan Golding added a provision urging that the acres not be used in calculations for park land development. The sentence is misleading because, in fact, all Golding said was that some of these matters should be discussed in a future meeting of the Natural Resources and Culture Committee. A city official, wishing to remain anonymous, said that that won't happen until the first quarter of next year at the earliest.
When asked about this, Rick Grenell, the mayor's former press secretary, chastised me, saying it was the first time in his tenure at the office that the Reader had ever called him. He refused comment and referred me to the city manager's office. Tim Rothans, an assistant to the city manager, says there's no reason for concern. He says that the city council instructed his office to use only the numbers from the master plan when calculating leases. His statement implies that the new parcels cannot inflate leasable acreage.
Will Griffith, the city's real estate assets director, says, "All we did was dedicate parcels that should have been dedicated a long time ago. We saw this as a housekeeping kind of thing. Without those parcels being dedicated they could have been built upon. The dedication protects the parcels." Griffith says that the 11.8-acre parcel near the visitors' center "could potentially fit a hotel." Now, he says, it's safe from development. He adds that the parcels had long been considered park land and that all the survey did was incorporate them officially.
Golding's suggested provision, Griffith adds, was "part of the motion to dedicate the parcels and to direct questions about policy issues to committee for public input."
Despite the dizzying spin coming from city offices, it's not hard to set the record straight. The bottom line is that a provision is not binding; it's as fickle as any given council. The city charter, however, is law. And what the section of the city charter regarding Mission Bay Park says clearly is "notwithstanding any other provision of this Charter to the contrary," the total leasable land is 25 percent. No matter what provisions the city council wants to bandy about, today, under law, there are an additional 26.84 acres that can be counted toward the lease total.
"It's a done deal," Frye says. "I'm not waiting for it to be thrashed out later. The immediate effect of the dedication is that you now legally have acreage that can count toward leasing."
Some of the parcels in question are in Councilman Byron Wear's district. According to Wear, "The fact of the matter is that everyone knew when we went into the survey that it was going to come up with a number. The number is accurate. The number is the number. Everyone knew all along it could come up with additional acreage. And of course it should be dedicated park land." If there's additional acreage, he says, "Let's get the revenue from it that the plan allows."
"It just so happens," Wear says, "that the survey didn't turn out the way that some people hoped it would turn out. I think what you need to ask the people who are complaining is, 'Do you support the Mission Bay Master Plan?' Does Donna Frye support the plan? Does Al Strohlein support the plan? If not, then what's the point?"
Some argue the master plan might need a second look. Jim Peugh agrees with Frye that these new acres, though under policy discussion now, can become a problem later on; a future council could do whatever it wanted with the new parcels. But even more urgent than the political wrangling over the survey, Peugh says, are long-term philosophical questions regarding the park. "The population of San Diego is increasing," Peugh says, "and so then is the need for park land. But the city seems to care only about the needs of tourists in the park. The commercial use has to go down as the population goes up." Peugh ponders revisiting the master plan. "Maybe," he says, "the 25 percent needs to be throttled back to 20 percent, or 15 percent."