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This past December, the Uptown Planners agreed on the vision for the West Lewis Street Mini Park in Mission Hills. They didn’t want concrete walkways or planters or bridges; they wanted the design to be simple, just a nice canyon overlook.

Two months later, at the February 3 meeting of the Uptown Planners, Glen Schmidt from Schmidt Design Group, along with Sheila Bose, the city’s project manager, presented their vision for the West Lewis Street Mini-Park. The design included boulder-shaped benches, an interpretive bird exhibit, and eight madrone trees in planters surrounded by a hardscape of decomposed granite and recycled-glass pavers.

And that was just phase one. Phase two includes a steel bridge and canyon overlook.

Here’s what some members of the committee thought about the design:

“It looks like urban planning on steroids…”

“I’d rather bring my own rug and sit in the dirt…”

“It looks like Fashion Valley…”

“The formality of the site is at odds with the spirit of the neighborhood.”

“It looks too much like a monument, not a park.”

But the design and the lack of greenery aren’t the only issues registered by the community; the cost for phase one is now at $630,000, up from previous estimates of $450,000, which were up from preliminary estimates of $280,000, and that’s without the steel bridge proposed in phase two.

The cost for both phases, according Uptown Planners chairman Leo Wilson, is rumored to be as high as $1.2 million. Wilson asked project manager Bose where the funds will come from.

“It’s funded right now in the amount of $450,000, from the DIF [developer impact fee] funds,” answered Bose.

“Do you understand that our DIF funds are about $2.1 million? So, you would be using the majority of our DIF funds for the bridge and this overlook,” said Wilson.

Bose said no estimates for phase two have been calculated and she didn’t want to speculate.

One Mission Hills resident blamed the increase in cost and lack of progress on the park on city mismanagement. “We want our park. What’s sad about this...just do the numbers: soft costs, city staff time, consultant fees, and so forth. When you’re handed an amount of money, that’s your budget…. Something is happening downtown and somebody should be held accountable for this.”

For more, go to uptownplanners.org.

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