Photos of owls taken within South Park's 28th Street canyon.
A group of South Park residents, who objected to a proposed development in the 28th Street canyon two years ago, have initiated fundraising efforts in hopes of purchasing the property.
The Protect 28th Street Canyon Coalition was spearheaded by Doug Kipperman, whose canyon-view home is one of several abutting the site in question. In early December, the group received commitments in excess of $50K toward an anticipated $450K price tag for the four consecutive canyon lots that sold for $250K in spring 2013.
In early 2014, developer SDPB Holdings submitted a proposal to the city to build five single-family dwellings on the 26,000-square-foot parcel, which would also have required the city to vacate a 14,000-square-foot easement along the property.
Kipperman says SDPB withdrew that proposal last December after meeting community resistance and encountering city regulations that make it tough to receive approval to build on steep parcels.
"I think what they're discovering is the property is very difficult to build on," Kipperman said. "They would have to go through the complete application process again."
Kipperman believes a second proposal is forthcoming that would scale back the project to four homes, which the coalition would also push back against. He said the group decided making an offer on the property might lead to an easier resolution than continuing to fight through city channels.
"At some point we need to get past our emotions and decide," he said, "do we want to protect the canyon?"
The canyon runs from Fir to Elm Street, between Granada Avenue and the Grape Street dog park. Portions of it are popular among joggers, hikers, and dog-walkers. Kipperman pointed out the eucalyptus-lined canyon is home to owls (among other bird species). He said his family enjoys listening to them in the evenings.
Thus far, the coalition has received commitment only, ranging between $500 and $10K. Kipperman said once enough capital has been raised, a local nonprofit group will collect the money so the donations qualify as tax deductible. A local real estate agent, Sally Schoeffel, has said her agency, Pacific Sotheby's International Realty, has agreed to handle the property transaction pro bono.
The coalition hopes to donate the canyon land back to the city and has tapped conservation group San Diego Canyonlands to oversee stewardship. The coalition hopes to connect the canyon via hiking trails running north through Switzer Canyon and southwest trails adjacent the city’s Balboa Park Golf Course.
Canyonlands executive director Eric Bowlby said stewardship would involve local volunteers working to maintain the canyon's natural setting but that whoever owns the property — whether it's the developer, coalition, or the city — will be responsible for fire-safety protocols, especially brush-management zone compliance.
Kipperman recognized it's a lot of money and said he hopes for the best realistic outcome that will preserve the open space behind his home.
"We see the birds, the dogs in the park," he said. "It's life-affirming." However, he adds, "If they develop, we'll grow some trees and we'll still have a beautiful place to live."
A consultant for SDPB Holdings did not comment other than to say the developer "would consider an offer at $450K" if and when it comes.
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