Opponents: the park is too small for AIDS memorial, too big for a pocket park.
An appeal of the environmental determination for the Olive Street park in the uptown area was defeated by a unanimous vote of the San Diego City Council last Tuesday.
City staff had determined that the infill project, a .74 acre pocket park on city-owned land in Bankers Hill, is exempt from analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Not so, says appellant Jennifer Hasso who owns a historic home next to the site and is suing the city over alleged trespassing to assess the land where the park would be built.
The city posted a notice of right to appeal the determination on April 13. The appeal was filed two weeks later.
"We got the notice while other government agencies were closed" due to COVID, Hasso's attorney said, so they were unable to contact state and local agencies and obtain needed records.
It's another loose end of the shutdown; the city claims the project isn't covered under the governor's COVID-19 order.
Other issues ranged from biological resources to flood hazards in support of further environmental review – including one of the most controversial aspects.
Since the planning began in 2016, critics have complained that the neighborhood park is the wrong location for a regional AIDS memorial honoring 8,000 San Diego victims.
Balboa Park would be better, somewhere more accessible.
"The memorial is critical to CEQA. Unfortunately it does appear the city is aware of that, "and is actively watering down the description to get around CEQA," Hasso's attorney said.
As San Diego's first and only public AIDS memorial, the park is too small for a regional memorial. But it's also too big for a pocket park, the opponents said, costing over 5 million dollars and including a large scenic overlook deck above Maple Canyon.
"The city's small little watered down park" and the actual proposal "are fundamentally at odds with what is necessary for the CEQA analysis."
The appeal states the land where the deck would be built belongs to Hasso.
Among the features are play and fitness areas, a new storm drain, seating, walkways, landscaping, lighting, fencing, an overlook deck, and the regional AIDS memorial.
The project is funded by uptown development impact fees and the city's general fund.
The city owns the land just north of Hasso's home, which has no setback from its property line. Some of her property extends onto city land, and will have to be removed when the park is built.
According to the city, the encroachments include portions of a block wall and wooden fence, landscaping cobbles and a concrete ditch.
Refuting every one of the appeal's claims, the city holds that the park meets all guidelines and is consistent with both the general plan and uptown plan, serving a population within 1/4 mile.
"Rather than being a large gathering space, Olive Street Park can provide a reflective, passive space" for visitors.
Hasso doesn't see it working out that way by design.
"The memorial and the deck are intended, and will attract thousands of people."