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Construction on $55M Mira Mesa Community Park project will start this summer

By Jennifer Van Grove

June 4, 2024

The San Diego Union-Tribune

The project, which includes an aquatic center, a skate park, a renovated recreation building and substantial infrastructure upgrades, has been two decades in the making.

The long-awaited overhaul of Mira Mesa Community Park will begin this summer, promising to deliver in two years time an aquatic center, a skate park, a renovated recreation building and substantial infrastructure upgrades.

Monday, San Diego City Council members unanimously OK’d a $43.3 million contract with PCL Construction Services to complete what is officially known as the Mira Mesa Community Park Phase Two Improvements. With the action, council members simultaneously agreed to appropriate $11 million more from neighborhood funds to finance the project in full.

The total project cost — including $11.8 million for design, permitting, construction management, staff time, public art and contingency costs — is $55.1 million, according to information provided by the city.

PCL was selected in late March following the city’s second solicitation for bids to remake the 17-acre portion of the park north of Mira Mesa Boulevard and west of New Salem Street. Last summer, the city first advertised for the construction work, but the bidders — PCL and another firm — were deemed not responsive because their bids did not meet the city’s subcontracting requirements.

“When I’ve talked to residents, they’ve shared that these were projects that they hope to see in their lifetime and that it has taken nearly 20 years for that to happen. And so this is a significant moment for us to celebrate,” said Councilmember Kent Lee, who represents Mira Mesa and lives in the neighborhood. “While we didn’t like having to go out to bid twice in order to get this project to the finish line, there was never any risk that this project would be shelved. ... These phase-two project components have been in place ever since the (general development plan) approval in 2005. And the funding that made it possible now has finally come to fruition.”

Mira Mesa Community Park at 8575 New Salem St. sits at the center of the neighborhood, across the street from the high school, and serves a population that planners believe will nearly double to 143,000 people over the next couple of decades.

In 2005, the city finalized the general development plan for the Mira Mesa Community Park. In 2018, the city finished phase-one improvements, which concentrated exclusively on the baseball fields and children’s play areas east of New Salem Street.

Phase two encompasses the larger park area that opens out to Mira Mesa Boulevard and includes the Gil Johnson Recreation Center, which was dedicated in 1977.

The project includes an aquatic complex with a competition-grade pool that has 14 lanes for swim teams, another pool for community classes, a splash pad and a 6,250 square-foot aquatics building with a community room. Phase two also features the neighborhood’s first skate park, or what the city is calling an “all wheels plaza,” which will accommodate skateboards, bikes and scooters, and have lighting to allow for extended use.

In addition, the project includes substantial site work, much-needed repairs to the rec center building, two new playgrounds, two new outdoor basketball courts, realignment of the playing fields, a public art installation and an expanded parking lot.

Work will start this summer and be completed by late summer 2026, Jason Grani, the city’s deputy director for engineering and capital projects, told council members. An exact timeline for the start of construction will be determined once the construction contract with PCL is finalized, although the work is expected to begin after the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, a city spokesperson said.

The city is paying for the construction contract with neighborhood-specific funds — $36.7 million from the Mira Mesa Facilities Benefits Assessment Fund and $6.6 million from the Mira Mesa Development Impact Fee Fund. The funds collect fees charged to developers. Fees associated with the 413-acre 3Roots development are credited with making the park project possible.

The project will not, as originally planned, extract money from a separate fund — the Mira Mesa Community Fund — after successful pushback from community members.

The Mira Mesa Community Fund was created in 1988 to store proceeds from the Westview Development Agreement and a settlement agreement with Shapell Industries. The money, according to city documents, is to be used for public improvements in Mira Mesa as identified by the community. The city appropriated $1 million from the fund for the park project during a previous budget cycle, albeit without broad community input.

Monday, council members voted to put $1 million back into the Mira Mesa Community Fund.

“I would like to extend our gratitude to Andy Field, director of parks and recreation, for being a steadfast ally to Mira Mesa and honoring his commitment to reallocating the $1 million from our Mira Mesa Community Fund,” said Lainie Hardman, who helps run the Mira Mesa Concerned Citizens group. “We want this fund to be managed by residents, as outlined by the settlement. We want a process that does not include residents who represent the city or groups that require paid membership. We want a process that will ensure transparency, accountability, equity and inclusion. This is something this fund has never had. Residents of Mira Mesa deserve a voice in managing this fund.”

Hardman was joined by more than two dozen others at the meeting, all wearing We Love Mira Mesa T-shirts, who voiced support for the construction contract but also expressed frustration with how the city has treated the community. Several voiced concerns with the city’s plan to later build a new recreation center at 3Roots and not at the community park, where they say it is urgently needed.

“I’m a newcomer. I moved to Mira Mesa four years ago from Carmel Valley. There are many good things about Mira Mesa ... however, I was very shocked to find such a drastic difference in our gyms. Carmel Valley, with a much smaller population, has three gyms. Each gym has six courts. That’s 18 courts,” said Yen Wong. “We have one gym, two courts. One gym that serves all of Mira Mesa with a much larger population than Carmel Valley. So, I’m saying, wow, Mira Mesa has been overlooked.”

The city’s future plans include doubling the size of the Gil Johnson Recreation Center at the community park, as well as adding a recreation center at 3Roots, although the projects will likely take awhile to materialize, Councilmember Lee said.

“These will only be possible if we can identify long-term funding sources to ensure that improvements like these and many others needed across the city do ultimately come to fruition,” he said.

Lee was likely referencing a proposed 1-cent sales tax increase, which would hike the city’s sales tax to 8.75 percent. The proposal is working its way toward the November ballot and, if approved by voters, would generate an estimated $400 million in annual revenue for the city’s general fund. The measure, as proposed, is opposed by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.

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