On November 12, community members reviewed two proposed designs for a new park at Pacific Highlands Ranch, with many saying there were too many fields and green spaces, preferring instead more tennis courts, pickleball courts and of basketball.
The two designs presented for the new five-acre McGonigle Canyon Neighborhood Park include a variety of features ringing an open green field, but residents said the field takes up too much space away from other desired uses. Pacific Highlands Ranch resident Kalpana Gidwani said none of the plans met the needs expressed by the local tennis community during the park’s first planning session: “Why do we need this green field when we have a much bigger version of this green field in the new central park rec by pacific trails?
The proposed $8 million park is on the corner of Solterra Vista Parkway and Caminito Mendiola, next to the future Del Mar Union School District school. A draft general development plan for the park is expected to be approved at the next meeting of the Pacific Highlands Ranch Recreation Group on January 12, 2021, then move to the San Diego Park and Recreation Board for final approval. The park is currently expected to open to the public in late 2023.
At the Nov. 10 meeting, JT Barr, design director at Schmidt Design, presented the two plans for the park he said were based on feedback received in September. At the September meeting, attendees showed great interest in a comfort station (toilet), children’s play area, walking loop, picnic shelters, passive recreation grounds, lots of shade and hard courts for basketball, tennis and pickleball. Pickleball is a popular sport which is a mix of tennis, badminton and ping pong played on a smaller court with solid wooden paddles and a wiffle ball like ball.
Barr said after the workshop they received a number of emails with additional information, including 31 emails for pickleball courts, two for tennis courts and one each for a community hall. and a gazebo, ADA and inclusive upgrades, and a park name change request.
Option A’s “canyon and shoreline” design includes a circular pedestrian loop around the park, a comfort station, a children’s play area that takes advantage of the natural slope, a large community pavilion, and a shaded picnic area under a thicket of trees. At the center of the park is the large flexible turf area with a youth baseball/softball backstop, infield and dugouts, surrounded by trees. This design includes a lighted tennis court, two pickleball courts and a basketball court.
“The second design alternative really embraces that notion of diversity that we heard in community feedback,” Barr said.
Option B’s “community quilt” design includes similar features to Option A, but instead has two hard courts for multiple uses. In each court there is a tennis court, two pickleball courts and two basketball half courts.
Both plans also include a 45-space parking lot and a panoramic viewpoint on the highest point of Solterra Vista, overlooking the canyon.
In a quick poll of the 50 Zoom call participants, 85% preferred the first design but many opinions were divided during public comments.
“Overall I’m very disappointed with both, especially B when you called it ‘diversity’ and I don’t think you brought diversity to our community at all from the comments,” said Karen Dubey, president of the Pacific. Highlands Ranch Leisure Group. “This community has a lot of people playing pickleball and tennis and instead we have 80% of the area covered by the field and softball.”
From his experience at PHR Community Park, Dubey said people who want softball want nighttime softball with lights. She said that if the baseball/softball field was removed from the plan, there might be the possibility of moving the field to a different angle and adding more tennis and pickleball courts.
Several people asked for more tennis courts to meet the needs of the community, saying that one court would not be enough. “The availability of tennis courts in Carmel Valley is horrible,” said resident Phil Pellouchoud.
The only public tennis center in the area is at the Carmel Valley Recreation Center. Run by Carmel Valley Tennis, all four courts have a $5 per hour fee and require advance reservations. Outside of COVID times, four courts at Torrey Pines High School are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis free of charge after school hours or on weekends when not in use by students or an authorized group.
According to community input, individual tennis and basketball courts as in Plan A would be preferable to a multi-use court so that users do not have to compete for use.
PHR Recreation Group member Marilee Pacelli said there likely won’t be a reservation system for the park’s courts and it will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
While some comments said there was no need for such a large green space, Pacelli addressed the need for space on the pitch for recreational youth sports and the benefits of open spaces. She said the nearby PHR Community Park is filled with football and other sports practices from 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends the grass is full.
“Having open space is really one of your best options, whether you have a softball field or not. Having that open space is where your community goes,” Pacelli said.
Resident Diane Toomey also spoke out in favor of the open space and design of Option A that complements the natural topography of the neighborhood. “I don’t really want a bunch of hard spaces in my community,” she said. “The park should remain a park and not become a place where people don’t want to pay to go and play tennis. There are many clubs in the area.
Many participants also questioned the need to have so many parking spaces when the land could be used for other purposes.
“I’m not a fan of concept A or concept B because I can’t stand the idea of parking. We really don’t need any extra parking, especially with the school plan,” said Kurt Knutson, Pacific Highlands Ranch East HOA and PHR Management Association board member. “I see it as a community park. We badly need places to play tennis and basketball and it would be nice to have that within walking or cycling distance.
Barr said parking is determined by the City of San Diego Design Consultant’s Guide, based on park size and uses. There is no parking along Sorrento Vista Parkway and although there is no joint use agreement with the school district, the school parking lot will likely be available for parking outside school hours.
During public participation, there were also requests for more shade, particularly in the children’s play area, as well as requests for more seating, security cameras and video stations. outdoor training along the walking loop. Dubey said she doesn’t believe the park is ready for approval at the next meeting and asked the city to come back with more options.
At the Jan. 12 meeting, Barr said they expected the plans to have more design details such as picnic tables and benches.
For more information about upcoming meetings and ways to get involved, visit sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/centers/recctr/pacifichighlandsranch or contact JOAvila@sandiego.gov.