Several readers have scoffed that we will find over $300 million to fund the completion of Mission Bay Park. No way, they say, especially in light of the pension deficit.

Many of us believe the park deficit is just as significant as the pension deficit, if not more. The pension deficit affects 10,000-15,000 people. The park deficit affects every resident of San Diego County and our tourism industry. For many in the inner city, where we are grossly park deficient, Mission Bay Park serves as a neighborhood park for their family. We will ignore our park deficit at the same peril that we ignored our pension deficit.

It is the unusual capital project that is already built into a budget. For any capital improvement, those who are willing to undertake the hard work necessary to find funding must start. The Mission Bay Park Committee is in the process of doing so, to provide a funding strategy for the over $300 million in capital improvements needed to finish the park.

Over the course of the next six months, the Mission Bay Park Committee will be holding a series of public workshops that will focus on all funding options, from a sales tax increase (I doubt you’ll find me supporting that) to private grants (a lot of money should be available by next year when we have a general plan for Fiesta Island) to private gifts (the city has raised over $100 million from private sources for libraries, why not parks?), or just by redirecting the revenues from Mission Bay leases, which generate over $45 million a year in lease revenues and taxes.

There is strong sentiment in the community for a public vote, if necessary, and creation of an enterprise zone that would require all monies generated in Mission Bay Park to stay there. That would be drastic, but it’s certainly a recourse that should be popular in the community.

By next spring, the Mission Bay Park Committee will provide the results of its year-long process to the San Diego City Council. The funding plan for Mission Bay Park will be a truly citizen-driven effort.

What about our other parks? Check in later for an update on Balboa Park.

BOB OTTILIE

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