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I am excited to be attending the opening of the Nobel Park and Library in North University City today at 2 p.m., at the corner of Nobel and Judicial Drive. Completion of this project was one of my ten goals for District 1 when I took office, at a time when lists of goals were in vogue.

The $17 million project consists of a 16,088-square-foot library, a 10,000 square foot recreation center, public art installations by artist Blue McRight, three sports fields, an off-leash dog area, tot lots, picnic areas and other amenities. Planning for the project began in the 1990s, and construction started in September 2004.

The site was designed to meet the Silver LEED rating, which rates sustainable and green design. The roofs of the library and recreation center use highly reflective surfaces, to keep the roof cool and reduce the need for air conditioning. Photovoltaic cells atop the roofs generate green power to help run the facilities. The 700 trees and 10,000 plants on the site were selected for their drought-resistance, reducing the need for excessive irrigation.

It’s sweet.

It’s also an illustration of a tale of two cities. In areas like North University City, Carmel Valley or Otay Mesa, which are recently developed or still developing, the city funds public amenities and infrastructure like the Nobel Park and Library from fees assessed against new development and held in accounts for improvements in the neighborhood. The city adopted the FBA approach after the passage of Proposition 13 hammered local tax revenues. The roads in FBA communities are new and smooth, the parks spacious, the recreation centers well appointed and the libraries are sleek. The FBA approach generally ensures that growth pays for infrastructure and that the amenities are built and available where the city is growing.

In older areas, there is no such funding mechanism. For instance, just across Rose Canyon in South University City, which developed before 1978, the much loved library needs much budget love. The recreation center and park and pool could use an expansion.

To his credit, the mayor has announced his plans to set aside funds for maintenance of older public facilities citywide. However, while the city catches up with deferred maintenance in older areas, there will continue to be disparities in the quality of public facilities in newer and older communities. So the emphasis on maintenance is important and a priority in old and new communities. We should remember that while the city is catching up on old facilities, new facilities will start to see their own wear and tear.

— SCOTT PETERS

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