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New San Diego Mayor Bob Filner called his appearance Thursday at a rally for a skate park in City Heights one of his “first official acts.”
Filner ran on a neighborhoods-first campaign, saying he would redistribute development and infrastructure dollars from downtown to the city’s other neighborhoods. Now in office, he’s turning City Heights’ years-long fight to build a skate park into a poster child for that platform.
“I was just elected by the people of neighborhoods who were tired of not getting things they have deserved while downtown gets hundreds of millions of dollars, and we’re going to change that,” Filner told a crowd of mostly teenagers. “We are going to bring things into this neighborhood that you deserve and we may as well start with a skate park.”
Skaters in the neighborhood have long said they need a formal place to skate, citing peers who have been hit by cars while skating through the dense, urban neighborhood. They also say a skate park would help fill a shortage of park space in the community.
The youth and adult community organizers have identified three locations for a skate spot: a pending mini park on Central Avenue, a dirt lot in Park De La Cruz and the Copley Family YMCA grounds, which the YMCA could vacate once a larger facility opens nearby. All are owned by the city.
“Guess what, I’m the mayor of this city,” Filner said after giving a thumbs-up to the teens for choosing city-owned properties. “I can work with you to make sure we get that site.”
“We have a budget in the city of San Diego of $3 billion,” Filner said. “That’s a lot of money, so if we can’t find the money that is needed we should pack up, because we can do this.”
Filner then led the teens in chanting, “Skate se puede,” a riff on the Spanish phrase “Si, se puede” (or “Yes, we can”), a phrase popularized by Cesar Chavez. The slogan has since been adopted by progressive political candidates and their supporters.
Scott Reese, former assistant director of parks and recreation, told KPBS’s Tom Fudge full-size skate parks with facilities for staff could cost $3.5 million to $5.5 million. The City Heights group is looking to reduce costs by building near existing recreation buildings.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified Scott Reese. He is no longer working in the city parks and recreation department.
Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.550.5665.
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