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San Diego’s downtown and beach communities saw the most money for parks last year, and that’s not including funds for Balboa Park and Mission Bay. Monday night, the City Council passed a measure that could spread the love more equitably.

The measure changes the grading system planners use to prioritize projects like parks, fire stations and libraries. It adds weight to projects in under-served communities by detailing what graders should look for when judging a project’s impact on community and economic development.

Previously, the directive was general: Consider “the degree to which the project contributes toward economic development and revitalization efforts.”

Now, the same criterion lays out eight specific things to look for – most notably, whether “the project will benefit under-served communities including those with low-income households, low community engagement and low mobility or access to transportation.”

The new policy also boosts the weight this category carries in the overall project score, from 10 to 25 percent.

Old San Diego City Council Policy 800-14 (Click to enlarge)
New San Diego City Council Policy 800-14 (Click to enlarge)

Center on Policy Initiatives Program and Policy Director Christie Hill said the new policy is encouraging for older communities south of Interstate 8. But she said funding remains an issue.

“If a project doesn’t have the funds available but has a high score, then yeah, that project might not make it into the budget, but it’s important that we start somewhere,” Hill said. “This policy is a beginning. It’s a longer conversation that we expect to have in the coming months and years.”

The grading rubric for city projects awards more points to those that have identified funding. Older communities typically have lower development fees to help fuel economic growth, but the lower fees also mean there’s less money for community improvements.

Megan Burks

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...

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