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In the coming election, San Diegans have an opportunity to set in motion a grand restoration of Mission Bay Park, Balboa Park and other regional parks for generations to come.
If approved by voters, Measure J would make significant park improvements, restore historic buildings and ensure environmental protections in the city’s largest and most-used parks.
And the best part is it will make more than $1.5 billion available for our parks without raising taxes.
That’s because the money comes from lease revenue paid to the city by hotels and other businesses operating in Mission Bay. I strongly believe that revenue generated from within our parks should benefit our parks – and that’s exactly what Measure J will do.
Before I dive into the specifics, I want to explain why Measure J is so important to me on a personal level. And why it probably matters to you too.
My first foray into public service was as a volunteer member of the Mission Bay Park Committee.
I saw firsthand how needed upgrades for our parks were often ignored by city leaders in favor of short-sighted decisions like the one that led to the pension crisis. We needed a dedicated funding stream for our parks that couldn’t be taken away on the whims of a mayor or a City Council.
That’s why as a City Council member, I co-authored Proposition C. The ballot measure, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2008, directed that any lease revenue from businesses in Mission Bay above $20 million would be split and invested in capital projects for Mission Bay Park (75 percent) and other regional parks (25 percent) for three decades.
This has resulted in millions more dollars for our parks, especially Mission Bay Park, which has already collected more than $20 million over the past few years.
Proposition C called for the City Council to place a second 30-year extension on the ballot by 2039. Measure J will not only follow through with that commitment but also includes provisions that will speed up Mission Bay Park improvement projects and make more money available for San Diego’s regional parks.
Notably, it will provide more funding for infrastructure repairs in Balboa Park, which is in need of millions of dollars to improve its aging structures.
So how does Measure J do all this? It makes several key changes that will provide tremendous benefits to Mission Bay Park, Balboa Park and other regional parks. They include:
• Changing the split between Mission Bay Park and regional parks to 65 percent and 35 percent. This provides a larger funding stream for regional parks that the city can bond against. That means we could immediately invest tens of millions of dollars into our parks, including the restoration of Balboa Park’s historic buildings.
• Extending the funding stream for parks an additional 30 years. This would make available more than $1 billion for Mission Bay Park and more than $500 million for regional parks through 2069.
• Allowing the city to accelerate Mission Bay Park improvements. The City Charter currently contains a list seven priority projects in Mission Bay Park that have to be completed, in order, before any lease revenue can be spent on anything else. Many of these projects require extensive environmental review that will take years to complete. Because of this requirement, the city has collected $12 million that it can’t spend until those projects are finished. Measure J lifts this constraint so we can invest that money in playgrounds, restrooms, recreation centers, bicycle paths, lighting and landscaping while the environmental projects continue to move forward without delay.
All of these changes will provide significant benefits for our parks. That’s why the City Council unanimously approved placing Measure J on the Nov. 8 ballot. It’s also why this measure enjoys widespread, bipartisan support with several notable individuals – City Council members Todd Gloria and Lorie Zapf; Betty Peabody, founder of the Friends of Balboa Park; and Paul Robinson, chair of the Mission Bay Park Committee – joining me in signing the ballot argument in favor of Measure J.
Millions of residents and visitors flock to our regional parks every year. They come to learn at the cultural institutions in Balboa Park. They fish at Chollas Lake Park. They jog or hike in Mission Trails Regional Park. They shoot hoops in Presidio Park. And they relax on the beaches in Mission Bay Park.
They’re making memories that will last a lifetime. The same ones that you, your family and your friends have no doubt made in our wonderful parks.
Let’s preserve and improve those parks and the recreational opportunities they offer for future generations of San Diego families.
Please join me in voting yes on Measure J.
Kevin L. Faulconer is mayor of San Diego. Faulconer’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.