Grant Hill Park / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Often, the sources of systemic inequity aren’t obvious. They’re given boring names like “development impact fee” and forgotten except by the privileged few with time and energy to spend pulling the right bureaucratic levers. 

That’s what MacKenzie Elmer discovered when she looked at a proposed plan to redefine how the city values – and more importantly, pays for – improvements to the public green spaces San Diego has left

Developers paid the North University City neighborhood – adjacent to University of California, San Diego – upward of $230 million in one-time fees to build there. The neighborhood exhausted its list of desired parks projects for which this fee money is typically used. So now it’s spending on its streets. 

Yet poorer and older neighborhoods, like Sherman Heights in southeastern San Diego, have little to no arable land left for the kind of new development that triggers large fees. Thus, their half a park sits treeless and untended, though well-used. 

The city of San Diego has a plan to change that if neighborhoods, primarily those benefiting from these fees, don’t raise hell.

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The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, and edited by Scott Lewis.

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