People walk around in Chicano Park in Barrio Logan April 22, 2023.
People walk around in Chicano Park in Barrio Logan April 22, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

On Saturday, April 22, Chicano Park in Barrio Logan came to life.  

The smell of burning sage filled the air early in the morning. Speakers blessed it Chicano Park Day – an annual celebration of the park’s creation – and spent time honoring those who 53 years ago fought to turn that 7-acre space under the momentous pillars of the San Deigo Coronado Bay Bridge into a place of pride.  

As I watched this year’s celebration, I thought about the first time I went to the park.  

I was a student at San Diego State on assignment for a journalism class. I can’t visit Mexico because of my immigration status (I wrote an essay for the Union-Tribune years ago if you want to read it), but that day, I felt as if I had.  

53rd Annual Chicano Park Day in Barrio Logan on April 22, 2023.
53rd Annual Chicano Park Day in Barrio Logan on April 22, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

The park, though noisy from the overhead freeway traffic and with grass that isn’t perfectly green, is a treasure for our region. The park is a National Historic Landmark and home to the largest collection of outdoor murals in the country.  

But there’s another thing that makes this park unlike any other in the city, as I found in my latest story, because the park’s unique history has left it in the hands of a unique group.  

Grab some cafecito, so we can get into what I found.  

History is key: On April 22, 1970, residents, students and activists organized a protest after learning that the city was backing down on its promise to turn the lot under the bridge into a park. A group formed at that time, the Chicano Park Steering Committee, to lead the occupation, which lasted more than a week. 

What does the group control: The Steering Committee is led by volunteers and is not affiliated with the city. The group effectively oversees the park and manages its own events calendar. And over the last couple of years, it has become increasingly involved in approving and denying special event permits that members of the public request through the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.  

53rd Annual Chicano Park Day in Barrio Logan on April 22, 2023.
Hundreds of visitors filled Chicano Park to celebrate the 53rd Annual Chicano Park Day in Barrio Logan on April 22, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Why is that? Well, the city told me that the parks department has historically given the group the opportunity to review requests because of the park’s history. But emails I reviewed regarding special event permits showed me that conflict played a role, too.  

The parks department often approved permits for events that conflicted with events the group approved or organized separately. In 2019, one of the group’s members wrote, “Parks and Rec staff has continued to show neglect toward our community calendar and schedules events that conflict with events already marked on the calendar.” Then he added, “Chicano Park would not be here if it was not for the Steering Committee and that needs to be understood and respected.”  

How it works now: The parks department loops in the committee early on in special event permit requests. The committee then decides if the event can happen at the park. At times, they have denied the use of the park. And other times, they have allowed it. The city is now working on a formal agreement with the group.  

It’s worth noting how it works at other parks: Balboa Park for example, has a committee that advises the city on issues related to the park. Their role and rules are laid out in the city municipal code. The members of the committee are appointed by the mayor. And their votes are recommendations, not official rulings.  

You can read my story here.  

How San Diego Police Are Policing 

San Diego Police officers make a traffic stop on University Avenue in City Heights back in 2015. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

This week we published two stories that shed new light on policing in the city of San Diego.  

Will Huntsberry discovered that San Diego police officers are stoppingp fewer people than they did three years ago. Stops are defined as traffic stops, stops on foot, times an officer pulled a rider off a trolley or any time an officer stopped a resident.  

This change has slipped by virtually unnoticed, Huntsberry writes, with stops plummeting by nearly half from 187,251 in 2019 to 96,119 in 2022.  

“Nobody has a firm, clear explanation for why the drop has happened, but there are some major theories: an ongoing staffing shortage within the department, the rise of citizens filming police encounters and the possibility that police are actually engaged in something of a soft strike, backing away from some duties to protect public animosity,” Huntsberry writes.  

Read that first story here.  

Then he found another thing.  

Police officers stopped half as many people last year as they did in 2019, but that reduction in stops hasn’t translated to change in racial disparities. The disparities have gotten worse.  

And for stops that end with a cop using force – when a gun was fired, unholstered or pointed at a person, a stun gun was used, or someone was physically restrained – the disparities are greater.  

Read the second story here. 

Huntsberry joined the VOSD Podcast to discuss his reporting and findings. Listen to the episode here or wherever you get your podcasts.   

More Chisme to Start Your Week  

  • In a new column, Scott Lewis said what we were all thinking. San Diego’s mayor is sending a message with a proposed ordinance that reveals a new chapter in San Diego’s response to homelessness. “And what’s that message? To the homeless it’s, you need to leave or find a really good hiding place. To the housed, it’s ‘we’re pushing them along and you’re welcome,’” Lewis writes. Read his column here.     
  • San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe is making her move. The Politics Report writes more about the decision to fill the vacancy on the County Board of Supervisors left behind by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher’s fall from grace. The board will decide this week whether to fill his seat with an appointment or a special election. Read more here. The Politics Report is available to Voice of Diego members only. I encourage you to consider becoming one, if you are not already. Your support means the world to us and helps us keep up the important work we are doing. Sign up here.  

Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, Managing Editor, Daily News Andrea oversees the production of daily news stories for Voice of San Diego. She...

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  1. Enjoyed learning about the history of the park. Glad I’m a subscriber!

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