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San Diego community leaders launch ballot initiative to invest in libraries and parks


Library Foundation CEO Patrick Stewart

EQUITY | LIBRARY BUDGET | BALLOT INITIATIVE | ACCESS


All San Diegans deserve access to quality public spaces. Libraries and parks are essential to creating safe, strong, educated, and thriving communities. For too long, too many communities have not enjoyed the same kind of facilities, programs, or access that other communities enjoy.

Now is the time for San Diego to adequately fund essential services for all and remove access barriers to first-class library service in every San Diego neighborhood.

Investment in deteriorating facilities an issue of equitable access

That is why the San Diego Public Library Foundation and San Diego Parks Foundation are joining a diverse and non-partisan group of residents to launch a ballot initiative to improve City of San Diego libraries and parks. The Libraries and Parks For All community initiative will invest in San Diego’s deteriorating public facilities by fixing long-standing issues and historical inequities that have resulted in some communities having access to fewer educational and recreational opportunities.

The Library and Parks Foundations are leading the grassroots effort to put the measure on the November 2022 ballot. Many of San Diego’s libraries and parks are dilapidated, unsafe, and in need of modernization. As noted in the Library Master Plan Framework document, libraries are suffering from a construction backlog of more than $50 million, which does not even take into account costs for bringing older facilities into full compliance with current codes (e.g., seismic, accessibility, sustainability), modernizing power and data infrastructure, or updating and expanding space to support community library service needs. The Parks Master Plan details how San Diego parks need more than $200 million in basic repairs, and many community parks have suffered from years of neglect.

I was happy to join community members to announce the launch of the initiative in front of the Clairemont Library, an aging building constructed during the Eisenhower administration that is currently closed due to staffing shortages.

As I said at this launch, this ballot measure invests in libraries, which is the same as investing in education and jobs. Thousands of San Diego children and adults rely on libraries for free academic programs and internet service. Still, there is not equitable access to technology if you live near an older branch. Libraries go beyond books, and this is our chance to guarantee every San Diegan has access to a world-class library.

Action needed to bring quality parks and libraries to all communities

“There is an urgent need to ensure adequate and ongoing funding for parks and libraries. The community is united behind this ballot measure because these public spaces belong to the public, they belong to you and me, and the public deserves better,” said Chair of the San Diego Parks Foundation Michel Anderson. “Many of our parks are wonderful, but there are so many others that are falling into disrepair. Parks are part of the fabric of any great city, and it’s only fair that every San Diegan lives near a quality park.”

“Our communities are growing and changing, but our libraries and parks aren’t keeping up,” said Eden Yaege, president of the Clairemont Libraries Action Group. “This ballot measure will ensure we have adequate facilities to serve the needs of our neighborhoods, which is why grassroots groups like ours wholeheartedly support it.”

“My years of experience leave no doubt in my mind that San Diego needs a local, sustainable, and protected source of funding for parks and libraries, and this ballot measure will finally make that happen,” said Stacey LoMedico, a former Parks and Recreation Department director and assistant chief operating officer who retired in 2019 after a 33-year career with the City of San Diego. “The pandemic showed us what life was like when parks and libraries weren’t accessible, but it was just a temporary taste of what could become permanent if the community doesn’t come together to support this voter initiative.”

Parcel tax guarantees funding source

The citizen-led measure will provide a guaranteed, local funding source for our parks through a modest .02 cents per square foot parcel tax on City of San Diego properties that is capped at one acre. There are exclusions for low-income, agricultural, and certain senior and disabled housing properties. The measure is projected to raise between $40 million – $45 million annually.

Library and Park Investment Act includes strong provisions for fiscal accountability and citizen oversight

The funding is restricted to be spent on library and park projects and priorities outlined in the Parks Master Plan and Library Master Plan. The Library Commission and Parks and Recreation Committee will meet annually to consider project priorities at a public hearing and with community input and provide recommendations to the City Council. An oversight committee will meet quarterly to monitor program expenditures, and the City Auditor will perform an annual audit of the program.

The measure has a strict “maintenance of effort” provision that ensures library and parks department budgets are increased and not supplanted by additional funds raised through the measure. Additionally, funds are strictly prohibited from being diverted to other departments.

Next steps

The Libraries and Parks For All coalition announced the opening of an official ballot measure committee, the first step in placing an initiative on the ballot. The committee is now fundraising to pay for a signature collection drive to put the plan before voters in the 2022 general election. The measure’s text is being finalized and will be published when signatures collection begins in the near future.

For more

Visit LibrariesParks4All.com to learn more and sign up for ways you can stay informed and get involved.