Dana athletic field joint-use agreement becoming a thorny issue
by Dave Schwab
Published - 10/30/13 - 02:38 PM | 4262 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A pledged donation from a former Major League baseball player and Point Loma High School alum to take better care of a joint-use ball field at Dana Middle School has ironically sparked controversy.

David “Boomer” Wells, a former New York Yankee, Toronto Blue Jay and San Diego Padre pitching star who is now the pitching coach for his alma mater at PLHS has offered to improve Dana Middle School’s baseball field, which Point Loma High also uses.

Wells is willing to take responsibility for the field and has pledged to “maintain it at a higher level” than that currently provided by the city or the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). The city and school district jointly operate the 7.3-acre area, nearly half of which is the ball field.

The problem is, in order take Wells up on his monetary offer, the school district has to pull the ball field out of the joint-use agreement with the city, which has been in effect since 1994. And that is something the city is loathe to do.

“The Peninsula community is currently deficient in population-based parks by 78 acres,” said Jim Winter of the city’s Park and Recreation Department. “If you take the 3.5-acre ball field out, that bumps the park deficiency up to 81.5 percent. Our (parks) department can’t in good conscience increase the park deficit when our goal is to decrease it.”

Winter said the recreation element of the city’s general plan calls for providing 2.8 acres of park space for every 1,000 residents. By that standard, he said, “Eighty percent of our communities are deficient in population-based parks.”

The 7.3-acre joint-use area at Dana Middle School, also known as the Richard Henry Dana Center, is one of about 90 joint-use facilities co-operated by the city and school districts, primarily San Diego Unified School District, throughout the city.

Winter said joint-use recreational facilities between the city and schools have been used since the 1940s as an effective tool to get the most out of scarce recreational space.

Typically, joint-use agreements between the city and schools to jointly operate fields and other recreational amenities provide locked-gate school use from 30 minutes before to 30 minutes after the school day and public use thereafter and on weekends via an unlocked gate.

In November 2012, the Board of Education voted unanimously to begin the process of removing the baseball field at Dana Middle School from the joint-use agreement between the school district and the city.

Randy White, interim director of real estate for SDUSD, said the school district wants to keep an open mind about the ball field and its future.

“We have an agreement right now set to expire in 2019,” White said. “We have a benefactor who wants to have the field maintained to a higher standard than what the city is able to do. We’re still in negotiations with the city.”

The issue of severing Dana ball field from the joint-use agreement between the city and SDUSD is scheduled to be heard by the City Council on Dec. 9.
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