NewsLocal News


Push for playground repairs sparks effort to revitalize Mount Hope neighborhood

Dennis V. Allen Park at center of effort to improve area
Dennis Allen Park pic.png
Posted at 6:12 AM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-09 10:33:59-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A historic park in San Diego's Mount Hope neighborhood is still waiting for repairs, nearly 16 months after vandals burned down part of the playground in a fire.

Now, people who live nearby hope getting the playground fixed is the start of a full revitalization of the park and neighborhood.

"This is a problem. We want to see things improve here," said Rachel Powers, the Vice Chair of the Mount Hope Neighborhood Group. "We want to see a safer way to access the park. We would love to see a rec center. But, really, we want to see the facilities we have get back to the state they started in."

The first step of that, Powers said, is the playground. In November 2021, vandals set fire to several playground structures. The City of San Diego quickly removed the burned pieces of plastic, but nothing has been replaced. The delay has frustrated people who live nearby and use the playground.

"The city ain't doing their job," said Sharon Jones, who says she has lived in Mount Hope for 60 years. "That was so sad. That hurt us."

In a statement, San Diego Public Information Officer Tyler Becker told ABC 10News the delay came because "the insurance adjuster needed time to evaluate the scope of damage and provide funding for the replacement. The Parks and Recreation Department has purchased the replacement playground equipment and the manufacturer is currently working on the custom-made parts. The cost of replacing the equipment is approximately $90,000. The new equipment is expected to be installed this spring."

City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said he expects that to happen sometime before the end of March.

"The reality is that Mount Hope hasn't been prioritized over the years. That's just the fact," he said. "Not only has it not been prioritized, it's been de-prioritized."

Elo-Rivera pointed to San Diego's history of racial redlining and redistricting as the reason the majority-minority neighborhood feels left behind.

Infrastructure projects also reinforce that. Dennis V Allen Park is the only greenspace in the neighborhood that isn't a cemetery. And it's blocked on three sides by freeways, which cut through the neighborhood when they were built.

But, slowly, the neighborhood is starting to get the attention its residents feel they deserve. Newly formed neighborhood groups have been advocating for more resources, and the City Council is paying attention.

Elo-Rivera led a charge to get $750,000 allocated in this year's budget to design a new Recreation Center that would be built in the park.

"A Rec Center coming here would give the youth in the community, the adults in the community a place to be and gather and socialize without feeling like they have to leave our community," said Powers. "It could be a place where we bring educational opportunities to the neighborhood."

According to Becker, the project would require an amendment to the General Development Plan for the neighborhood. The entire process would include, "evaluating alternatives and developing a preferred design option to build a new recreation center and other amenities within Dennis V. Allen Park. Some of the amenities that may be added to the project based on input from the community include a monument sign, a trail around the park, a parking lot, a dog park, a gazebo, a driveway from Boundary Street to Gateway Center Drive, and the relocation of the playground."

All of that may take years. But it's a fight the people in the neighborhood feel is worth taking up. And they say it starts with the playground, and other basic maintenance to bring the park to a higher standard.

"I really see the bathroom and the playground really tightly linked," says Powers. "It's hard for kids to want to come here, and parents don't want to bring their kids here if they're not sure when they're going to have to run out to go to the bathroom somewhere else."

In the meantime, Powers' group is already trying to activate the park with more events and reasons for people to gather. They're trying to plan an Earth Day event for April, and hope the playground is fixed by then.

"It's not doom and gloom," she says. "I do look around there are people out here enjoying the park walking their dogs being with their families...

"This could be an area where we bring people together. You see your neighbors, and you have fun."