Downtown’s planning agency, Civic San Diego, will see its spending soar astronomically in the months ahead as it prepares to break ground on big park projects, most notably the long-awaited East Village Green.
Wednesday, the agency’s budget committee signed off on the draft plan for fiscal 2020, which starts on July 1 and calls for total expenses of $27.8 million. The amount is $18.3 million more — and 193 percent greater — than costs for the prior year. The budget still needs to be approved by Civic’s full board of directors as well as City Council.
The bulk of the ballooning budget, or $21.2 million, is being allocated to projects that are all transitioning from the planning stage to the construction stage. Chief among the projects in the construction pipeline is East Village Green, the supersized downtown park proposed for the area between 13th, F, 15th and G streets.
The general plan for the park, which spans one regular city block and one double block, was approved by the city’s park and recreation board in 2015. The first phase consists of 2 acres of park improvements — multi-purpose lawn, off-leash dog park, community center, children’s playground — along with a paid underground parking garage with 185 spaces, two cafes and a number of other amenities meant to serve neighbors in the burgeoning Makers Quarter community.
Though once anticipated to open in 2018, the park is just now gearing up for development. The original time table proved overly aggressive given the complexities of building a park above a parking garage, said Brad Richter, the vice president of planning for Civic San Diego. As it stands, consultant group The Office of James Burnett, hired by Civic in February 2017, is in the process of finalizing construction documents.
“We will be bringing the final project to City Council in a couple of months to authorize us to go out to bid and award the construction contract,” Richter said.
If all goes as planned, the city will break ground on East Village Green in the fall with a two-year construction timeline. It is expected to cost $46 million in total, though exact budget allocations have yet to be determined. The agency will use around $30 million in collected developer impact fees to pay for most of the project.
Aside from the park, Civic San Diego expects to start construction on upgrades to Children’s Park in fiscal 2020. The downtown park, located across from the Convention Center at 101 Island Ave., is getting a number of improvements, including more kid-friendly play areas, an off-leash dog park and better lighting.
Otherwise, the agency’s anticipated expenses are in line with the previous year. Personnel expenses in fiscal 2020 are budgeted at $4.5 million versus $4.6 million in the prior year. Non-personnel expenses, meanwhile, are expected to grow by $105,000 to just over $2 million due to an increase in the agency’s office rent.
Civic San Diego budget committee members voted unanimously to approve the agency’s fiscal 2020 budget. The full board of directors will take up the matter on March 27.