As the City of San Diego seeks to increase its Department of Parks and Recreation’s budget in the coming year, it may face obstacles in filling the positions. City officials discussed the department’s challenges at the May 23 La Jolla Parks & Beaches board meeting.
The meeting at the La Jolla/Riford Library was the board’s first in-person meeting in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Steve Hadley, representing the office of Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said the proposed budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year contains a $4 million increase for the Parks and Recreation Department “specifically to help with some of the enforcement action that should be needed,” but also “to increase the pay and benefits for Parks & Rec workers.”
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The additional app comes as the city implements new sidewalk vending regulations, which would allow vendors to operate in most city parks if they meet certain criteria.
Additional shifts and shifts are also suggested for parks and recreation maintenance workers to clean park bathrooms.
But the city’s salaries and hiring process pose challenges for those positions to be filled, Hadley said.
Currently, an entry-level groundskeeper earns about $36,000 a year, Hadley said. “Try to live in this city on this amount,” he said. “It’s a lot of work for not a lot of money in this town.
“So part of the problem is that we are struggling to pay these people. They come to work at Parks & Rec and can transfer to another department and enjoy more secure pay and benefits.
He said the city was 17 or 18 people short of cleaning up waterfront parks and a total of 1,738 budgeted city worker positions across all departments were vacant.
Hadley drew a parallel to the city’s problems with police retention. He said there were about 200 vacancies in the police department that had been budgeted for.
Another issue, Hadley said, “is the length of the hiring process. … You have these professionals applying for a job and it takes the city three to six months to complete the process. They can find jobs elsewhere more quickly.
The discussion came after San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria released what is known as the “May revision” to the draft budget, an update that reflects comments from city council members on the based on suggestions from their constituents.
LaCava held two town hall meetings on the budget in May to gather input. La Jolla residents have expressed a need for more night lifeguards, more funding for the police department, and additional resources to clean waterfront park restrooms.
The overhaul included five new sergeants for the lifeguard night shift; a second team of Parks and Recreation staff for cleaning and security of park restrooms; police overtime; police recruitment efforts; restore funding for arts, culture and community festivals; and professional services in support of the city’s real estate transactions.
The budget is expected to be finalized on Monday, June 13. The new fiscal year begins Friday, July 1.
Other LJP&B news
Flag issues: While some of the privacy issues raised in the new Scripps Park Pavilion restrooms are being addressed, LJP&B member Ken Hunrichs said there was always “a clear line of sight to the hotel from the l ‘across the street to the showers’.
The facility opened in January next to La Jolla Cove, but visitors soon realized that the men’s and women’s locker rooms were visible from the street at certain angles. Hunrichs said a barrier was installed to minimize this.
Swimming at La Jolla Cove: La Jolla Cove Swim organizer Judy Adams Halter, former LJP&B board member, says the public event will be held on Sunday, September 11 at La Jolla Cove and 270 swimmers have already registered .
Proceeds from registration fees and donations help pay for swimming lessons for children in underserved neighborhoods and for the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla Concerts by the Sea, which this year will run weekly from July 17 to August 7. at Scripps Park. All additional funds will go to organizations supported by the Kiwanis club.
The 1-mile swim event will begin at 9 a.m. and will be limited to 600 swimmers. A 3-mile swim capped at 100 swimmers has already been sold.
Halter said volunteers will arrive for the installation around 6 a.m. and the event is expected to take place at 3 p.m.
Board development workshop: In early June, the board will participate in a closed-door workshop to help the group formalize how it will pursue upcoming projects.
“I would like us to focus on community-oriented projects and beautification, community involvement and a plan for the future,” said LJP&B President Bob Evans.
Board Vice-Chair Brenda Fake said topics to be covered include “what kind of projects we want to work on in 2022 and 2023, clarifying the roles of each of the directors, how to fundraise for these projects, how to obtain an entrance permit” and other elements. “We want to be effective as a team.
Next meeting: La Jolla Parks & Beaches will meet at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 27 at the La Jolla/Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave. Learn more about lajollaparksbeaches.org. ◆