San Jose Parks Advocates April 18, 2018


Mollie Tobias, Program Manager, Volunteer services, City of San Jose

Pat Pizzo, Project Manager, Native Plant Islands, Fontana Park

Greg Pizzo, Los Paseos Neighborhood Association

Marsey Kahn and Jennifer Roberts, Thousand Oaks Park

Water Troubles: Soaring Costs, Old Irrigation Equipment, Stressed Trees, Unusable Turf

The City parks are using 20% less water than before the "Big Drought" and we can see it in stressed turf and trees. This year's water costs are budgeted at $6 Million with another major rate increase is coming. Without enough water, weeds take over the turf creating tripping hazards, ground squirrels flourish, and trees weaken and die. The city's public face looks ragged. PRNS needs money for water. There are solutions that use less water--smart irrigation controllers that respond to the weather; updated irrigation systems, improved turf with drought tolerant varieties, and bringing recycled water service to more parks.  These improvements take money.  And that's where you can make a difference.

Write the Mayor, Councilmembers, and City Manager's Office about Park's Water Troubles

  1. Ask that the PRNS water budget reflect actual costs that include the upcoming rate increases, and automatically increment each year to reflect rate increases. Tell them it is unacceptable to force PRNS to get money for water by delaying the hiring of maintenance personnel and the purchase of replacement equipment such as mowers.  Water is critical to the infrastructure of parks--the trees, the playability of turf, and its aesthetic value. Tell them a water story from your park.
  2. Ask that the proposed November 2018 bond measure and the annual Capital Budget include money to install SMART irrigation controllers, repair and replace the irrigation systems, and replace and rehabilitate turf with drought-tolerant varieties in order to save the most water and money. Give examples of bad irrigation and drought impacts from your own park experience. Mention the dead trees killed by reduced watering and drought and the replacement trees you have planted that will need water. Tell them how usage has changed after turf became weedy. Ask that a long-term plan be developed.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


Council heard a report on the ranger program on April 17.  PRNS is switching to central dispatch instead of fixed post. There are more classifications: Top Dog, Asst. Top Dog, 4 supervisors, senior rangers, entry level. This ladder plus better salaries attracted more applicants and there are only a few vacancies. Now they are wondering whether rangers should be armed.  Multiple letters were received from current and former rangers and loved ones as well as members of national park association. They told stories of scary encounters in SJ and elsewhere. Councilmembers discussed the idea of moving rangers to police department. No report mentioned that there used to be a POLICE PARK PATROL  in addition to rangers.  A six month study is underway with PRNS, SJPD, SJFire, Water District, Housing, Fish and Game, CA Water Board, Environmental Department.  The interdisciplinary task force appears to be designed to deal with the waterways/rivers and illegal activities in the creek beds and not problems in the neighborhoods.

The task force plans to consult with Creek Clean-up groups, but do not plan to speak with neighborhood or regional park groups or users even though there are criminal incidents and user conflicts in those parks.

The task force will be

  • Defining and clarifying the main roles of a Park Ranger;
  • Defining the types and levels of service needed in creek areas, neighborhood parks, 
regional parks, and trails;
  • Identifying and addressing community and Park Ranger safety concerns;
  • Reviewing and analyzing the need for Park Rangers to be armed, relative to the necessary 
scope of services provided by the Park Ranger classification, and respond with a 
recommendation on this issue;
  • Defining the appropriate level of safety equipment for Park Rangers;
  • Reviewing Park Ranger training needs for part-time and full-time staff;
  • Defining the funding needs for the recommended Park Ranger Service delivery model; Delineating and designating Police and Park Ranger priority responses for various types of park safety conditions and incidents;
  • Identifying alternative options to the Park Ranger service delivery model and explore how identified alternatives would impact the Park Ranger Program and the City; and
  • Conducting an examination of whether the Park Ranger Program would fit existing community needs more efficiently by being placed under the supervision of the Police Department.

More info is available at City Council Agenda for April 17, Item 5.1

Community Budget Meetings and proposed budget

There will be FIVE meetings in the neighborhoods after the draft budget is released May 1. Then all of the departments will present to council during daytime hearings.  Mayor’s budget comes out June 1.

Go to the community budget meetings and talk about PARKS. Water.  The importance of parks in daily public life of the community. Tell your park story.

All meetings are 6 to 8 pm

Thursday May 10 at Pearl Library, 4270 Pearl Avenue

Monday May 14 at Environmental Innnovation Center 1608 Las Plumas

Thursday May 17 at Bascom Community Center 1000 S Bascom

Monday May 21 at Mt. Pleasant High School 1750 S White

Wednesday May 23 at Seven Trees Community Center 3590 Cas Dr.

Amenity Fees for Urban Villages

The council will have a study session on April 26 about development fees for the urban villages—the new high density housing that is planned for housing 400,000 new residents. Developers would like low fees, but amenities, like open space cost money. Earlier this month they learned in a study session the importance of public open space and daily public life  in creating community cohesion and attachment to a city. It is linked to happiness. It is important that the council be reminded of the importance of public open space near the new residents. Ask that fees be assigned to the urban villages for open space and that Park Trust Fund fees stay in the urban villages and not be used miles away from the new residents. The final council vote will be May 1 or May 8.  WRITE,,, ,,,,,,,,,,,


PRNS took over most of the HR tasks and was able to fill 40+ open positions in fall 2017. They continue to replace workers as they leave, get promoted, or go on leave. Since PRNS is no longer dependent on HR staffing to fill the jobs, maintenance should improve. There are NINE new positions approved in June 2017.  Park conditions were assessed in July and August 2017, so this year’s report does not reflect the increased staffing. For this reason, the department did not ask for more workers this year. Park conditions will be assessed again in Summer 2018.


Council asked staff to prepare a list of projects for a possible bond measure. The Mayor wants to projects to save money.  Among other ideas, PRNS is proposing smart irrigation controllers that are linked together so that they can be handled all at once without travelling to each site to change watering schedules for the season. WATER is key to beautiful parks. Please write.

Park Impact Fees and Los Lagos Golf Course's Future..


will be heard at Park Commission this week and then to Council later this month.  Lower park impact fees for high rises are triggering deep concerns.  The staff report on Los Lagos Golf Course seems to open the door to repurposing the property.

Park Impact Fees are paid by developers to compensate the community for the impact of new residents. The fees are used to buy new parkland and make major repairs--a key tool in keeping the park system afloat. For ten years, a 50% discount program for residential high-rises covered downtown. Every time the discount was renewed and expanded, the rationale was thadowntown had a high water table and was an unproven market--discounts were needed to attract developers.  Now downtown high-rises are booming. The development community convinced council to measure the number of residents in their units and Parks staff surveyed two rental high rises, finding 1.5 residents per unit, lower than the rate currently charged. The proposal includes several features we are troubled by:

1. Staff surveyed only two rental high rises in downtown. This would fix the rate at 1.5 residents for all high rises no matter what product they contain: studio or 3-bedroom.

2. The new rate is proposed for citywide--not just downtown.  All future high-rises in urban villages or along transit corridors would pay fees based on these downtown rentals--even though the areas are park deficient (unlike downtown) and may not be at all like these downtown rental high-rises.

3.  No community outreach on the lower fees was conducted. Only the development community heard about these changes.  Urban village advocates have been blindsided and worry about the future of their plans. Changes to the park impact fee structure were scheduled as part of the Greenprint Update due out in Spring 2018. Why were these accelerated?  We think it should be part of a transparent Greenprint update.

4. Diridon Station Area Plan advocates oppose the extension of the current high rise discount program into this part of downtown west of highway 87. These lands are the future "Googleville" and they wonder why the richest corporation in the world and its partners can't afford to pay full fees to improve this former industrial area into a livable and vibrant community with walking trails, and a park for the thousands of planned residents and workers. Old Downtown has large parks but Googleville does not.

These changes were buried in a routine fee update. The Parks Commission saw through the ruse last November and rejected it all--the discount and the routine changes. Parks staff has brought the item back for this week so that the Commission can decide whether they can any of these: the routine changes, the lower high-rise fees, or the expansion of downtown discounting to the Googleville area. Here's a link to the staff report--Item VIIA

The Parks Commission meets on Wednesday at 5:30 pm. The Council is expected to hear the item on December 19. Email your thoughts to Parks Commission and Council.
Parks Commission
City Council

Diridon Station Area plan west of downtown showing the green walking trails. This is the site of Googleville. A pending proposal expands high-rise discounts to this area and all urban villages putting green space at risk. (Yes, this older map still shows the baseball stadium). Courtesy: SPUR

Los Lagos Golf Course

The outreach results, constraints, and options for the future of Los Lagos Golf Course will be presented this Wednesday December 6 to the Parks Commission. Council is worried about the cost of debt payment and the on-going operating cost. Generally, community meetings supported the golf course.  The land is constrained by riparian/creek setbacks, and the rules of the state grants the funded the land. The dimensions make a soccer complex infeasible. Benefits are highlighted: an enormous flood plain to catch last winter's waters, and an operator monitor the homeless problem and keeping the area clear of dumping.  The staff suggests council could revisit the Prevailing Wage requirement (which is normally applied only to construction contracts) and look at other ways to make the destination more of a community park.  Trends in golf are summarized.  Staff is asking for direction from the council, which could include pursuing state legislative relief to sell the property.

Wed. Dec. 6 Parks Commission 5:30 pm
Thurs. Dec 14 Council Neighborhood Services Committee 1:30 pm
Tues. Jan 9 City Council Meeting 1:30 pm (actual item probably after 3 pm)

The staff report is attached to Item VII D of this week's Park Commission.

What do you think should be done with Los Lagos Golf course?
Reach out to the Neighborhood Services Committee members before Dec. 14. Send an email.

To All Our Park Advocates--thank-you for what you do.  Please share these newsletters as appropriate and add to our email list.  Check us out on Facebook:  San Jose Parks Advocates.  There are many news updates and fine pictures.  Send pictures to share to

Jean Dresden

Economic Benefit of Parks

When we visit our San Jose Parks, we often focus on the beauty or the fun that the parks provide. Yet, San Jose City Parks also provide extraordinary economic benefit. The Trust for Public Land has been analyzing the economic impact of parks for many cities across the contract, including Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco. Now they are studying San Jose. Later this year, we expect a report to be released with dollar figures.

Here are the preliminary results:

Parks contribute to City revenues through property taxes:

  • Increased annual San Jose property tax revenues/assessment attributed to proximity to a San Jose park.

Parks contribute to City revenues through property tourism:

  • Increased annual San Jose tax revenues from park-related tourism: Lake Cunningham skateboard park, Kelley Park and Happy Hollow Zoo, Christmas in the Park, Rosegarden, Renaissance Fair at Confluence Point, and many more.

Parks contribute to the wealth of San Jose residents:

  • Increased property sales value from property located within 500 feet of a park.
  • Profits to businesses from park-related tourism.

Parks save San Jose residents money:

  • Direct use value of park facilities, i.e. the amount residents would pay to use equivalent
  • private facilities
  • Health benefits from use of public parks.

The environmental benefits of parks save the City money:

  • Annual reduction in San Jose stormwater management costs each year resulting from parkland.
  • The role of parks in reducing San Jose air pollution cost each year.
  • Reducing cooling costs by absorbing urban heat.

The final report will compare San Jose with other major cities. How will we compare? We have fewer parks than most cities. Are we getting all the economic benefit that we should from our current city Park system?

SPUR sponsored a review of the San Francisco results in January 2015. The San Francisco report gives background on the analytic method and serves as a good preview for San Jose’s report. Check it out:

Street Parks:  Spaces Between Places

Ever experience the serendipity of discovering a tiny space in San Francisco--all covered with plants, or a bench and trees, or a small community garden?  These eye-catching beauties are "spaces between places" and are part of the Street Park program.  San Francisco's Public Works Department partners with San Francisco Park Alliance to help individual stewards to create these great little places.  Small pieces of public land--streets, medians, stairways, traffic circles, and bits of land are transformed and maintained by volunteer stewards.
Stewards use a template to work with the SF Parks Alliance and SF Public Works to create the public space that they wish to maintain. They hold a community meeting with nearby residents and collaborate with Public Works on their final plan.  Since 2004, over 100 street parks have been built or underway. Check out the video showing some transformed sites at
Find more information about the San Francisco process on the San Francisco Public Works Street Parks website
What San Francisco Street Parks have you found? Send pictures for our Facebook page and website at
San Jose has only a few neighborhood groups that care for a few circles and median strips for the Department of Transportation.  Do you think San Jose should work towards a better Street Park system?  Where would you put a San Jose street park?

Grants: How Local Groups Can Partner with PRNS

Many times Community Groups and residents find grants to support the Parks and Recreation Programs that they love. Yet, some experience the City’s process for approval as a “black box” that acts as a barrier. In June 1014, San Jose Parks Advocates sat with three PRNS officials and outlined the process for partnering with the city on grants and grants applications. Large projects (over $270,000) requiring Council approval were not the focus of discussion. Read how your group can successfully partner with PRNS. [Download Here]

Park Trust Fund

San Jose has a new proposal to divert $11M in Park Trust Fund fees to operations and maintenances of the three big downtown parks from long-planned land acquisitions, major improvements and necessary infrastructure renovations and repairs. With no public outreach, the proposal is scheduled for a December 2 hearing.  This diversion is on top of $20M in prior discounts, depriving the downtown area residents of more than $30 M in park improvements and major repairs. There's currently over $40M in backlog. Downtown area residents are expected to do without.

Read about the proposal and background in the staff memo here [Staff Memo]

Parks Commission's letter of opposition here [Parks Commission Letter]

Commentary column from Mercury News here [Don't divert money from Park Trust Fund]