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Parks Heal the Spirit and Make Us Whole

Usually this Labor Day weekend is full of traditions that now are interrupted by this Covid virus. Whether we usually visit with extended family or friends, travel, barbecue or participate in one last summer blast, the shelter in place order disrupts our traditions and eliminates the positive impact these touch stones provide, leading to greater anxiety and sense of loss. Our parks can help us heal the spirit and make us whole.
Walking meditation, a simple walk without form or structure, can help lower anxiety and erase the sense of isolation and disconnection. Through the centuries, many have written of the joy and centering provided by walking in nature. William Shakespeare wrote, “the Earth has music for those who listen.” You can silence the “monkey mind” that fills our brains with anxieties from the uncertainties, with the quiet time by being present to the details-the rustling of the trees, the low hum of insects, and the chirp of the birds. 
The old sentinel trees of our parks have served as solace to others before us as they walked through the grief of losing loved ones to great world events—the Spanish flu, the World Wars and armed conflicts, and the diseases of an earlier time, polio, small pox, measles, diphtheria, cholera. These old trees have comforted and calmed when San Jose residents were laden with worries from the Great Depression, the Great Recession, the Panic of 1873 and innumerable downturns. We know now that the trees exude healing oils into the air that allow our anxious feelings to lessen and improve our immunity, giving us strength to keep moving forward. Today’s younger trees can offer us the same help today.
For those times when household togetherness overwhelms, parks can help.  “There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech,” Charles Spurgeon advised. A trip to a park can provide the quiet that allows us to find our way back to the love and affection for our family and housemates.

Activate SJ

This ambitious strategic plan will ensure that over the next 20 years our neighborhood parks are a favorite and nearby destination, our regional parks represent the best of San José, our community centers are true hubs for community life, and that we continue to provide safer, cleaner neighborhoods.

Attached are links two documents that give more detail to what this strategic plan is about.

[ActivateSJ Benchmarks]

[ActivateSJ Document]

Proceeds Sale of Youth Soccer Complex

A letter to Mayor Liccardo and City Councilmembers to direct all $20M unrestricted proceeds from the sale of the Public Soccer Complex land at 1123 Coleman to PRNS capital projects, selecting from the $320M infrastructure backlog as well as rehabilitation of sports fields throughout the City.

[Click here for the entire letter]

San Jose Light Tower

San Jose Parks Advocates opposes the use Arena Green Park for the Light Tower Corporation’s proposed art project.

We believe that :

  • The site analysis report ctains fatal flaws
  • The Arena Green Park site is too environmentally sensitive
  • The proposed use is not compatible with existing policies, plans, and studies of Arena Green Park and this planning area,
  • It will negatively impact the fundraising plan of a previously approved major city park redevelopment project, St. James and the Levitt Pavilion
  • The proposal is based on a flawed assumption that the Light Tower Corporation’s open, uncompensated art contest will lead to great art.
  • A “free gift” should not take park land from a park deficient area nor require the use of City Park Trust funds to produce the site analysis, provide uncompensated Senior Management time, nor should complete of the project require future park trust fund/development fees or Google Community benefit funds. We ask that the Council reject the site analysis and ask the proponents to fully fund their gift by compensating the city for all expenses and by buying a site rather than taking parkland from a park deficient area. San Jose Parks Advocates is an all-volunteer organization of neighborhood leaders and community members concerned about San Jose parks. Our mission is to bring parks into the public political consciousness, to make parks an issue in all discussions of civic priorities, neighborhood services, and community interactions with the City of San Jose. We envision a City where quality parks and trails for all of its residents is universally supported as a core City service. Civic leaders will develop, enhance, and maintain these spaces as a source of civic pride and essential to the health and quality of life of the residents, workers, and visitors.
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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

Fall Quarterly Meeting – San Jose Parks Advocates

Wednesday November 8, 2017

Calabasas Library Community Room – 7pm

1230 South Blaney Avenue near Rainbow Ave.

We’ll learn about grass root organizing from an award-winning expert, Deb Kramer of Keep Coyote Beautiful.

Followed by an introduction to POPOs—privately owned public open spaces. Then we’ll set this year’s advocacy agenda.

[Click here for Flyer]

Positive Budget News

Park Advocates efforts paid off this year as the City Council approved this 2017-18 budget.  Nine new “boots on the ground” positions were added to the maintenance division. With new hiring procedures led by Park staff, the backlog of 41 vacancies is disappearing quickly.  It’s not clear how the new positions will be allocated–staff memos to council emphasized poor park conditions data driving the need for additional staff. The Friends of the Rosegarden revealed in July that their garden is getting one of these new positions full-time.  This was surprising since this park is in pretty good shape, receives extra staffing as a regional park and the Mayor turned down a budget request in June for additional Rosegarden staffing. Park Director Angel Rios declined to provide a written statement about how the department will allocate these new maintenance positions.  Continuing concerns about equity of resource distribution are amplified. The Greenprint Steering Committee made extensive suggestions in their second meeting on how to improve the park conditions report and how to take into account the usage levels some parks receive.  All parks deserve to be safe and clean–not just famous parks. 

Soccer Fields–will they ever be built?

Plans for a Guadalupe Gardens soccer complex appear to be on hold.  Because the site is an airport safety zone, Caltrans Airport Division issued a letter of opposition last spring which was announced at an Airport Commission meeting. Work on the first steps of an EIR has stopped. No public status report has gone to council.

The alternate site on Coleman Ave is still available, but the favorable construction bid has expired and

Parks Department does not have enough money to build it with remaining bond money.

The Memoranda of Understanding with the Quakes included making good any shortfall if the Guadalupe Gardens site fell through. Park staff says negotiations are underway and a memo to council will come out this fall. The Guadalupe proposal included Avaya Stadium parking and practice fields for the Quakes.The Park Bond was approved in 2000.

Yes, it makes a difference…

Last June, a volunteer complained that going to meetings didn’t matter and refused to ask others to come to a final budget meeting. At that final meeting, some passionate supporters of another program made a last-ditch plea for funding–they won $150,000 which came partially from taking away a position from Parks.  Yes, it makes a difference whether Parks Advocates go to council budget meetings.  On any given Tuesday, the council gives and the council takes away.

Wow! Emma Prusch Farm Partnerships

A recent trip to Prusch Park revealed many public-private partnerships. Veggielution runs a farm and teaches healthy nutrition. The UC Master Gardeners have fruit orchards. The Rare Fruit society has a tree collection. 4-H has youth programs. Horseback riding is offered; it’s wildly popular.  There’s a preschool that involves the children with farm animals and plants. The Friendship Forest has collection of trees that celebrate international sister cities. The Prusch Foundation helps fund the park.  There’s lots going on.  Here’s a link to the Master Gardener’s page about Prusch.

Upcoming event: Bio-Blitz in Overfelt Gardens

Join us for a free, family oriented nature exploration event in Overfelt Gardens Park – children ages 4 and up are welcome. Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society staff and volunteers will show you how to use a smart phone app (iNaturalist). Enjoy birds, flowers, butterflies, more. Co-sponsored by Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco, San Jose Parks Advocates and Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society.


Capital Budget FY 2017-18

San Jose Parks Advocates offers these comments on the proposed operating and capital budgets for FY 2017-18. Thank-you for the transparency and prompt posting of all proposals. Members of our group attended many of the budget meetings throughout the City and asked and received answers to their questions.

[Entire Letter to the Mayor & City Council]