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Friday, Jun 21, 2013 - Last Blog on Earth | News

Park of the century

Uptown will get a new park--more than 100 years in the making

By Joshua Emerson Smith
IMG_1724 Empty lot, with the infringing driveway on the right
- Photo by Kelly Davis
It's been quite a week at City Hall—allegations of extortion! Bullish behavior! Police escorts!

Clearly what this city needs is more parks.

The City Council this week unanimously voted to move forward with a plan to create a new park in Bankers Hill—a project advocates say is more than a century in the making.

According to city records, in 1909, local resident and Methodist minister Loren McKee gifted to the city a 16,000-square-foot plot of land on the west side of Third Avenue at Olive Street for use as a public park.

"The greatest men plant trees that they will never see," said Gina McKee, Loren's great-great granddaughter. "And I believe that is really what he had in mind. This family believed so much in the future of this community that they donated this land free of charge."

However, the envisioned green space has yet to be realized.

In 1963, the city agreed to let local resident Milan Brandon, under the Beaver Investment Corporation, use part of the property in exchange for maintaining the park space.

Brandon turned a portion of the land into a paved-over entrance to underground parking for a medical office building and never followed through on maintaining the rest of the property. The city eventually offered him continued use of a portion of the property in exchange for fair-market rent, but he declined the offer.

Now the city's taking back the land and moving forward with the park.

Steven McKinley, an attorney representing the Brandon Family Trust, argued Tuesday that a park would significantly disrupt the parking lot's traffic flow. 

"It has been used for access to their property for over 50 years," he said. "Now the public entity comes back later and says, In order for you to continue to enjoy what we permitted you to do at no cost, based upon which you built a building, now we're going to charge you $50,000 a year.

The City Council didn't see it that way.

"It's very clear that there was a responsibility to maintain this as a park, and it's unfortunate that that hasn't happened," Councilmember David Alvarez said. "I think that's why you hear words being used like 'injustice.' It's time to correct this wrong."

The park project—which includes a city-owned parcel that backs into nearby Maple Canyon—is expected to be completed by 2016.

Write to joshuas@sdcitybeat.com.

 
 
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