The Coast News Group

Carlsbad City Council designates $5.3 m for open space projects

CARLSBAD — More than 40 group members supporting Preserve Calavera stood their ground at the Carlsbad City Council Chambers Tuesday to echo the need and designation of funds for more open space preservation. 

Their theme, “SOS for Open Space — Saving the Natural Lands of Carlsbad” first netted attention outside the chambers with friendly discussion, then moved inside for the public hearing portion of the city council meeting when it came to adopting the new fiscal year 2012-13 budget.

Over 20 speakers went to the podium to reiterate their open space pleas.

Councilmember Keith Blackburn said he was impressed as to how respectful the Preserve Calavera speakers were. Mayor Pro Tem Ann Kulchin added, “And they sang to us.”

And they did, singing the lyric, “All we are saying is give open space a chance.”

Following the speakers, a short break took place and city council members resumed by approving the city’s proposed budget. They also agreed to designate around $5.3 million from a reserve account toward future city trails and open space projects.

The Preserve Calavera crowd burst into applause and cheer.

Preserve Calavera has a longstanding history with the City of Carlsbad.

Established in 2001, Preserve Calavera has worked with the city for more than a decade to preserve open space. Although the city and Preserve Calavera both want it, they have had different views on how to acquire it.

Diane Nygaard, president of Preserve Calavera, said voters passed Measure C in 2002, also known as Proposition C, to authorize some of the city’s existing reserve funds to be allocated to open space acquisition.

“It is now 10 years later and the city still has not acquired any natural open space,” said Nygaard, noting how the city council created a citizens committee a few years ago for this cause. She said the committee submitted a report listing the “key remaining” parcels, which could be purchased.

“The city council accepted the report but put it on the shelf and has done nothing and we think 10 years is enough time,” said Nygaard, prior to the city council meeting.

Also before the meeting, city staff said that Proposition C did not direct the city council to spend a specific amount of money on open space by a certain time.

“Instead, it provided voter authorization to spend more than the $1 million limit if one or more properties became available and the city felt it was in the taxpayers’ best interest to purchase it as open space,” said Steven Jantz, City of Carlsbad Parks & Recreation Department associate engineer.

Jantz said the City has committed to making 40 percent of Carlsbad as permanent open space by teaming up with conservation organizations, developers and others.

He also pointed out that city staff regularly examines available open spaces, including the citizens’ committee property list.

On that list, Jantz said, two of those open space properties were acquired by other entities saving taxpayer dollars.

“If an opportunity comes up to buy open space that the city council feels is in the best interest of taxpayers, the city council has the option to allocate funding at that time,” Jantz said.

For Preserve Calavera, the city council’s decision to designate $5.3 million for open space and city trail projects was a step in the right direction.