The Coast News Group
The city is installing new field lights at Mance Buchanon Park which will help teams stay later in the evenings. File photo/Samantha Nelson
The city is installing new field lights at Mance Buchanon Park which will help teams stay later in the evenings. File photo/Samantha Nelson

Oceanside continues to address local concerns over field access

OCEANSIDE – The city continues to work on updating a recreational facilities usage policy to make reserving fields and gyms more equitable and transparent.

After months of conversations between local officials and the community, more than 20 residents again voiced concerns over field access with the Oceanside City Council during an Oct. 19 meeting. For many, a handful of groups are being unfairly prioritized over others.

“I believe there is a perception of inequity in the scheduling of field time and I think that it needs to be resolved,” said Councilmember Kori Jensen.

In November 2021, the city formed an ad hoc committee among members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission to find a solution. However, that work has momentarily stalled due to disagreements over the committee’s structure.

Earlier this year, the ad hoc committee became aware that Coastal Academy, a public charter school, had been grouped in with the city’s joint-use agreement with Oceanside Unified School District. The agreement places school sports teams under a priority tier that eliminates the rental fee for field or gym time and only charges for staff support time. 

Parks and Recreation division manager Mark Olson previously told the ad hoc committee that it was his decision to include Coastal Academy in the joint-use agreement because of its status as a public school. However, the school district clarified that the public charter school is not part of its deal with the city. 

“We put an immediate end to that, so that is no longer in place,” said City Manager Jonathan Borrego. “They are no longer receiving scheduling priority based on the assumption that they fall under the existing joint-use agreement – that was put to an end several months ago.”

Borrego has also been looking into the issue and meeting with community members to discuss their concerns.

“In no way, shape or form do I think that the city was denied revenue by the fact that Coastal Academy was given access to those fields, because, at the end of the day, they are a public charter school, so they don’t fall under any sort of category that would require us to charge them for usage of those facilities,” Borrego said. “Now, whether or not they received priority that they shouldn’t have is a completely different situation.”

Wayne Godinet, a longtime community member, called for an investigation into the Coastal Academy situation, alleging a potential conflict of interest with CJ Palmer, a city sports program specialist, whose children attend and play basketball at the school.  

“If that’s not a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is,” Godinet said.

Olson previously addressed that perceived conflict of interest by explaining that he would be the one to handle any scheduling conflicts with Coastal Academy, not Palmer.

Borrego did not feel the city needed to hire an outside entity to conduct an investigation into the matter since Coastal Academy was no longer being prioritized. Instead, Borrego and staff will work to further improve the field-scheduling process based on community feedback.

“There are certainly some other issues that we agree need to be addressed, and some were mentioned tonight,” Borrego said.

Borrego noted that staff has been working to create a new joint-use agreement with the school district that could potentially increase access to the district’s facilities during after-school hours. Borrego is expected to come back to the City Council in 30 days with an update on improvements to the scheduling process.

Another issue related to field access is the overall lack of playing fields in Oceanside, with demand only growing to accommodate more year-round sports seasons.

Councilmember Peter Weiss said the city is installing lights at Mance Buchanon Park, which will help to expand field access throughout the evenings. Weiss also noted the availability of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and other grant money set aside for installing turf and lights at other city fields.