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Drive to Put Environment Issue on Ballot Launched

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Weary of a City Council they believe is not protecting San Diego’s parks and open space, a coalition of environmentalists launched a ballot initiative Friday that could overturn council decisions on the future of Mission Trails Regional Park and the city’s urban reserve.

The Parks and Wildlife Protection Initiative would give voters the final say on 1990 council decisions to build a four-lane extension of Jackson Drive through Mission Trails park and allow estate homes constructed in 12,000 acres of the city’s northern fringe.

The measure also would apply to other city parkland and 40,000 more acres in the city’s urban reserve, land set aside for development.

“The Parks and Wildlife Protection Initiative will give the people of San Diego the opportunity to vote their opposition to the San Diego City Council’s total capitulation to developer interests,” Mike Kelly, president of the Friends of Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, Inc., said in a prepared statement. Councilwoman Judy McCarty, who championed construction of the 2.4-mile Jackson Drive extension, which will link up with California 52, said, “I don’t think the public will kill the Jackson Drive project.

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“The public is a little tired of, every time a traffic solution is proposed, there is a lawsuit or something else against it,” McCarty said. Opponents of the road project also have filed a lawsuit seeking to block its construction.

The environmentalists were joined by Councilman John Hartley, who has unsuccessfully attempted to bring the initiative before the City Council for debate and possible placement on the ballot, and Councilwoman Linda Bernhardt. Hartley said he will continue trying to gather the signatures of four council members needed to bring a matter before the full council, but thus far only Bernhardt and Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer have supported him.

If the council won’t place the measure before voters, its sponsor, San Diegans for Managed Growth must collect 83,600 signatures of registered voters by Aug. 5, an effort that the group’s political consultant said would cost $40,000 to $50,000.

Organizers hope to gather the needed signatures by May and persuade the council to place the measure on this September’s ballot for a citywide election. Only half the city is scheduled to go to the polls this fall to elect four council members. The next scheduled citywide election is in June, 1992.

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Under the terms of the initiative, parkland could not be used for major roads--including Jackson Drive--without voter approval. Construction of roads wider than 32 feet (the width of a two-lane road with two bicycle lanes) or facilities which are not “necessary” to the operation of parks also would require a vote of the electorate.

Voters also would have the final say over home building in the urban reserve at a density of more than one home per 10 acres, unless the council first mapped and adopted an “environmental tier” of parks and open space, and approved maps delineating future regional parks in the urban reserve.

Council action to allow higher density home-building in return for restrictions on construction elsewhere in the reserve, a concept known as “clustering,” also would require a vote of the people as required by the Managed Growth Initiative approved by voters in 1985.


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