Future of San Diego High in jeopardy after committee rejects amendment

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The long-term future of San Diego High School was left in limbo today when the City Council’s Charter Review Committee declined to waive a requirement for a public vote on the use of parkland.

The 2,400-student school operates on the southwestern portion of Balboa Park under a 50-year lease that’s due to expire in eight years. A section of the City Charter, San Diego’s primary governing document, requires a two-thirds vote of the public to convert dedicated parkland to non- park use, which would have to happen for an extension of the school’s lease.

A proposal to offer to the public an amendment to that charter section, which would have the effect of allowing the school to continue operating in Balboa Park, was rejected by the committee. Members have been meeting for more than a year in an effort to clean up the obsolete charter, and have approved some amendments to go on election ballots but denied some others.

The City Attorney’s Office said the City Council, under existing law, is not authorized to extend the school’s lease by itself, so a public vote will be necessary by 2024 to keep the school where it is. Exactly who would undertake the ballot initiative process was unclear, and will be studied further by staff.

Felipe Monroig, deputy chief of staff for Mayor Kevin Faulconer, said the mayor’s office is “comfortable” with continuing the current use of the property. However, a few public speakers called for the site to be turned back into parkland and received backing from a committee member.

"This is a high school on parkland, and under the current reading of all of our rules, it’s not allowed on our parkland,” Councilwoman Marti Emerald said. "I’m concerned about the continued use, as well.”

The "enormous campus” restricts public access to "a very treasured and important public asset,” Emerald said. Midori Wong of the San Diego Unified School District said the campus, including Balboa Stadium, is one of the most-used by the public in the district by community groups, recreational organizations and clubs.

The annual Stand Down event that serves homeless veterans is held on campus, Wong said. She said almost all of Roosevelt Middle School, adjacent to the San Diego Zoo, sits on land owned by the school district.

Since only a small portion of the campus auditorium sits on city Balboa Park property, there is no conflicting land-use issue, she said.

Categories: KUSI