Santa Fe Hills Parks Problem

The information below is lengthy and detailed, so here is a TLDR; summary:

The area of homes around Santa Fe Hills does not have enough parks and recreation to accommodate the population. We currently have 19.18 acres of park, with very few amenities. Of the 19.18 acres of Santa Fe Hills park space, 12 acres (63%) is part of Las Posas Park. Despite it’s ideal central location and proximity to Paloma Elementary, Las Posas park is rarely used by local residents as a park because it mostly reserved as sports fields for city-wide use. Per the San Marcos General Plan, we really should have at least 30.75 acres of park to accommodate our current population, PLUS at least 4.6 additional acres of park to accommodate the upcoming home developments.  In other words, we have a park acreage shortage of at least 16.2 acres.

In addition to the shortage of park acreage, recreation and park facilities are inadequate. The current parks master plan calls for features such as a new Santa Fe Hills-area park very similar to Discovery Park (1 acre fishing lake, water play area, 1 acre of open lawn), and a much more community-centric Las Posas Park (5,550-square foot community building with child care play area, tot lot, 2 full basketball courts, BBQ facilities and more).

Policies from the current San Marcos General Plan

From the: Parks, Recreation, and Community Health Element:

Policy PR-1.1: Develop and maintain a complete system of public parks and recreational amenities that provide opportunities for passive and active recreation at a minimum standard of 5 acres per 1,000 residents. Parks, trails and recreational facilities will enhance community livability, public health, and safety; should be equitably distributed throughout the City; and be responsive to the needs and interests of residents, employees, and visitors.

Policy PR-1.2: Update and maintain a Master Parks Plan and a Trails Master Plan that implements the City’s long term vision for a complete system of parks, trails, and recreation facilities.

Next is a map of Santa Fe Hills and the surrounding area that you will need to reference as you read the information below:


1The red shaded homes are the 1,852 homes of Santa Fe Hills. This includes the 97 homes of the “Loma Alta HOA” section of Santa Fe Hills. (The Loma Alta homes are the only Santa Fe Hills homes that are part of an HOA).

2The blue shaded homes are the 154 homes of a separate nearby subdivision. Note that this subdivision does not have it’s own park so these residents visit the parks within Santa Fe Hills.

3The green shaded homes are the 44 homes of a separate nearby subdivisions. Note that this subdivision does not have it’s own park so these residents visit the parks within Santa Fe Hills.

4Every park in the area is represented with a red circle and a number. Keep in mind that park 8 is an HOA park with a posted sign that it should only be used by the 97 homes within the “Loma Alta” section of Santa Fe Hills.

5Leaves A and B are the two San Marcos Master Parks Plan parks that need major attention.

6The schoolbus represents Paloma Elementary.

8The yellow outlines represent Specific Plans and actual submitted project maps for future home developments.

Total Acreage of Current Parks

(1) Cerro de Las Posas Park (aka “Paloma Neighborhood Park”): 12 acres
(2) Quail Valley Park: 1.28 acres
(3) Amigo Park: 0.74 acres
(4) Foothills Park: 1.11 acres
(5) Santa Fe Hills Park: 1.01 acres
(6) Regency Hills Park: 0.95 acres
(7) Creek View Park: 0.96 acres
(8) Loma Alta Park (NOT PUBLIC – HOA PARK): .2 acres
(9) Valley View Park: .93 acres

Total: 19.18 acres

Total Number of Current Homes, Estimated # of Residents

Homes in Santa Fe Hills: 1,852
Homes in Subdivision 1 (blue): 154
Homes in Subdivision 2 (green): 44

Total: 2,050 homes, *6,150 residents

*If an average of 3 people live in each home (low estimate)

Estimated # of New Homes, # of New Residents per the General Plan

San Marcos Highlands: 189 homes
PO 20-23: 89 homes
PO 8: 25 homes
Total: 303 homes, *909 additional residents

*If an average of 3 people live in each home (low estimate)

Total Number of Park Space We Should Have Based on Policy PR-1.1:

Based on the low estimate of 6,150 current residents, the total acreage of parks we should have currently = 30.75 acres. The total acreage of parks we actually have is 19.18 acres, which means we already have already have a park shortage of 11.57 acres.

The addition of at least 909 residents that will come with the new developments is the Policy PR-1.1 equivalent of 4.6 acres of additional needed park space. Therefore, the new Parks Master Plan should include at least (11.57 acres + 4.6 acres) = 16.2 acres of additional parks within the Santa Fe Hills area to make up for the shortage.

Should Las Posas Park Even Count as 12 Acres of Park for Santa Fe Hills?

Cerro de Las Posas Park has no reservable space. This park does not allow bouncy houses. This park often overrun by sports leagues, leaving it practically useless for anyone else to use. An example of how this is a big problem, our community already got a pretty big “slap on the wrist” from the City of San Marcos for organizing a grass root community event, National Night Out,  in one of our pocket parks (read more). We tried diligently to plan this event at Cerro de Las Posas Park (the ONLY park with bathrooms), but were unable to because it was being used as sports fields and is unreservable (plus no bouncy houses allowed).

July-3-2015-Santa-Fe-Hills-Pool Cerro-De-Las-Posas-Park-Baseball Cerro-De-Las-Posas-Park-Soccer-2

Differences Between Current Parks & Rec Master Plan & Reality

PARK 1 – Cerro de Las Posas Park (aka “Paloma Neighborhood Park” per the Parks Master Plan p58-59, See Leaf A on above map)

Comparing the the Parks Master Plan to the current state of this park, there are several key differences:

  • Parks Master Plan calls for 2 basketball courts. There is currently only a 1/3 sized basketball court (1 hoop).
  • Parks Master Plan calls for a Playground and tot lot. This currently does not exist.
  • Parks Master Plan calls for picnic area/barbecue facilities. There are currently 3 picnic shelters, but no barbecue facilities.
  • Parks Master Plan calls for 5,550-square foot community building with child care play area to be used for latchkey and other community center uses. This currently does not exist.
  • Parks Master Plan calls for Snack bar concession. This currently does not exist.

PARK 2 – Buena Neighborhood Park per the Parks Master Plan p54-55, See Leaf B on above map

Comparing the the Parks Master Plan to the park in the recently proposed San Marcos Highlands development, the differences are gigantic, both in terms of size and amenities. Compare the two plans below.

The Parks Master Plan / Buena Neighborhood Park calls for a park comparable to Discovery Lake Park in Discovery Hills:

  • 12-16 acres of active park
  • 600ft x 80ft pond (1.1 acres), stocked with fish for fishing
  • Water play area
  • Open lawn area (1 acre)
  • Picnic tables
  • Barbecues
  • Dedicated parking
  • Children’s play structure
  • Permanent Rest Rooms

San Marcos Highlands only proposes 3 parks and a trail:

  • Park A is 0.28 acres (Private HOA Park)
  • Park B is 0.09 acres (Private HOA Park)
  • Park C is 1.16 acres
    • Picnic tables
    • Barbeques
    • Dedicated parking
    • Open lawn area (.4 acres?)
    • Children’s play structure
    • Permanent Rest Rooms
    • Access to trails
    • Cabana
    • Riparian Corridor – (aka trails around preserved open space)

Actual Text about Park from Highlands Draft EIR: “San Marcos Highlands will include a total of three neighborhood parks two of which will be private and the remaining park will be dedicated as a public park space. A 21.68-acre open space riparian corridor located to the east of Las Posas Road will function as an interactive and informational open space preserve.  Due to its sensitive nature, public access will be limited to an interactive educational trail circling the riparian corridor.  The riparian open space trail will feature restored native vegetation with markers spaced along a trail identifying native plants and animals.  The markers will provide the public with information about specific species located within the corridor and create a unique educational experience, highlighting the beauty of San Marcos’ rare and special habitat.  A natural buffer zone will be provided along the perimeter of the corridor, ringed by the trail, creating a unique integration of San Marcos Highlands with the natural environment.”

More Info on Park in Proposed Highlands Development

The main differences between Buena Neighborhood Park and the Highlands parks are below

— Buena Neighborhood Park calls for a park very similar to Discovery Lake Park:

  • 12-16 acre park with the pond being the centerpiece.
  • 600ft x 80ft pond (1.1 acres), stocked with fish for fishing
  • 1 acre of open lawn/play field
  • Water play area

— San Marcos Highlands proposes a tiny park next to trails (that are already there).

  • 1.16 acres total acres of total park
  • 21.68 Riparian Corridor – (a trail surrounding preserved open space)

With the current drought, a pond and water play area no longer make sense. The point is that the total actual usable parks & recreation value between two parks are vastly different. In fact, the Highlands Draft EIR even determines that Highlands development provides inadequate acreage of park, but it does not provide a reasonable mitigation measure. —  On page 1-26 of the 1.0 Project Summary document it says “REC-1 The project does not provide sufficient park acreage to accommodate new residents.”  In order to make up for the lack of park, the Highlands development would simply pay the City’s Public Facility Fee (PFF), a portion of which is designated for parks. The PFF money would go towards the acquisition and development of local and community park facilities throughout the City. Payment of the PFF shall be made prior to project occupancy.

In other words, not only is the Highlands making our current lack of adequate park situation worse by adding more people, it’s not even building enough park space for its own population!

The original plan:Park San Marcos

Smart Growth Planning Principles from SANDAG

City planning all across San Diego County is guided by SANDAG Smart Growth guidelines (here and here). We would like the City of San Marcos to pay special attention to these Smart Growth guidelines:

  • Walkable neighborhoods – Neighborhoods designed for pedestrian activity allow for less dependence on the automobile. In walkable neighborhoods, difficult street crossing and dead-end streets are minimized, and a network of interconnected streets and sidewalks is provided for pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists.
  • Development in Existing Communities – Locating new development within existing communities reduces sprawl and conserves open space and agricultural land. More importantly, infill development takes advantage of existing services and infrastures while strengthening or revitalizing existing neighborhoods.
  • Community and Stakeholder Collaboration – To create great places, development should reflect the desires of the community. Collaboration between residents, developers and civic leaders promotes development that fits the community’s sense of how it wants to grow.