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Charles Lewis III Memorial Park

Landscape Architect of Record, Schmidt Design Group, Inc. (design development, construction documents, construction administration)


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Charles Lewis III Park in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego, is constrained by Home Avenue to the west, the rehabilitated Auburn Creek channel to the east, and multifamily development to the north and south. The linear site is bisected by a tributary of Auburn Creek, effectively creating two independent park sites. These two drone views (right image looks north, left image looks south) show the entry plaza, off-leash dog run, basketball court, and flexible turf open space along the central spine.


Charles Lewis III Memorial Park exemplifies the role of open space in the pursuit of social and environmental equity. As one of the most park-deficient communities in the city of San Diego, this park offers essential access to open space in the neighborhood of City Heights.

What was once a vacant lot and site for illegal dumping has been transformed into a destination for the local residents. It has become a place to come together, socialize, celebrate and play--all building blocks of a thriving community. This three-acre park includes nearly one acre of restored creek habitat, leaving slightly more than two-acres for active uses. The footprint of the park is significantly constrained by an arterial road to the west, a creek channel to the east, and multifamily development to the north and south. The site is also bisected by a tributary of Auburn Creek, effectively creating two independent park sites. The constrained and linear nature of the site presented an opportunity to strategically distribute amenities along a central circulation spine, creating a series of interconnected activity hubs throughout the park.

The park epitomizes a community-based grassroots effort. The creation of the park was inspired after its namesake, the late Charles Lewis III, a former city council member who was a consistent and passionate advocate for under-served communities. The park was brought to fruition by the combined efforts of his family, the city and community leaders. The city obtained $2.8 million in grant funding to make the project a reality. The community was engaged throughout the master planning, which included focused stakeholder meetings with numerous community organizations.

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The off-leash dog run was one of the top requests for the City Heights community. Tubular steel decorative fencing segregates the dog area. Aluminum DOGIPOT Waste Stations were specified. The boulders double as seating and dog climbers.


The community was instrumental in identifying the final program for the park, which included children play areas, a half basketball court, a picnic area, shade structures, a comfort station, flexible turf, off-leash dog run, informal trails and interpretive elements. Installation of a traffic signal with pedestrian crossings and accessible ramps were added to the roadway to offer direct and safe access to the park trails.

Auburn Creek plays a critical role in defining the character and experience of the park. Framing the eastern limits of the park site, the creek was transformed from a degraded channel into a robust native environment that has encouraged habitat to once again make the canyon and creek home. The habitat restoration within Auburn Creek included the removal of invasive stands of Arundo donax, Shinus molle, and Ricinus communi, tenacious exotics that displace native habitat and the wildlife it supports. Through the efforts of this project, the invasive species have been eradicated and the creek banks have been revegetated with a range of native species.

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The large prefabricated trellis (ICON Shelter Systems) in the picnic area is situated adjacent to the rehabilitated Auburn Creek, part of the Chollas Creek waterway. The interpretive panels (Envirosigns) explain the restoration of Auburn Creek, the removal of invasive plants and the installation of native riparian species to help restore the creek's wildlife habitat. QR codes on the panels encourage visitors to further explore educational materials. Amenities include park benches, ADA BBQ grills, round tables, picnic tables, game tables and trash receptacles.


A series of informal trails and viewpoints let visitors closely observe the wildlife inhabiting the creek. A series of interpretive panels perched at the creek edge educate users about the local flora, fauna and the importance of preserving these precious creeks and canyon lands. QR codes on the panels encourage visitors to explore additional educational materials. The park design integrated the goals of the Chollas Creek enhancement plan and increased the habitat quality along the creek edge to give visitors opportunities to connect with nature in the heart of this southern California urban environment. The restored Auburn Creek has become a gateway for the children of City Heights to establish meaningful, lifelong connections with nature.

The park was one of the first public projects to implement the innovative recommendations contained in the city's stormwater manual for low impact development (LID). The western edge of the park directly abuts Home Avenue, a bustling primary community street. A series of flow-through planters, vegetated with a variety of sedges, were installed along the interface between the park and street to cleanse runoff before it reaches Auburn Creek. These planters serve a vital water quality function while providing a physical and visual buffer separating vehicular traffic and park visitors.

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The play equipment (Landscape Structures) includes climbing elements, slides, music play, swings, and spinners surrounded by a series of seating nodes. The diverse play structures offer challenges for children of all ages. The rubberized safety surfacing is from Surface America.


The active use component of the park is anchored by a large children's play area. This playground provides a diverse range of play opportunities for children of all ages and abilities. The equipment, by Landscape Structures, includes play structures, climbing elements, slides, music play, swings, and spinners surrounded by a series of seating nodes. The play elements are intentionally urban in nature representing a nexus between the surrounding built and natural environments.

Charles Lewis III Memorial Park fills a desperate need for park space and habitat restoration, while offering the community opportunities for active and passive play. It embodies the City Heights community in the way it offers a diverse and vibrant destination that accommodates all ages, creeds, and socioeconomic backgrounds to foster a unique sense of place in the community.

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The western edge of the park directly abuts bustling Home Avenue. Installation of a traffic signal with pedestrian crossings and accessible ramps were added to the roadway to offer direct and safe access to the park trails. The park was one of the first public projects to implement the city's stormwater manual for low impact development (LID). A series of flow-through planters vegetated with a variety of sedges cleanse runoff before it reaches Auburn Creek. The concrete fencing incorporates cobbles.


Project Team
Landscape Architect of Record: (Design Development, Construction Documents, Construction Administration):Schmidt Design Group, Inc.
JT Barr, PLA, ASLA - Principal
Nate Magnusson, PLA, LEEP AP, ASLA - Project Manager

Master Plan Landscape Architect
Groundlevel
Brad Lenahan - Principal

Civil & Structural Engineer
BWE
Tom Eagling - Civil Engineer
Chris Cobb - Structural Engineer

Electrical Engineer
Kanrad Engineering
Tony Kan

Traffic Engineer
Urban Systems Associated
Mort Vahabzadeh

Project Biologist
Helix Environmental
Benjamin Rosenbaum

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The basketball court surface and striping is 'Acrylotex' (acrylic based).


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The decorative path lighting--bollards and pedestrian luminaires (NOV Ameron poles) gives residents the confidence to use the meandering DG walking trail after sunset.


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The southern entry plaza invites the community into the park and honors the late Charles Lewis III, a former city council member who was noted for his strong for under-served communities.


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The prefabricated pedestrian footbridge crosses a tributary of Auburn Creek.




As seen in LASN magazine, March 2018.






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