In April 2013, San Diego’s North Central Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention (CX3) team surveyed over 100 community members in the City of San Diego’s Linda Vista neighborhood to identify barriers to physical activity and healthy eating. CX3 team members included residents who have been trained in policy, systems, and environmental change strategies in addition to staff from Bayside Community Center, a local nonprofit, and from the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) North Central Region.
Survey results highlighted a prominent neighborhood concern: the need for lighting at nearby Kelly Park. The park is a popular family exercise destination with amenities like a running trail, soccer field, and playground. During the fall and winter months, when the sun sets earlier, CX3team members and engaged residents noticed that families stop exercising because of the limited park lighting. Residents reported feeling unsafe in the park, and as a result were unable to take advantage of the park’s physical activity opportunities.
To address residents’ concerns, the CX3 team launched a project to improve the lighting in Kelly Park. They needed more input from the community on where lighting should be placed in Kelly Park, so the CX3 team surveyed an additional 100 residents. Leveraging a key local resource, the team partnered with an architecture student from the University of San Diego, located in the community of Linda Vista, who compiled the additional survey results and developed a lighting design and map showing locations for potential light placement.
The tough job of getting the City of San Diego to install the much needed lighting marked the next step of their process. CX3 residents presented survey findings and the park lighting map to various community organizations and decision-makers to gain support, including: the Linda Vista Community Planning Group, Linda Vista Town Council, Linda Vista Recreation Council, and San Diego Councilmember Scott Sherman. Residents also spoke in support of funding for Kelly Park lighting during the San Diego City Council’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Hearing.
A little more than two years after the original community assessment, the dream for Kelly Park came closer to reality. In June 2015, the Kelly Park lighting project was included as an independent line item in the City of San Diego Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, and lighting improvements are expected to be made by June 2016.
The CX3 team spent an immense amount of time gathering community input, creating the lighting design and map, and building community and decision-maker support for the lighting improvement project. The team overcame these challenges by listening to each other, and drawing on their training as resident leaders to navigate the numerous approval processes involved in this type of community environmental change. Because of the complexities involved in advocating for infrastructure improvements such as park lighting, the team also learned how to interpret and leverage city policy language to justify their proposed changes.
With the project approved in the City’s budget, CX3 team members and residents are now focused on tracking and making sure lighting is installed according to their plan. Once lighting is added to Kelly Park, the community will have greater access to safe, green space in Linda Vista, providing residents of all ages with more opportunities to be physically active throughout the year, whether it is day or night.
This material was produced by the California Department of Public Health’s Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch with funding from USDA SNAP-Ed, known in California as CalFresh. These institutions are equal opportunity providers and employers. CalFresh provides assistance to low-income households and can help buy nutritious food for better health. For CalFresh information, call 1-877-847-3663. For important nutrition information, visit www.CaChampionsForChange.net.