Updated 3:45 p.m. Feb. 12.
The city of Imperial Beach has forgotten about the Oneonta neighborhood, said Mayor Jim Janney.
"The Oneonta neighborhood has the largest population in Imperial Beach and we do not have a kid's playground that is open after the elementary school closes," he said at a Jan. 30 city workshop meeting.
How to get southeast Imperial Beach a park remains a puzzle, and the head of the Sports Park and Recreation Center Jim Coates openly questions Janney’s push for a park in Oneonta.
The city's General Plan divides Imperial Beach into nine different neighborhoods and Oneonta, south of Imperial Beach Boulevard and east of 9th Street, makes up the largest portion of the city's population, he said.
"I was looking at the demographic data and the Oneonta neighborhood is a large one geographic wise, but the population there is underserved and it's part of our city. I think we owe it to them," Janney said.
He said the city has no land assets in southeast IB that could be made into a park but in the future the city could work with the South Bay Union School District to get a park or play area for children at Central or Oneonta elementary schools.
Parks near Oneonta Elementary School include Veterans Park across the street from City Hall and the Sports Park and Recreation Center. There are no parks east of Veterans Park to serve residents in south and southeast Imperial Beach.
The city of Imperial Beach is currently working on a plan to turn over its Sports Park and Recreation Center to the YMCA.
Residents in some parts of southeast Imperial Beach are closer to Robert Eggers, Sr. Park in San Diego than they are to an Imperial Beach park.
Workshops are held a few times a year for City Council and city staff to speak freely to discuss the city's goals and vision.
No official actions are taken by the city's governing body at workshops but discussions that begin in workshops can become agenda items for action at future City Council meetings.
Sports Park and Recreation Center director Jim Coates likes the idea of school partnerships but is confounded at the suggestion of new park space when the city wants to hand control of the Sports Park over to the YMCA.
"They can't maintain what they've got but they want more parks?" he asked Tuesday. "If you're looking for parks, why are you contracting out the one facility you have for kids so they would have to pay?"
The idea of more parks for southeast Imperial Beach should have been made a reality a long time ago, he said.
Coates recalls when the city had a partnership to run after school programs at elementary schools throughout Imperial Beach in the 1990s.
The Boys & Girls Club now runs after school programs at area schools but back then the city worked with Southwestern College students and with some grant money provided the program free of charge.
The city still needs to weigh the idea with members of the South Bay Union School District, Janney told IB Patch Monday.
"We just want to feel it out and see what we can do," he said.
A meeting has been scheduled with Janney and City Manager Gary Brown, a South Bay Union School District representative said.
Bayside Park at Bayside Elementary School is free for public use when the school is closed, said spokeswoman Amy Cooper. The district and city have a history of joint operating agreements.
"The district has not had a current Joint Use Agreement with the City since 1997," she said.
Joint school and park sites were suggested again by the city in 2006, said Public Works Department director Hank Levien.
As part of a neighborhood revitalization strategy formed after meetings with citizens in the late 1990s, the city approached the school district in the mid-2000s to discuss the potential of a joint school and park site but that idea didn't get very far, he said.
The school district declined to state the result of previous talks.
The city also identified possible sites for new parks in southeast IB at that time, he said.
"We had a couple of community meetings over at the Oneonta school trying to bring this neighborhood park closer to reality and i actually had a real estate agent working with me," Levien said.
Eventually those deals fell through and an application for a competitive state grant to fund the new parks was never submitted, he said.
Parks in southeast Imperial Beach has been on the city council's wish list for a long time, Levien said.
The desire to establish joint school and park sites are also mentioned as policy to pursue in the city's general and local coastal plan. The plan was adopted in 1994 and updated in 2010.
The plan suggests the city explore the possibility of new small parks at the southwest corner of IB Blvd and 14th St. and at the east side of 15th Street near Holly Avenue.
Other parks and recreation areas suggested in the plan include a boardwalk along San Diego Bay and public parks at the Navy's Silver Strand Training Complex South and NOLF IB. A joint San Diego-Imperial Beach park was also suggested in the plan.
Like in the past, Levien said, how to pay for a park or joint use agreement will be the issue.