At the May 17 community forum SoNo Neighborhood Alliance determined that residents of North Park and South Park, who identified priority quality-of-life issues in a recent SoNo survey, are ready to exert more influence in decisions affecting their neighborhoods. The challenge ahead will be to identify and seize opportunities to step up, speak out, and become empowered.

The SoNo forum featured remarks from Richard “Corky” Wharton, Founding Director of the USD Environmental Law Clinic and a long-time North Park resident. His distinguished career has included successful representation of the Sierra Club and the Surfrider Foundation and a memorable appearance before a federal panel consisting of Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, and Kenneth Starr.

Focusing on a rise in CEQA exemptions for large-scale San Diego land use projects, Corky reminded residents that agencies and developers must obey the law. To qualify for exemptions, “they are supposed to have findings, and those findings have to be supported by evidence,” he said. “Boilerplate findings with no evidence are not sufficient.”

A second speaker, Eric Bowlby, Executive Director of San Diego Canyonlands, emphasized the importance of protecting urban green spaces. Bowlby discussed how the Balboa Park Master Plan intends to preserve the natural beauty of Florida Canyon with a bikeway and series of pedestrian trails.

Protecting green spaces topped the list of resident priority issues identified by 275 respondents to a SoNo Neighborhood Alliance survey conducted from October 2016 through February 2017. This list was presented to Third District City Councilmember Chris Ward at a May 25 briefing by SoNo representatives.