Park by Park

Maple Park in South Salinas has relatively well kept lawns and trees, while some of the city’s parks are lacking. One issue is staffing; seven employees oversee 48 parks.

Photos of two Salinas parks, Los Padres Neighborhood and Woodside, showing huge disparities in maintenance despite being only three miles apart, may have raised some eyebrows when they appeared earlier this month on social media. But now they’ve also raised questions on whether the city distributes resources equitably throughout all its districts.

The city’s Library and Community Services Department oversees park maintenance. Department Director Kristan Lundquist says the city was aware of the conditions at Los Padres before the pictures circulated.

That park, though, is maintained by the Salinas City Elementary School District, and Lundquist says the issue has been resolved. “We’re working to improve our efficiency, so that we can be more responsive, but it really does come down to staffing levels,” she says.

The city of Salinas has six Landscape Maintenance Assessment Districts (or LMADs) within the city that pay additional fees for landscaping, lighting and maintenance. City Councilmember Steve McShane, who represents District 3 which includes South Salinas and Oldtown, says these extra fees could be compared to a homeowners association and they get additional services because they pay for them. He says Monte Bella, one of those areas, is one the nicest in the city. “They pay a lot of money, but they get the service.”

Maintenance complaints about issues that don’t fall into those special districts go to the city.

“We just don’t have enough money,” McShane adds. “What people have to realize is, Salinas is a very modest city, we don’t have the kind of revenue that a city like Monterey has.”

Salinas Public Works Director David Jacobs says most of the complaints the city receives are about roads, sidewalks and trees; every Friday, crews repair potholes. Those that are in highly traveled areas like Main Street, for example, are prioritized over residential streets. Another crew works on moving and replacing sidewalks, curbs and gutters.

Most of what they do, Jacobs says, is complaint driven.

Both McShane and District 2 Councilmember Tony Barrera say the city does a good job providing resources equitably, but they point out that many federal and state funds the city receives are designated for specific projects.

McShane notes that this fiscal year the council set aside $3 million as part of the Alisal Vibrancy Plan, which lays out a proposal to improve walkable, public areas along the Alisal corridor and Market Street.

In the most recent construction budget, Salinas had over $120 million allocated in a five-year plan (2022-2027) that gets revised every year. Districts 1, 2 and 6 each got roughly $30 million. In previous years, District 3 and 4 received more funding to remodel Oldtown and build the El Gavilan Library in North Salinas.

Barrera says the reason District 2 in East Salinas got the biggest part of the pie is because of large upcoming projects, including the construction of three roundabouts. “One of them is going to be right in front of Barton School, and which is going to make it safer for the children,” he says, adding that input from residents, and all stakeholders makes funding better and fairer. “I think on the local level, the way we can maximize our dollars is by collaborating together.”

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