Richard Tolles wrote in not long ago with comments regarding the two surveys completed so far in conjunction with the Cays Park Master Plan effort. Being intimately familiar with them both I can provide some related information.

The 2021 Cays Park Survey was indeed preceded by an optional 4 minute video. Tolles claimed the video was of Spreckels Park and that the subsequent questions were “biased toward remaking Cays Park in the image of Spreckels Park”--seemingly the central theme of his complaint.

To confirm that this assertion is incorrect one need only view the video and read the questions to which he refers. For well over a year both have been readily available at, the same link mentioned in the article that prompted his complaint. Anyone who checks will quickly see that he is completely mistaken and would have been wise to check for himself before making such an erroneous statement publicly.

Tolles criticizes the quality of the 2021 Survey in comparison to the 2019 Survey done by the City. To confirm the overwhelming superiority of the 2021 Survey one need only additionally view the “About” tab at the above link and compare it to the information about the 2019 Survey on the city’s website. Once again, any intelligent, unbiased observer who looks into the details will see that Tolles’ assertion in this regard is also incorrect.

Along those lines one key point about the 2019 Survey was that it included no meaningful questions about park FUNCTION or park SPACE ALLOCATION because the pro-soccer City staff decided what the answers to those two questions would be in favor of the Coronado Futbol Club long ago. That was the reason the 2019 Survey showed no diagrams of existing or possible park layouts and instead focused on questions about park usage and minutia like what style drinking fountains and picnic tables respondents would prefer. It was very low level. (The staff’s pro-soccer bias was confirmed to me in a one-on-one, hour-long meeting I had with Blair King on February 13, 2020 in the Crown Conference Room at City Hall with the City’s Master Plan Project Manager and Golf and Recreation Services Director looking on.)

Another key point about the 2019 City Survey was that, by focusing on that minutia, respondents were inherently given the idea that improvements of consequence were not in the offing for Cays Park. While this was in all likelihood the message staff wanted to give in order to maintain the status quo (that obviously favored the Futbol Club), it was in direct contravention to the Council’s desire to examine all possibilities for the park with an open mind.

How do we know that’s what the Council’s desire was? If not, why would they specify that three different conceptual schematics be prepared for public comparison and comment? For that matter, why would they specify that a Master Plan be developed in the first place–given that such a plan has never existed before? Why would they specify such a careful, comprehensive 5 step process, with so much emphasis on public input? And why would the Mayor enthusiastically state “anything is possible” when encouraging Cays residents to provide their input at the first workshop?

Consequently, in support of the Council’s goals, those two key questions–park function and park space allocation–avoided on the 2019 Survey, were the central thesis of the 2021 Survey. They are “the beginning of everything” when a landscape architect designs a park (or writes a Master Plan) and 518 respondents from about 1200 homes in the Cays had no trouble answering them clearly. (And with a phenomenal response rate like that, Cays residents also made it clear that they care deeply about the future of the park.)

As might be understood from my Cays Park Update Commentary article earlier, the five members of the City Council have been unable to collectively answer those questions themselves. They are caught in the middle between Cays residents and the Futbol Club. And of course having the City staff actively working against their originally stated intent for three years now hasn’t helped. That is the reason no progress whatsoever has been made on the Master Plan in all that time, not to mention all the money that has been wasted.

Tolles claims the 2021 Survey was amateurish. That is also entirely incorrect. The core thinking behind the survey, along with the images used in the video, were both provided by ASLA professional landscape architect David McCullough, the highly respected principal at the enormously successful, bustling McCullough Landscape Architecture firm in San Diego (whose individual commitment to public service was evidenced by his Chairmanship of the City of San Diego’s Historical Resources Board). And unlike the 2019 Survey, no one on the Coronado City staff was telling McCullough what the “right” questions would be, with payment for his services hanging in the balance.

On top of the professional core provided by McCullough, the 2021 Survey also included questions specifically addressing park details provided by long-time Cays residents–questions that no “outsider” (including the pro-soccer City employees who themselves are not Coronado residents) would ever know to ask and that, of course, never appeared on the City’s “professional” 2019 Survey filled, as it was, with the minutia questions about drinking fountains and picnic benches.

It’s also worth noting that, when the 2021 survey was briefed in detail to many City officials, not a single one of them questioned its validity or relevance, or expressed any concerns about its professionalism or authenticity in any way whatsoever. Those key staff members with a pro-soccer bias of course didn’t like the fact that Cays residents had expressed themselves so clearly but they could not deny that that is exactly what they had done.

And if that isn’t enough, unlike the 2019 Survey, the 2021 Survey received many positive comments. 10% of the survey’s respondents wrote unsolicited “thank you” comments at the end–unheard of in this day and age when no one wants to take a survey. More recently the survey was highly lauded, again unsolicited, by three extremely senior ASLA principals from three large local landscape architecture firms who reviewed it because they were interested in the City’s recent RFP.

Tolles says the Cays HOA was not behind the 2021 Survey. That assertion would accurately be called a mistruth. Politely stating after the City’s initial workshops his concern that “Cays’ voices have not been heard,” Councilmember Heinze along with the Cays HOA President at the time both reviewed the questions on the survey, and then together wrote a note encouraging participation by HOA members, which was sent out by the Cays HOA General Manager along with the link to the survey. The timing was critical because the survey was sent out on the Friday before a surprise “special” Monday meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission where it was feared City staff would try to pull yet another fast one.

Indeed, City staff did as predicted, telling the Commissioners–who were completely unfamiliar with the topic–that they would be proceeding directly to writing up the Master Plan, skipping the Council-specified three schematics and the associated public review. Tolles was there and spoke in support. The Cays HOA General Manager was also there and told the Commissioners that the survey had received over 400 responses in just the last three days (more than the 2019 City survey received in a month), thereby delicately implying that this might not be the best time to eliminate the possibility of any further meaningful public input as staff suggested, given that level of interest.

Within a couple of days after the meeting the Mayor stepped in to negate the actions of the errant City staff (very, very unusual), and thereby return to the Council-specified process. As intended, the 2021 Survey played a key role in “getting things back on track,” not to mention the even greater benefit that, when the results were finally compiled, the combined voices of Cays residents were actually accurately heard by the Council (save Sandke) for the first time ever. (The actual PowerPoint slides used for the presentation are at the above link along with an Executive Summary.)

On the HOA topic, in an interesting related side story, with no acknowledgement of the necessity to move quickly because of the timing of the surprise meeting, a retired Federal prosecuting attorney Cays resident (who was adamant about “no change” to the park) claimed the HOA President acted in violation of some obscure HOA rule and thereupon, using legalistic skills no doubt honed from prosecuting criminals, went after him and the HOA Board. Being a small organization of well-meaning volunteers just trying to do a good job, the naturally lawsuit-averse Board then went silent on the Cays Park topic for well over a year.

Since then things have changed and the new HOA Board President has recently received the survey results briefing and become familiar with the opinions so painstakingly expressed by so many hundreds of Cays residents regarding the park. Hopefully some of the damage from the prosecutor’s involvement can now begin to be undone. The time could not be more right for the HOA Board to stand up for the interests of Cays residents–as the Council continues to reasonably expect–given that the process is now starting all over again from scratch. If they want their support to be driven by data rather than hearsay, they would be well advised to become intimately familiar with every detail of the 2021 survey. No more accurate and comprehensive representation of the desires of Cays residents yet exists.

VOL. 112, NO. 47 - Nov. 23, 2022

(1) comment

jim orourke

Having a family “home place” for 40 years in the Cays and a personal residence there for 10 years I am definitely biased. I think the Cays is the best part of Coronado: tranquil, beautiful, child friendly and congestion free. No Miami West vibe like the Shores and the increasingly over built, over wrought and auto dominated Village. It took me four readings to distill Mr. Reilly’s words into meaning and I appreciate his dedication to accuracy. Bottom line for me is simply that a financially robust, singularly focused FutbolClub should have no big boy seat. at the table. Yes the Cays is part on Coronado but one worth protecting not exploited.

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