Metro San Diego CDC Letter of Support for Olive Street Park/ AIDS Memorial Project



536 Maple Street, #103

San Diego, California 92103

(619) 822-5103


May 13, 2019


Honorable Chair and Members of the

City of San Diego Park & Recreation Board:


Re:  Olive Street Park Acquisition and Development: Agenda Item 102:


Dear Chair and Board Members of the Park & Recreation Board:

The Metro San Diego Community Development Association (“Metro San Diego CDC”) is made up of commercial/residential property owners, businesses, and residents of the Bankers Hill/Park West community and adjacent neighborhoods. 

The Metro San Diego CDC strongly supports the development of the Olive Street Park, and also is fully in support of locating an AIDS Memorial within it.  Metro San Diego CDC members have been very active in moving the Olive Street Park project forward, as indicated in the Uptown News article attached below, entitled: “Olive Street Park the 100-year delay.” It presents an excellent summary of the background of the long process that has taken place to create the Olive Street Park (“Woods McKee Park”).      

On October 17, 2016, the Metro San Diego CDC unanimously voted to support the placement of an AIDS Memorial in Olive Street Park, and subsequently passed another motion on October 19, 2017, that contained recommendations regarding its design (see second attachment). 

The Metro San Diego CDC is in full support of the current design of the Olive Street Park project, and requests the Park & Recreation Board approve it at its May 16, 2019 meeting.  It also recommends the park be named the “Woods-McKee Park” in honor of the family that donated the land for the park.   


Leo Wilson


Metro San Diego CDC



Attachment #1

Olive Street Park: the 100-year delay

November 17th, 2017

by Leo Wilson

Last month, I described the background of the new Waldo D. Waterman Park that was recently dedicated in Bankers Hill. This article will focus on the future Woods/McKee Park, presently known as the Olive Street Park.

The Olive Street Park has been a long time in coming — more than 100 years. In 1908, the Woods-McKee family donated a parcel of land in Bankers Hill, at Olive Street and Third Avenue, to the city for a park.  The following notice appears in the San Diego Union newspaper:

“San Diego Union, Oct. 18, 1908 … Park on Olive Street, between 2nd and 3rd streets, offered to city.” (Balboa Park Notes; from Richard Amero)

Although the city accepted the donated land from the Woods/McKee families, it never built the park. Instead the land sat vacant for decades. On June 11, 1963, the city granted the owner of an adjacent medical office building north of the donated land the right of ingress and egress to his building through the dedicated parcel. In return, the owner of the medical complex was required to maintain the rest of the site as a public park. This did not happen. Instead, the medical office building owner converted almost the entire Woods/McKee parcel into a parking lot for his business. The Woods and McKee family sued the city in 1981, seeking the return of their donated property, since it was not being used as a park as intended. The lawsuit was unsuccessful.

Nothing further happened until 2008, when a representative from the city’s Park and Recreation Department, and Michael Turko, a KUSI-TV investigative reporter, showed up at an Uptown Planners meeting. This led to a recommendation from Uptown Planners, adopted at its Aug. 5, 2008 meeting, requesting that the city revoke the permit of the medical complex owner to use the Woods/McKee parcel as a parking lot.  Uptown Planners also recommended that the city acquire two additional parcels of land immediately south of the Woods/McKee parcel, for inclusion in a future Woods/McKee Park. The Woods/McKee parcel totaled 16,000 square feet; and the two additional parcels added 15,000 square feet. The new park will overlook Maple Canyon.

After Uptown Planners made its recommendation, the Bankers Hill/Park West Community Association set up a special task force to advocate for the creation of the Woods/McKee Park. Attorney Don Liddell, who was also vice chair of Uptown Planners, and myself led the effort. It was a very contentious process involving a labyrinth of hearings, countless meetings with city staff, threats of legal action, and ultimately a lawsuit by the owner of the medical complex against the city.

  1. On March 24, 2010, the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee approved the purchase of the two south parcels of land, which had been recommended by Uptown Planners for addition to the future Woods/McKee Park. This action was subsequently approved by the City Council, and the two parcels purchased. This was a major turnaround from the year prior; in 2009 we had learned the city had actually removed the purchase of these parcels from its priority funding list. After a strong protest, and timely intervention from then-City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer’s office, it was restored.
  2. On May 1, 2013, the City Council terminated the medical complex owner’s revocable permit, which he claimed allowed him to place the parking lot on the Woods/McKee parcel. This action followed a strongly written letter written by Don Liddell, and approved by the Metro San Diego Community Development Corp., on Sept. 10, 2012, requesting the city “commence legal proceedings to immediately and completely revoke any formal conditional entitlement by the current owner of the adjacent parcel of property to use of any property that is owned by the city of San Diego.”
  3. The formal notice of revocation of the permit was issued July 13, 2013. In response, the medical complex owner sued the city. On Sept. 19, 2014, a Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, indicated that the permit could be terminated “at the will of the city at any time.” In February 2015, the city noticed a right-of-entry permit, so that it could enter the Woods/McKee parcel and remove non-permitted improvements. In effect, the city again took possession of the Woods/McKee parcel.
  4. In 2016, the city finally began planning the new park; retaining KTU+A as the consultant to design what would become the future Woods/McKee Park. A hearing on the KTU+A design concept will take place at Uptown Planners at 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest. Making matters again controversial: There is now a proposal to place the city’s AIDS memorial in the Olive Street Park.

It has now been almost a decade since Uptown Planners made its Aug. 8, 2008 recommendations for the Woods/McKee Park. Since then it has been a long and contentious process. Want to especially thank Don Liddell for keeping the project on track. Also, a huge debt of gratitude goes to KUSI-TV reporter Michal Turko, who did about five stories about the Olive Street Park. watch four of them at

— Leo Wilson is administrator for Metro San Diego CDC and is a Bankers Hill resident.


Attachment #2



536 Maple Street, No. 103

San Diego, California 92103

(619) 822-5103


October 19, 2017


Dear Co-Chairs & Members of the AIDS Memorial Task Force:

As a result of an online design competition, a preferred conceptual design for the San Diego AIDS Memorial was put forward in early October 2017.  The proposed conceptual design will be considered for adoption by the San Diego AIDS Task Force at a future meeting. The San Diego AIDS Memorial will be placed within the Olive Street Park (“Woods McKee Park”) in Bankers Hill. 

The Metro San Diego Community Development Corporation (“Metro San Diego CDC”) reviewed and discussed the proposed preferred conceptual design at its October 16, 2017 meeting.  Metro San Diego CDC members have been involved in the planning and development of the Olive Street Park for over a decade.  The proposed park consists of a northern parcel, which was donated to the City of San Diego over a decade ago by the Woods-McKee family for use as a park, and a southern parcel purchased by the City of San Diego in 2010. Both parcels together will become the future “Woods-McKee Park.” 

The City of San Diego, because of limited funding, had indicated that the design/construction of the Olive Street Park would not take place until after about 2026.  However, as a result of the sale of the Truax House property in 2017, funds were obtained to begin the immediate design and construction of the future Olive Street Park, conditioned on the placing of the San Diego AIDS Memorial within the new park. The Metro San Diego CDC endorsed the placement of the AIDS Memorial in the Olive Street Park in a letter dated October 27, 2016.

The Metro San Diego CDC, after reviewing the preferred conceptual design of the San Diego AIDS Memorial, approved the following motion by a vote of 17-0:

1.) The Metro San Diego CDC is very favorably impressed with the preferred conceptual design, particularly that of the northern parcel and its cantilevered canyon lookout; 

2.) As the AIDS Memorial was intended to be a memorial placed in a community park; the Metro San Diego CDC requests that the AIDS Task Force honor its previous commitment to not use more than 25% of the land within the proposed Olive Street Park for the AIDs Memorial.  This could be done through utilizing the preferred conceptual design for the northern parcel of the proposed park; while the southern parcel would be utilized for community park use;

3.) The Metro San Diego CDC recommends the proposed memorial path on the southern parcel with boulders with “names engraved of those lost” be removed from the preferred design concept.  The memorial path would be in close proximity to the neighborhood play structure, and having a memorial walk/memorialized rocks next to the children’s playground is inappropriate.  The memorial path and rocks should be relocated to the northern parcel;

4.) The proposed parking within the proposed park’s footprint along the west side of Third Avenue should be removed. It reduces the size of the future park, and there is already street parking on Third Avenue, as well as additional parking a few blocks away in Balboa Park;

5.) The medium tree in middle of Third Avenue is not part of the proposed park, and should not be included as part of the memorial.   It is unknown who has jurisdiction over medium with the tree, whether it’s the City of San Diego or an adjacent private property owner.

The Metro San Diego CDC again expresses it support for the AIDS Memorial being placed in Olive Street Park, and is very impressed with the preferred design conceptual, with the suggested modifications stated above.

Sincerely yours,

Michael Seidel


Metro San Diego CDC