Basketball courts and a playground area are shown in Dennis V. Allen Park in San Diego, April 7, 2023. A new playground was recently installed after nearly a year-and-a-half wait. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

A new playground has arrived at a park in Mount Hope after a destructive fire more than a year ago, San Diego officials announced

Playground equipment at Dennis V. Allen Park was replaced March 28 and available for use the following day, city spokesperson Benjamin Cartwright said in an email. The November 2021 fire that destroyed the previous structure is still considered vandalism since the cause is undetermined. 

Why this matters

Residents of Mount Hope, a small southeast San Diego neighborhood identified by the city as a “community of concern,” say a playground that burned down more than a year ago was the latest symbol of the neglect neighbors have long felt.

As inewsource previously reported, residents were frustrated as the city awaited an insurance adjuster to evaluate the damage before moving forward with repairs. The 5-acre park has served as a community gathering space for cookouts and other events. 

Dale Huntington, who serves on the local community planning group and is a pastor at a nearby church, had said he believes other San Diego communities wouldn’t have been forced to wait as long as Mount Hope residents did for the roughly $90,000 new playground. 

Huntington told inewsource on Thursday that while he appreciates the playground being installed, it was “the bare minimum.” 

He maintains that the playground took too long to arrive.  

“It could have been an opportunity for them to show our community that they care, which is what our mayor talks about a lot about the most underserved communities, and our community doesn’t have nearly anything that others do,” Huntington said. 

From left, Rene Blanco Gomez, Carlos Luna and Sirenity Vargas’Pabon sit and talk on a park bench at Dennis V. Allen Park in San Diego, April 7, 2023. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

Rachel Laing, a spokesperson for Mayor Todd Gloria, said in an email that replacing the playground took the same amount of time as “it would have in any neighborhood across our city under these circumstances.” 

“Normally, new equipment is ordered well in advance of scheduled installation, so most people are not aware of the long lead time for fulfillment,” Laing said. “But because this was an unexpected situation resulting from a fire, building in that lead time was not possible.” 

Made up of about 4,000 residents, the Mount Hope neighborhood in southeast San Diego has been labeled by the city as a “community of concern” — meaning it tends to be more polluted, poorer, less walkable and has worse health outcomes than other areas in San Diego. 

More than three-quarters of Mount Hope residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to census tract data. 

In comparison to wealthier communities, the city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars less on areas like Mount Hope from money raised from developer impact fees.  Those fees — which until last year were required to be used in communities where they were collected— are a common source of infrastructure funding that helps pay for quality-of-life amenities such as streets, fire stations, libraries and parks.  

Rene Blanco Gomez, 16, grew up in Mount Hope and used the playground growing up. He said that he’d like to see more amenities at Dennis V. Allen Park for young residents like him, such as soccer and football fields.

“I don’t like that it’s little and there’s not really much to do around,” Gomez said about the playground area.

Officials say the city plans to add a recreation center, a parking lot and other amenities to the park, though plans are in early stages of development and planning — a process that is expected to be completed in fall 2024.

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Crystal Niebla joined inewsource in June 2022 as an investigative reporter focused on infrastructure and government accountability in the San Diego region. Her position is partly funded by Report for America, a national program that supports local journalists. At the Long Beach Post, Niebla served...