Public-private coalition accelerates cleanup and restoration of the San Diego River

On July 11, 2018, San Diego, California Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer announced that a coalition of private owners and public agencies that control property along the 17-mile San Diego River have joined his restoration and trash cleanup efforts for one of the region’s most precious natural resources.

The coalition builds on the mayor’s aggressive Clean SD initiative to remove trash and debris from public areas citywide. So far, the cleanup efforts have resulted in over 130 tons of trash removed from the riverbed since September of 2017.

A 2017 cleanup sponsored by the San Diego Parks Foundatio. Photo credit: Katy Chappaz.

We’re making tremendous progress toward restoring the San Diego River to its natural beauty,” Mayor Faulconer said. “Now we’re taking it to the next level by partnering with private property owners and other public agencies that are willing to do their part to clean up the riverbed so it can be enjoyed by San Diegans for generations to come. The preservation of the San Diego River must be a shared responsibility by everyone along the river and only by working together will we get the job done.

The City of San Diego owns about one-third of the property along the river. The remaining two-thirds is split between private property owners, various public agencies and the San Diego River Park Foundation (SDRPF).

In April of 2018, Faulconer announced that crews had cleared all of the City-owned property along the river at least once and would be working proactively with other adjacent property owners to clean up the remaining portions of the riverbed.

The river restoration/cleanup coalition partners include:

  • Atomic Investments;
  • Brighton Management;
  • California Department of Fish & Wildlife;
  • Caltrans;
  • Colliers International;
  • County of San Diego;
  • Denton Edmond Testamentary Trust;
  • HG Fenton;
  • Kaiser Permanente;
  • Nazareth House of San Diego;
  • Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego; and
  • San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.

The ongoing cleanup, enforcement and cooperation is helping return the river to the way I remember it as a child,” Councilmember Sherman said. “With continued cooperation and the implementation of the San Diego River Park Master Plan, we can turn the river into an amenity instead of an afterthought.”

The City has offered one-time cleanup assistance to private property owners and several have accepted. After the one-time cleanup, it will be the owners’ responsibility to maintain the site. Those who do not take advantage of the offer are required to clean it themselves or they will be cited, which could result in fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 per day.

San Diego River. Photo courtesy of
San Diego River Park Foundation.

The City has removed over 130 tons of trash from the riverbed through a combination of City cleanups and one-time abatements on private properties. As part of the “Clean SD” initiative, the City provided $25,000 to the SDRPF to conduct surveys and cleanups along the river. Those cleanups have removed an additional 27 tons of trash, for a combined total of over 157 tons.

It is exciting to see a broad coalition coming together for a trash-free river and a healthy community,” said Rob Hutsel, President and CEO of the San Diego River Park Foundation. “With Mayor Faulconer’s leadership, the San Diego River Park Foundation, public agencies and private landowners are seeing results. After years of treading water, finally, our goal is within reach. Working together the river has a bright future.

Launched in May of 2017, the “Clean SD” initiative includes City and Urban Corps crews that respond to complaints received through the City’s Get It Done application, and remove litter in “hotspots” in Ocean Beach, City Heights, San Ysidro, Logan Heights, Paradise Hills, Webster & Mount Hope, Mission Beach, Point Loma and Pacific Beach — neighborhoods with a historically high level of illegal dumping activity.

Mayor Faulconer expanded the “Clean SD” program in the new fiscal year that began July 1 by adding 16 new positions – from heavy truck drivers to code compliance officers – to support the initiative.

Crews have already removed over 1,300 tons of debris, including:

  • 474 tires;
  • 4,109 mattresses and box springs;
  • 1,539 shopping carts;
  • 198 appliances.

Other “Clean SD” efforts include:

  • Increased street sweeping in the East Village neighborhood;
  • Sanitizing sidewalks in downtown and other neighborhoods;
  • Prioritizing graffiti removal requests;
  • Organizing community cleanups that collected more than 100 tons of waste and debris from San Diego neighborhoods in 2017; and
  • Holding the City’s annual cleanup event at SDCCU Stadium – with more than 100 tons of waste and recyclables collected in a single day.

Photo of San Diego oceanfront via Adobe Stock.

See San Diego River Park Foundation website.

See Open Earth Project article on volunteer cleanup efforts on the San Diego River.

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