How safe are San Diego's playgrounds?
A report by the city’s independent auditor’s report now headed for review by the City Council raises some troubling maintenance issues.
The findings enumerated by the auditor Eduardo Luna, fault inspection schedules, maintenance priorities, and reporting procedures.
Recommendations include re-training for the staff of the Park & Recreation Dept.
Fixes figure to require more funding.
Parents and frequent playground visitors interviewed Wednesday by NBC 7 cited a variety of concerns.
"The swings are not working properly -- they move a lot,” said downtown resident Zulema Lailson, as her daughter played in the sand of a playground along Park Boulevard in Balboa Park. “ The whole construction, it's very loose. So sometimes when you have y our child swinging, you can hear the noise -- Woo, woo. And also, it's moving a lot."
Other parents mentioned slides that are way too slick, stairsteps that rise too high for the littler kids.
Said Serra Mesa resident Valerie Vizkelepi: "People need to come to the parks and check them out every once in a while, even little things like the paint coming off on the steps over there you can see."
The audit report calls on Park & Rec officials to accelerate inspections and equipment inventories.
It urges supervisors to get out in the field more, visit sites, and write at least biweekly reports.
"If I've got equipment and I want to bring my students out here, and it hasn't been looked at in two weeks, you've got yourself a huge lawsuit,” said Cindy Ornelas, who brought dozens of students from downtown’s KIPP Adelante Prep Academy to Balboa Park playground.
Four playground injury claims have been filed in the 18 months covered by the audit report.
The Park & Rec department has had a 20 percent turnover in supervisors, 50 percent in area managers over a four-year period.
"There's obviously cracks in the system,” said Linda Osborn, an associate professor in San Diego Community College District’s continuing education program, as she watched the Adelante Prep kids at play. “And when there's that kind of turnover, there's a loss -- not the continuity or consistency in the maintenance that needs to occur."
Osborn, who often leads field trips to parks and playgrounds in her coursework, enthusiastically endorsed the recommendation that supervisors get out of the office and into the field.
"It just drives the point home by seeing up front and personal just what needs to be maintained, and that it's used," Osborn explained. "You can't see that from an office. You can't hear that from an office. You can't see the joy and the happiness and interaction between children and caregivers and parents."
Park & Recreation Director Stacey LoMedico wasn't available for on-camera comment Wednesday.
But in her response to the audit report, she noted that the department will be seeking more funding in next fiscal year's budget cycle.
On Monday, LoMedico will be fielding questions from the City Council's Audit Committee.