San Diego County is footing a $2.3 million bill for security at the popular Waterfront Park along the Embarcadero, a cost deemed “excessive” by a grand jury.
A San Diego Grand Jury report released Wednesday finds that the county plans to spend $2.3 million on security at the park for the initial budget year ending on June 30.
Currently, security at the widely-visited park consists of two sheriff’s deputies on-duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are a total of 12 deputies from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department assigned specifically to this park.
In addition, the report says the County of San Diego also has two or more private security guards patrolling the park during operating hours. The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The aforementioned security crews are in addition to the existing deputies and private guards already assigned to provide security to the County Administration Center, which shares space with Waterfront Park at 1600 Pacific Hwy.
The report says the park is an improvement to the area and is widely used, but the cost of security is still “excessive.”
According to the document, no other park in San Diego County has full or part-time sheriff’s deputies assigned specifically for security of safety purposes.
Though the grand jury recognizes the importance of maintaining a safe environment at Waterfront Park, it questions whether the high cost of security “represents the best use of tax-payer’s dollars.”
“In a review of the incident logs and research of other parks, the Grand Jury found that incidents at the park appeared to be no different from those recorded elsewhere in the county and at parks in other parts of the country with less security. None of the parks investigated nor any of the other County parks had sworn officers assigned full time,” the report states.
The report also says the grand jury “found no evidence” that county officials investigated the level of security used at other similar public parks in other cities when coming up with a security plan of their own for Waterfront Park.
The security program was created to “allow families to visit the park with assurances to their safety,” the document states.
In the end, the grand jury recommends the County of San Diego hire an independent security specialist “to determine the most cost-effective method for providing security services for Waterfront Park while maintaining/ensuring a safe and secure environment prior to the adoption of the next fiscal year budget.”
The full grand jury report can be seen here.
NBC 7 reached out to the County of San Diego for comment on the matter Wednesday. Mike Workman, director for the County Communications Office, released this statement:
"The County has already reduced next year’s budget for security at the one-year old Waterfront Park. The Grand Jury has been advised. This is an urban park in an urban setting. Security is needed to protect the patrons of the park as well as the park itself. We are confident that the San Diego County Sheriff is well qualified to determine the level of security needed."
Waterfront Park opened in May 2014 with great fanfare. The park spans 12 acres, eight of which used to be parking lots north and south of the County Administration Center.
The space boasts large, open grassy areas, a playground, shaded sitting areas, gardens and an expansive interactive fountain. Being in Embarcadero, the park also has a breathtaking waterfront view exclusive to San Diego.
In March, the CRSDD Electronic Music Festival was held at Waterfront Park, resulting in more than $64,000 in damages to the space, the County of San Diego confirmed.
The repair costs – which included replacing more than 500 damaged plants – will be paid for by festival organizers who rented the park for $33,000, nearly one-third of the revenue officials hope to generate this year through private events at Waterfront Park.