Signal Hill’s new Parks and Recreation Master Plan calls for upgrades and new green space over 10 years

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City Council to decide by June which projects to prioritize, including possible new dog park, accessible playgrounds and renovated amphitheater and picnic shelters.

Signal Hill’s 10-year look ahead in how to meet its residents’ parks-and-recreation needs will soon start becoming reality. 

The City Council approved a new 2021-2031 Parks and Recreation Master Plan (PRMP) last month calling for upgraded park facilities and new park spaces. 

The council also approved developing a companion Prioritization and Implementation Plan (PIP) to determine the order of project development over the next decade. The council will approve a final PIP list in June. 

Community Services Director Ali Mancini said this is Signal Hill’s first PRMP since 1989. That 20-year plan had established a goal of one acre of parkland for every 1,000 residents, she told the council on Feb. 9.

Accordingly, Signal Hill has created several parks over the past 32 years, Mancini said, including Discovery Well Park, Hilltop Park, the Hilltop-neighborhood trail system and the Signal Hill Dog Park. The City is currently developing a new View Park at Cherry Avenue and E. Burnett Street.

See related story: Signal Hill City Council approves View Park construction

The City decided to create a brand-new PRMP following a needs-assessment in 2017, hiring consulting firm GreenPlay in November 2018 to develop a draft. 

See related story: SH City Council approves creation of new parks plan

The Parks and Recreation Commission approved that PRMP draft in June 2019, but City Manager Hannah Shin-Heydorn asked for a review of “impact fees” the City collects from developers of new city projects to make sure they cover the costs of developing proposed park facilities, Mancini said. 

The Parks and Recreation Commission approved a revised PRMP draft in January 2021 after a COVID-19 delay. The commission also approved creating the companion PIP.

“Though the PRMP provides a solid high-level look at the next 10 years, it was prudent to take a deeper dive, so to speak, in refining the goals of the master plan,” Mancini said. 

The PIP also allows staff to sort through prior planning recommendations to identify which are still relevant, which need refining and which are now obsolete, Mancini added.

The Parks and Recreation Commission hosted a community meeting on March 17 to discuss the PIP, resulting in the following list of prioritized projects for the next 10 years, pending council approval, Mancini told the Signal Tribune:

1. Renovate the Signal Hill Park Community Center and add a senior clubhouse

2. Add fencing around the Reservoir Park Tot Lot

3. Renovate the amphitheater in Signal Hill Park

4. Renovate or repurpose Spud Field

5. Renovate the Signal Hill Park Tot Lot to create a flagship accessible playground 

6. Renovate or redesign Hillbrook Park

7. Renovate picnic shelters throughout the city

8. Construct another dog park

The Parks and Recreation Commission will review a final PIP on April 21, followed by Planning Commission review in May and a City Council vote in June. Both the PRMP and PIP will then be incorporated into the City’s General Plan as part of the environmental-resources element, Mancini said. 

PRMP

Signal Hill has 10 parks totaling 24.5 acres, 5.73 miles of trails, a new public library and community and youth centers, according to the 139-page PRMP.

Map of Signal Hill from the City’s 2021 Parks and Recreation Master Plan showing the city’s existing parks (Courtesy City of SH)

To create a plan for moving forward, GreenPlay conducted focus groups, interviews, two community forums and received 432 completed surveys out of 3,000 sent in early 2019, Mancini said. The PRMP contains a host of demographic information based on those surveys and other data. 

Starting with basics – such as 69% of Signal Hill’s 11,800 residents have white-collar jobs and median household income of $77,000 per year – the plan goes on to assess residents’ health, commuting habits, and recreational behavior. 

Signal Hill residents spend more than $1 million per year on sports and exercise equipment and more than $3 million annually on their pets, the PRMP notes. Residents also spend about $1.4 million per year on sporting-event tickets –– twice as much as on tickets to movies, museums and amusement parks combined.

The PRMP also lists national recreation trends such as bicycling, community gardens and outdoor “splash pad” play areas, noting that interval-training and cross-training are rising in popularity, as are martial arts and some racquet sports.

Chart from Signal Hill’s 2021 Parks and Recreation Master Plan showing growing nationwide fitness activity trends (Courtesy City of SH)

In terms of outdoor recreation, Signal Hill residents hike 3% more frequently than average Californians but participate less in water activities such as fishing. They generally engage in more fitness activity than other Californians, including swimming, walking, weight-lifting and yoga.

Graph from Signal Hill’s 2021 Parks and Recreation Master Plan comparing Signal Hill residential fitness activities with the average Californian (Courtesy City of SH)

The PRMP also finds that, nationwide, the population is diversifying and aging, and parks-and-recreation departments are taking an active role in preventative health, promoting physical activity, social and parental engagement, nutrition, transportation to facilities and safety.

The plan cites a local-government survey suggesting that “the greatest impact to community health and physical activity was a cohesive system of parks and trails, and accessible neighborhood parks.” 

Fittingly, Signal Hill survey respondents said developing parks and connecting trails should be the City’s highest priority, followed by fitness, wellness and health programs and improved park amenities. 

Graph from Signal Hill’s 2021 Parks and Recreation Master Plan showing high to low residential survey results on the greatest needs for parks and recreation over the next 5-10 years (Courtesy City of SH)

Residents are also interested in art and cultural programs, a pickleball court, mini-golf, senior and intergenerational programs and facilities, a skate park, another dog park, a soccer field, a gym and a community swimming pool, according to the PRMP. 

However, the PRMP reveals inequities in Signal Hill park access. Hilltop residents can access the most parks within a 10-minute walk while some residents have none that close, the PRMP finds.

Map from Signal Hill’s 2021 Parks and Recreation Master Plan showing the number of parks accessible within a 10-minute walk (Courtesy City of SH)

“While walking and biking do provide good access to parks in Signal Hill, there are differences in the equity of access,” the PRMP states. 

The plan recommends adding new parks to the currently underserved northwestern and southern areas of Signal Hill. Specifically, it suggests transforming four undeveloped lots into new parks, at 28th Street and Gardena Avenue and 27th Street and Cherry Avenue, and on Crescent Heights Street at both Walnut and Gardena avenues. 

Map from Signal Hill’s 2021 Parks and Recreation Master Plan showing four undeveloped lots recommended by consultants GreenPlay to be converted to parks (Courtesy City of SH)

The PRMP also recommends expanding the city’s trails, both within parks and leading to them “along safe and protected corridors” through neighborhoods.

The plan further suggests renovating or repurposing Spud Field, adding a playground to Hillbrook Park, replacing a playground in Signal Hill Park, renovating the Community Center and adding multi-purpose fields to future parks.

To promote usage, the PRMP recommends the City do more to increase residents’ familiarity with park facilities and programs by targeting communication according to age and other demographics.

Residential survey results from Signal Hill’s 2021 Parks and Recreation Master Plan rating effectiveness of City communication on parks and recreation (Courtesy City of SH)

“The primary barriers to participation are not enough personal time and lack of awareness of the services offered,” the PRMP finds from survey results. “Lack of information and not being informed was cited multiple times.” 

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