Heights’ rebuild – green space mirage


Today we’re putting an end to the district’s false numbers on “green space” on the new Heights’ design.  It’s not 127,824 square feet, as the district claims, but at most 97,000 square feet. It’s not more than exists today, as the district claims, but slashed by more than 30,000 square feet. It’s not something to headline, as the district does, but instead yet another reason why we need an alternative design similar to that by Rolf Silbert (130,000 square feet of on-field green space, plus another 24,000 square feet of off-field green space, for a total of 154,000 square feet).

The district’s green space numbers are yet another disappointing mirage.

We ask three things:

1 – forward this email right now to your friends and others – please help us distribute the facts
2 – email the board and let them know what you think (click a link below)
3 – attend this Wednesday’s board meeting at 5:45 p.m. if you can

Click a board member name below to open your email program with a draft of the following short email (the blanks will be filled in automatically):

Dear [board member] ,

The district’s “green space” calculations have been shown to be wrong, yet they remain on dmusd.org and continue to be presented to the public at board meetings. This further erodes public trust in the district.

I encourage you as a Trustee of DMUSD to put a stop to it. Please make the district publicly retract their numbers and make them be open and honest with the public about these facts.

[link to this email]

Entire DMUSD Board

Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Erica Halpern

Gee Wah Mok

Doug Rafner

Scott Wooden


The district showcases the “total decentralized green space” or “green space” in the Heights’ rebuild design. It appears to mean grass dispersed across the site, whether rectangular slices between concrete steps in the amphitheater, or in small patches dispersed elsewhere – including the “public park” outside the school gates.

They’ve even dropped field square footage from their presentations – you can’t find it in any recent board presentation or on the district’s prominent website slides. Their use of field square footage diminished after we exposed their false numbers, and disappeared altogether once we started to chase them behind the scenes to justify those numbers in public records requests that drilled an empty well. Instead, all the focus turned to green space. It is as if by changing the focus to green space, they expect us to forget that the field is being shrunk from 160,000 square feet to 78,000 square feet in their design.  Or perhaps they wanted to use green space because they could then exclude the dirt infields etc. of the current Heights’ baseball diamonds (40,000 sf) from their numbers, making the reduction in fields seem less severe.

For a while, we purposely refused to go down the rabbit hole of “green space.” We did call them out when they claimed 142,919 square feet in the Del Mar Times in late October, which resulted in them “refining” their number back to 110,393. We knew that number was still inflated, but “green space” seemed like a head fake, something to distract all of us from the catastrophic field loss. But then the district quietly started to inch up their green space number and  started to headline their board and website presentations with the same claim as in October – that it would be larger than today’s green space. That was enough to make us speak up.

Let’s start with the DMUSD website that showcases “total decentralized green space.” It’s highlighted in the top few bullets on the Heights’ rebuild, as shown below:

Each highlighted link is a one-page image and both are pasted below. The circles are ours.

As we will show below, the 127,824 square feet calculated by the district is at best 96,529. The math works like this: west canyon rim 0 sf (they say 7,402), kindergarten 1,844 sf (they say 2,202), commons 7,071 sf (they say 8,521), public park 9,360 sf (they say 17,486), and field 78,254 (they say 92,213).

We’ll quickly address the five pieces in order – separating reality from mirage on each one.

One note:  within the past few days, the district filed its initial environmental documents including grading plans and other key drawings.  Upon a quick review, we have reason to believe that there is even less green space in the district’s plan than we report below.  We’ll keep you posted.

7,402 sf – west canyon rim

The 7,402 area looks green, both in the image above and in the detailed site plan below.  

But zoom in with your device and look a little closer. If you look carefully, you’ll see that area is actually a 20′ wide fire access road that runs from the “Entry Plaza” label at Boquita Drive, down the west edge of the site onto the blacktop where there’s a Y shaped turnaround traced on the blacktop. This is dictated by California Division of the State Architect (DSA) fire safety regulations, we have learned.

Why does it matter? It matters because fire access roads must be hard surfaced – not green grass. According to the DSA, fire roads must be all-weather hard-surfaced:

In fact, DSA told us (and we confirmed with fire experts and by reading the rules) that the road must be load-bearing, capable of holding 75,000 pounds of fire apparatus.

Check out this site drawing recently produced by the district in response to our public records request. Where we drew the blue path, do you see “green space” like we’ve been told by the district, or do you instead see load-bearing hardscape as required by DSA? This likely explains the district avoiding our repeated questions about that surface.

District site document showing fire road

These documents and images tell us that the 7,402 square feet is hardscape, not green space. Even the tree cluster on the point isn’t green space. You can see this below, by noting in the left image that the trees on both the left and the right side of the road have the same landscape material, and further noting in the other image that the district doesn’t count the trees on the right of the fire road as green space.

In summary, the 7,402 area has zero green space.

2,202 sf – kindergarten

Google Earth measures 1,844 sf for the exact same area that the district says is 2,202.

8,521 sf – “Commons”

Google Earth says 7,071 sf – not 8,521. We added the base area labeled “commons” (4,622) plus everything in the steps area above it (2,449), generously including even the concrete steps (which we believe will turn out to be mostly concrete). We did not include the hardscape sidewalk in between those two areas, which the district improperly did.

17,486 – public park

Google Earth says 9,360 sf when you go through the tedium of adding up all the pieces, as we did. The district includes the entire area, even though half of it is clearly play structures and concrete.  

One word of caution – it seems very unlikely given the type of area and the pieces, that all of what we count today is going to be grass rather than turf. But we can’t get answers yet to prove otherwise.

field – 92,213 sf

In earlier posts and on our website, we’ve already shown that the field is actually only 78,254 square feet.

Final green space in the district’s January 2020 design:  96,529 square feet, not 127,824 square feet.

The Mirage of Trust

We addressed the topic of public trust in a short email to the board recently discussing the most recent district misrepresentations on the size of the fields, with a constructive suggestion that they right the ship before trust was eroded with the full community.

Click here if you want to read the short email.

Nobody responded.

Don’t forget to share this post with others and to click the links above to share your opinions with the board.


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