Youth Council Park Campaign Op-Ed


The following op-ed piece was sent to local media during the public input budget hearings but was not selected for publication. This piece shows the passionate and dedication that our youth have for the community.

By Salma Adlinsyah – Salma is a sophomore at Hoover High School in City Heights and a member of Mid-City CAN’s Youth Council program

“Salma Adlinsyah.” My name was called and it was time for me to speak. My heart was pounding as I walked up to the podium in City Hall on May 10 for the Fiscal Year 2024 public input budget hearing. I took a breath before I spoke as the nine San Diego councilmembers were focused on me. My Youth Council team members and our organizer stood behind me holding posters stating that Mayor Todd Gloria needs to fund our project that would revitalize our beloved City Heights park that has been crumbling year after year. The task of getting our park renovated fell on our occasionally trembling hands.

I am a sophomore at Hoover High School in City Heights and a member of Mid-City Community Advocacy Network’s (CAN) Youth Council. In January, Youth Council met to decide on a campaign that we would take on this year. Youth Council is a group of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) youth ages 13-18 from City Heights and surrounding areas that meets every Friday after school. We decided that renovating the City Heights Urban Village which includes Officer Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park – one of the busiest parks in San Diego County where events are held every weekend – would benefit the diverse City Heights residents. Henwood Park is the centerpiece of City Heights where our community gathers together.

The park is in dire need of renovation: Bathrooms are worn down and lack basic necessities such as automated faucets, soap dispensers, and a baby-changing station. Areas of the playgrounds are unsafe and need to meet National Playground Safety Institute standards. The toddler playground has one amenity and doesn’t even have a swing or spring riders. Improvements to the greenery, seating availability, and shading are among the many needs. 

Youth Council met with the offices of eight councilmembers (one declined to meet with us) and we also met with Mayor Gloria’s office to ask him to fund our renovation project. $1,054,375 is the amount we demanded. The mayor released his Fiscal Year 2024 proposed budget last month, a $5.12 billion spending plan, and it did not include our request.

“When the condition of a park worsens, it becomes an unsafe environment that attracts crime. To neglect the park is to neglect the community,” I told the councilmembers.

Youth Council at City Hall

The one million that we are asking is 0.02 percent of the mayor’s $5.12 billion budget. Youth Council speakers took their turn to go up to the podium:

“Lower income and older communities deserve revitalization just as much as the newer developed and higher income ones. This is an opportunity (for local leaders) to fulfill campaign promises of taking care of communities,” said Jasmine who is in the eighth grade.

“I shouldn’t have to find mold in the drinking fountain or trip on the uneven pavement when I’m at this park,” said Zamzam, a lifelong resident of City Heights who attends High Tech High. She pointed out that there are three new residential buildings being built across Henwood Park and with the increase in homes more families will be utilizing the park. “Jeremy Henwood is not just a park but a safe space for many low income families in City Heights,” she said.

“When you guys look back at your childhood I’m sure you have a lot of fond memories of playing outside. The youth (in City Heights) need it as much as you did,” said Ashley, a City Heights resident and student at Hoover High.

We attended both days of the budget hearing, the first one on May 3. This was a new experience for us, and everyone admitted it was nerve-racking. I decided to go back and speak again during the second hearing because this is an extremely important issue that we need to win for our community.

“You did a fantastic job of lifting up your ask,” Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said. “You’re doing exactly what needs to be done in order to create change. I appreciate your efforts. No, they are not falling on deaf ears.”

The mayor revised the budget on May 16 and councilmembers will submit their proposed changes to the budget on May 26.

This park holds a special place in my family’s heart as it played a significant role in our transition to America, especially for my younger brother who was just five years old.

It is a special place not only for my family, but for the many immigrant families that now call City Heights their home.


Learn more about our campaign to renovate the park by visiting our webpage:


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  • Ron Sanchez
    published this page in Stories 2023-06-04 20:46:13 -0700