Definition of Chartered Parkland


January 25, 2024
Parks and Recreation Commission
City of San José

Copy: Jon Cicirelli, Raymond Constatino, Sara Sellers

Re: Agenda Item IIA: Definition of Chartered Parkland

Protect Our Parks. The undersigned organizations and individuals respectfully submit these comments to the Parks and Recreation Commission with regard to the above-referenced agenda item. We reflect the interests of our communities when we stress the importance of parks to the residents of San José across the city. Rich or poor, young or old, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, or ability: parks are important to us all – for our physical health, our mental health, and the health of the community. We ask you to ensure that the definition of parkland fully protects existing, under construction, and planned parks in the City of San José.

Parks require land. To help protect and preserve our parks, city voters a half century ago pushed the City Council to adopt “Charter Provisions” that state “the public parks of the City shall be inalienable unless otherwise authorized by the affirmative votes of the majority of the electors voting on such a proposition in each case.” Further, the Charter states “[a]s used herein ‘public parks’ means any and all lands of the City which have been or are dedicated, improved and opened to the public for public park purposes.”

To clarify the matter, Council directed Staff to review the Charter language. The resulting report, which will be discussed at the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on January 25, goes a long way towards resolving the issue. We strongly support the effort to clarify this definition in order to protect this important resource. However, in service of ensuring our parks are protected for all of San José, we have some concerns which we hope the Commission will address:

  • Are the parks protected in their entirety, or is there still a danger that Council might decide without a public vote to give up some “unused” or “undeveloped” portion of a park to a non-park purpose?
  • What about parks that are planned or under construction: are they to be protected as Chartered Parks  only after they are completed and opened to the public?
  • Are unimproved parks that focus public access on contemplative, passive enjoyment of the natural environment and its biological resources protected?
  • By what process will undefined land be defined, such as in the case of Coyote Meadows?
  • What are the next steps? Do these policies take effect once the report is accepted by the City Council, or does Council also need to enact ordinances?

In addition, we request that Staff include a full list of the recognized Chartered Parks in the report for public transparency. A list of city-owned properties that are used by the public and function as parks, but are not recognized as chartered parks, is also needed.

We urge the Commission to push for precise and expansive interpretation to provide the maximum protection of our park lands. We also urge the Commission to recommend that the City take steps to ensure the protection of planned or under-construction parks. Protect Our Parks.


Katja Irvin, Guadalupe Group Conservation Chair
Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter

Shani Kleinhaus, Environmental Advocate
Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society

Alice Kaufman, Policy and Advocacy Director
Green Foothills

Juan Estrada, Founder and President
District 5 United

David Lewis, Executive Director
Save The Bay

Alie Victorine, Lead
Coyote Meadows Coalition

James P. Reber, Executive Director
San Jose Parks Foundation

Deb Kramer, Executive Director
Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful

Rhonda Berry, President & CEO
Our City Forest