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A Coordinated Approach to Invasive Plant Removal on Public and Private Properties in Chollas Creek

San Diego, CA, USA
City of San Diego
In Collaboration With
The San Diego Climate Collaborative

Government Champion

City of San Diego


229.3 Million USD
27 Thousand USD

Project Status

In Progress/Under Construction since 2020

Funding / Financing

Project Type

At a Glance

The City of San Diego and nonprofit Groundwork San Diego collaborated to improve climate resiliency in the disadvantaged community of Southcrest in south San Diego. The project removed invasive plants from adjacent public and private properties in the Chollas Creek channel.

Problem Addressed

The Chollas Creek watershed is located in an urbanized area of south San Diego composed primarily of communities characterized as disadvantaged by the California Dept of Water Resources, and with the potential to be disproportionately impacted by climate change. The creek is managed by the City of San Diego’s Storm Water Division for flood control and is also an important local natural and recreational resource. The City of San Diego’s 2002 Chollas Creek Enhancement Plan identified many opportunities along the Creek and its associated canyons where natural spaces could be protected or restored, and where public recreation opportunities could be expanded. Even so, most of the communities within the Chollas Creek watershed were identified as “park poor” in The San Diego Foundation’s 2010 Parks for Everyone report.

One challenge faced by the City in maintaining the watershed for flooding, water quality and habitat benefits, is that the creek channel includes a patchwork of public and private properties. Because the City generally does not have responsibility to work on private properties, it is difficult to implement a holistic approach to channel management. Invasive plants like Arundo donax spread easily to adjacent areas, so a piecemeal approach to removal makes maintenance very challenging. In addition, because neighborhood residents generally fall into low income categories, it is sometimes difficult for them to afford such beneficial maintenance on their properties.

The City of San Diego used/is using collaboration with a local nonprofit, Groundworks San Diego, to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

In order to implement a holistic approach to removing non-native plants from the Chollas Creek channel in Southcrest, the City of San Diego coordinated with Groundwork San Diego to schedule work on adjacent public and private parcels at the same time. Groundwork San Diego is a local nonprofit focused on improving the physical environment of Chollas Creek through development of community-based partnerships. For this project, Groundwork worked with the local community to educate them about the benefits of the work and obtain permission to enter on private properties in the creek channel. The City worked with Groundwork to identify boundaries of work for the public and private effort, provide biological monitoring, and both entities worked with Urban Corps San Diego to complete the work.


  1. Invasive species (including Arundo donax) were removed from approximately 1.16 acres of the creek and tributaries on both public and private parcels.
  2. Resources were maximized by using Urban Corps San Diego to work on both public and private properties. Crews on adjacent parcels were able to share equipment and realize other efficiencies.
  3. The local community gained an understanding of the importance of the creek, and its maintenance and became a partner in completing the work.
  4. The City and Groundwork established a process that can be used to approach creek channel maintenance in other areas where public and private properties are adjacent to the creek.
  5. Benefits to the community related to removing invasive plants and trash from the channel include improved water quality, improved safety, reduced flood risk, and improved climate resiliency.

Lessons Learned

  1. Long-term coordination between the City and local nonprofits help provide a holistic, efficient approach to creek maintenance in areas with both public and private land.
  2. Working together yields efficiencies and an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of the creek and its maintenance.

Something Unique

Ongoing coordination between the City and local nonprofits to leverage the strengths of each to achieve a holistic approach to waterway maintenance.

Who Should Consider?

Jurisdictions managing waterways that include a patchwork of public and private properties.

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