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Public and Nonprofit Agency Collaboration to Restore an Urban Creek and Trail

City of San Diego

San Diego, CA

The City of San Diego and nonprofit Groundwork San Diego are collaborating to restore a section of Chollas Creek in a disadvantaged neighborhood. Includes replacing a concrete channel with a soft-bottom creek with native vegetation, and building a trail with native trees connecting residents to a local park.

Topics Covered

Stormwater Management
Water Quality


Initial: 418 Thousand USD



Public Private Partnership

Project Status

In Progress/Under Construction since 2020

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 Department of Water Resources, and with the potential to be disproportionately impacted by climate change.

The creek is managed by the City’s Storm Water Division for flood control and is also an important local natural and recreational resource. The City’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 (The San Diego Foundation 2010).

The reach of Chollas Creek being restored through the project is lined with concrete and does not hold a 100-year flood. The new design, which will hold a 100-year flood, removes the concrete and replaces it with a soft-bottom creek with native vegetation on the bank. The soft-bottom design will allow water to infiltrate into the ground to both reduce storm water runoff, and improve water quality through filtration. A recreational trail, landscaped with native shade trees, will connect local neighborhoods to Sunshine Berardini Field, a local park with ballfields and other amenities.

Solutions Used

To complete the planning phase of this project, the City supported Groundwork’s efforts to apply for a California Dept of Water Resources Integrated Regional Water Management Grant.

During the planning phase, the City coordinated regularly with the Groundwork team to provide early comments on the design and process. In addition, the City and Caltrans participated in the process to secure funding for the final design and construction phase, which included providing letters of support and participating in site visits with the funding agencies.



The project was successfully completed within the grant program timeline, including design to 60% engineering, CEQA, and pre-application meeting with agencies.


Will achieve multiple benefits including: improved water quality, reduced flooding, health benefits associated recreational facilities, carbon capture, and improved wildlife habitat.


Coordination between the City, Caltrans and a local non-profit secured $6.5M for a green space and recreation project in an underserved neighborhood. Implementation began in January 2020.


As a result of early coordination with the City and Caltrans, the Groundwork team was able to move forward quickly to secure funding and work towards final design.

Lessons Learned


Coordination between government agencies and non-profit organizations can increase local capacity to secure funding for important community-based projects.


For this project, Groundwork was able to identify a need based on connections with the local community, and to successfully apply for funding.


Working with the City and Caltrans in a coordinated effort allowed concerns to be addressed early in the project, rather than during the approval process.

Something Unique

In addition to providing beneficial coordination between the City, Caltrans and Groundwork on this specific project, a framework for coordination and feeling of trust was developed that will allow future collaboration on similar community-based projects.

Who Should Consider

Jurisdictions who can benefit from increasing their capacity to secure funding, plan and implement local community-driven projects through partnership with nonprofits.

Last Updated

Mar 3rd, 2021
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