San Jacinto city council looks to expand Salle Park with state grants

This new San Jacinto City Seal idea created by resident Edie Gaviria is shown on a video screen and receives city council approval Tuesday, Aug. 10, at the council meeting. Tony Ault photo

San Jacinto City Council approved applying for a $1.6 million California statewide park development grant that would expand the city’s Salle Park with a community-sought splash pad, multipurpose sports field, restrooms and other amenities.

The Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program is a competitive grant offered what the state considers “disadvantaged” communities and is offering $650 million to the qualified cities to build better parks for its citizens.

Rene Yarnall, San Jacinto community development manager, made a presentation to the council Tuesday, Aug. 20, explaining that her department conducted three community workshops since May to see what the residents might like to see at Salle Park, 180 Idyllwild Drive. The residents who attended said they preferred seeing the splash pad and a large playing field that could be used for all sports. A sketch of the general park improvement plan was presented based on the residents’ desires, Yarnell said.

Edie and Richard Gaviria of San Jacinto await the San Jacinto city council’s announcement of who will win the new city seal contest. The couple were the only ones to present their ideas for a new city seal. Tony Ault photo

In her presentation, she also said the department had applied for approximately $200,000 from Proposition 68, the Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access Bond passed by voters in 2018. She said if approved the city would also be able to build an outdoor fitness gym at the park provided through the nonprofit National Fitness Campaign. A video was presented of what the fitness gym would provide including rings, jumps, exercise equipment and other things designed for complete fitness workouts.

The council gave the go ahead to City Manager Rob Johnson and staff to send out the application for the grant in a 3-0 vote with Councilmember Joel Lopez absent and Mayor Pro Tem Andrew Kotyuk excused to see his daughter off to college.

The council also named resident Edie Gaviria as the winner of the new city seal contest. The council will use the new design on all of its stationary, logos and other signs and city documents in the future.

The city never had an official seal; it only had a logo since its incorporation in 1888. Gaviria submitted her entry that depicts the Estudillo Mansion, North Mountain with the “S” illuminated, an agriculture field, and a representation of Native Americans to honor the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indian Tribe in four sections. Her husband Richard Gaviria submitted the only other entry. The council liked his circular border with the city name and suggested it be used with the winner’s logo. The council said they will seek the Soboba Indian tribe’s picture idea for one quadrant of the seal.

The council also approved renewing Johnson’s city manager contract for another five years with his salary starting at $18,447 per month, a $600 per month mileage allowance and $150 toward his cellphone use. The city manager, who has served in the position for the last three years bringing more businesses and homes to the community in recent years, will receive a one-time $4,000 signing bonus. Johnson will also be eligible for yearly raises of up to 4% during his contract with a limited severance payment if it becomes necessary.

Mayor Russ Utz explained the city’s city manager pay is about “midway” of all other city manager salaries in the area.

“He earned all he gets and then some,” Councilwoman Crystal Ruiz said in praising his achievements for the city.

“He does a darn good job of it,” Councilman Alonso Ledezma said.

“I am happy and excited for being your city manager,” Johnson said. “We have a good team here. I am really excited about everything going on (in the city). It is looking great.”

Tony Ault can be reached by email at