County and city leaders, joined by thousands of residents, on Saturday opened an “iconic” 12-acre park surrounding the County Administration Building, replacing what were once parking lots with grass, gardens, fountains and playgrounds overlooking the bay.

“We finally have a great waterfront park worthy of San Diego’s residents and this region,” said Dianne Jacob, chair of the county board of supervisors, “What was once a parking lot is now a jewel.”

On hand for the opening was Mary Roosevelt, daughter-in-law of President Franklin Roosevelt, who dedicated the administration building in 1938.

The park cost $47.4 million and was more than 15 years in the making. Supervisor Ron Roberts, who colleagues acknowledge as the project’s inspiration, said the original plan for the site called for offices, hotels and a small park, but he thought the county could do better and fought for it.

“It’s very hard to replace a tangible plan with someone’s personal dream, but we did it,” he said, to sustained applause from the crowd.

The park includes an 830-foot-long fountain whose 31 jets shoot water 14 feet into the air and down into a shallow splash area for children. An expansive lawn, three differently themed gardens and a large playground are also at the park.

The new park will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Parking for the county building was moved into a new underground garage.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.