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Department History

The mission of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services (PRNS) is to build healthy communities through people, parks and programs.  PRNS provides a diverse variety of programs that impact the lives of children, youth, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities throughout the City. PRNS strives to build community through fun, and make and activate quality places in San José where people want to live, work, play, and learn.

PRNS has a rich history and was established in the 1940’s.  Here are highlights of our department through the years.

  • 1930 - The first semi-public type of recreation program was launched in San José. The Junior Chamber of Commerce requested the City Council to appoint a committee to investigate the possibility of a City-sponsored recreation program.
  • 1942 - The City Council passed ordinances to create a five-member recreation commission and Department Director.
  • Throughout the 1940’s, tremendous program expansion in recreation facilities and services demonstrated the need for programming.
  • 1957 - The people of San José passed a bond for further growth to build the first community center.
  • 1965 - The Department was reorganized and renamed the Department of Parks and Recreation, and voters approved another bond for development of the Coyote River Parkway and improvements at Kelley, Alum Rock and Overfelt parks.
  • 1966 - The first community center (Leininger Community Center) opened for public use.
  • Throughout the 1960’s, the Department grew with the addition of the St. James and Mayfair Neighborhood Centers, Family Camp near Yosemite and the City first golf course. The state Office on Aging started funding the department’s senior education center.
  • During the 1970’s, the Department divided the City into separate geographical areas, each supervised by a recreation manager. This structure allowed each district more flexibility in deciding which types of programs to offer. The department continued to expand when the Parks Planning section was added to the Parks and Recreation Department.
  • 1980 - Christmas in the Park re-opened for the first time at Plaza Park (now known as Plaza de Cesar Chavez).
  • During the 1980’s, the Youth Services Division in Recreation oversaw the development of the first local Hershey and Northern California Hershey Championship Track Meets, cheerleading competitions, junior high basketball tournaments, youth conferences
  • In the 1980’s, the Department added Visitor Services and Facilities (VSF) to develop programs and facilities that attracted a regional audience. Facilities included were Overfelt Park, Alum Rock Park and Kelley Park, which included Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, and San José Family Camp. This led to the development and opening of Lake Cunningham Park and Almaden Lake Park among others.
  • 1987 – Camden Lifetime Activity Center opens and is the prototype for future PRNS Community Centers with a gym, exercise and activity rooms and athletic fields all on one site.
  • 1991 - Work began to develop and implement the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force (MGPTF). For over 25 years, this groundbreaking program, through the use of collaborative partnerships, has been providing gang prevention, gang intervention, and gang suppression services.
  • 1993 - the Department had expanded from 4 to 33 community centers and added a citywide service for therapeutic recreation and neighborhood revitalization efforts including code enforcement, graffiti abatement, and anti-litter programs
  • 2000 - A bond was approved by voters to improve parks and community centers and build new recreational sports facilities. The proceeds from this bond went towards several projects such as constructing trails; making improvements for the regional parks Almaden Lake, Emma Prusch, and Happy Hollow Park & Zoo; and renovations to the Almaden, Bascom, Camden, Mayfair, Roosevelt, and Seven Trees Community Centers.
  • 2009 - PRNS developed the Pricing and Revenue Policy. This policy, approved by the City Council in the 2009-2010 Adopted Budget, granted the City Manager or its designee the authority to set PRNS user fees previously outlined in the Fees and Charges resolution, thereby increasing PRNS’ ability to increase cost-recovery goals, ensure affordable access, and preserve existing services by decreasing PRNS’ dependence on the General Fund.
  • 2015 – The inaugural Viva CalleSJ event was held, closing down six-miles of San Jose’s busiest streets.  This collaborative event allows participants are encouraged to explore San José like never before by any form of non-motorized transportation. Bike, skate, walk, play – Open Streets San José!

Department Contacts


Angel Rios Jr.
(408) 793-5553

Matt Cano

Assistant Director
Matt Cano
(408) 535-3580


Acting Deputy Director,
Capital and Planning

Nicolle Burnham
(408) 793-5514

  Deputy Director,
Recreation & Community Services Division

Neil Rufino
(408) 535-3572

 jl.jpg Deputy Director,
Parks Division

Justin Long
(408) 793-5579


For general information, please call (408) 535-3570.