A recently published report that more than $12 million in fees collected from developers that are earmarked for park and recreational improvements in the 11th Council District has accumulated has some Westside activists and Neighborhood Council members seeking answers regarding the Los Angeles City Council’s plan for allocation of the funds, known as Quimby funds.
Residents in Mar Vista, Del Rey and Venice spoke with The Argonaut regarding their opinions on how the city government should disburse the Quimby funds and what they believe are the most pressing recreational needs of their respective neighborhoods.
A story in the Los Angeles Times last month detailed how much each council district has collected from these developer payments under the Quimby Act, which allows California cities and counties to charge developers a fee on their projects and use the funds collected for public parks.
There are reportedly over $12 million in Quimby funds that have been collected in Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s 11th District, which encompasses a large swath of the Westside.
Tom Ponton, the chair of the Mar Vista Community Council Recreation and Open Space Committee was unsure how the funds could be used, but feels that residents of each neighborhood should definitely be involved in where money for recreation is allocated.
“A steering committee or a citizens advisory committee could be created to look at how Quimby funds are used,” Ponton proposed. “That way, all of the burden is not on [the city Department of] Parks and Recreation.”
Rosendahl told The Argonaut that nearly all of the funds are earmarked for capital projects in his district, and he would be seeking input from neighborhood councils and residents of the various communities in his district to help determine what their respective recreational needs are.
“We’re trying to do as much as we can with the money that we have,” the councilman said.
Chris Nevil would like to see more parks on the Westside, especially in the Del Rey area.
“We are one of the most underrepresented areas of the city in terms of parks and open space,” said Nevil, president of the Del Rey Homeowners and Neighbors Association. “If money could be spent anywhere on park maintenance or a new park, I believe it should be in Del Rey.”
Glen Alla Park is the only city-owned recreation facility within the Del Rey boundaries, although residents there often use the parks in nearby Mar Vista.
Quimby funds are financial allocations that developers make in lieu of incorporating open space into a multi-unit development. They can only be spent within two miles of a development, and appropriations cannot be spent on programming or personnel.
The Quimby Act is the part of the Subdivision Map Act of 1975 passed by the California Legislature that allows counties and cities to require subdividers to dedicate land or pay in-lieu fees as a condition of approving a new subdivision.
To impose Quimby Act fees, the county or city must have a general plan or a specific plan that contains policies and standards for park facilities.
The Times story stated that Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks chief Jon Kirk Mukri admitted in a report released in October that his department is not equipped at present to track the developers fees.
“WhileÖ fee collections have grown rapidly, the department staff and infrastructure for the proper accounting, tracking and distribution of these funds has never been acquired,” Mukri wrote.
Venice residents and recreation advocates have their own ideas about the use of the fees donated by developers. Linda Lucks, newly sworn-in vice president of the Venice Neighborhood Council and the current chair of its Ocean Front Walk Committee, would like to see improvements along the popular Ocean Front Walk, a longtime haven for tourists.
“Our understanding is that some of the money has been already allocated for a skateboard park along Ocean Front,” Lucks said during a telephone interview. “Hopefully, there will be money allocated to fix the restrooms near Rose Avenue, which are non-functional,” she said.
Rosendahl said that the skate park planned for Ocean Front Walk was one of four or five such parks that he would like to see get built in the near future.
“We hope to see the skate park for Ocean Front Walk finished by the middle of next year,” Rosendahl confirmed. “In addition to Venice, we are looking at building one at Stoner Park, the Mar Vista Recreation Center and at Westchester Recreation Center.”
Carolyn RÌos, a Venice Neighborhood Council community officer, is a fan of community gardens, which was one project that was discussed at a recent meeting of the Oakwood Park Advisory Committee.
“There was also discussion of purchasing some land in Venice to create pocket parks,” she added.
Sharon Commins of Mar Vista also thinks that pocket parks can be added to the Westside’s green space component. “We have identified a number of areas that would be good for pocket parks,” she said.
Developers have complained about the amount of money collected in the various council districts and the lack of green space that has been created. Tom Gilmore, who has been involved in developing apartments and lofts for the last decade, was dismayed to hear that Mukri’s department has not been able to track and distribute these fees for open space.
“I’m not complaining about paying the fees; I’m just saying, ‘Show me some results,'” Gilmore said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Rosendahl acknowledged that the Department of Recreation and Parks has not been able to keep accurate records of the Quimby funds, but he said there is a new computer system that will be implemented that will improve the method of how the city manages the fees.
“Rec and Parks has had difficulty adequately tracking money in real time,” Rosendahl said. “[The new computer system] should help alleviate that problem.”
Rosendahl realizes that there is a great need for open space in most of the communities that he represents, but prior to making any final decisions, he emphasized that he feels that gathering community input is essential.
“I want to get the community wrapped around [new capital projects] before we spend any money,” the councilman reiterated.
Calls for comment on this story to the Department of Recreation and Parks were directed to Gilbert Duran and Janelle Erickson, press secretaries for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Neither Duran nor Erickson had returned phone calls as The Argonaut went to press.