LA will charge more developers fees to build parks

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Could an influx of new park space be heading for woefully park poor Los Angeles? The City Council unanimously approved Wednesday a measure that could make that happen by charging park fees to more developers.

Councilman José Huizar, who led efforts in drafting the new ordinance, estimates the new fees could generate $30 million in additional funding for the city’s park system. That’d more than double the amount the city brings in now.

“Today is historic for all Angelenos, especially for the 2.5 million residents who are park-poor and suffer the serious health, social, and environmental consequences,” said Alina Bokde, director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust.

The measure is the first update to the city’s “Quimby Fees” system since 1985. Prior to Wednesday’s vote, these fees were applied to most residential development projects and brought in about $22 million yearly to pay for new parks and to maintain existing ones. Under the old system, most apartment developers were exempted from the fees. They could, for example, buy apartments, tear them down, and build new ones without paying. That will no longer be the case.

Developers will still be able to avoid the fees, if they incorporate park space into their projects or set aside units for affordable housing.

According to the Trust for Public Land, LA is a long way from nation-leading when it comes to park space. It’s tied for 65th in the organization’s annual ParkScore rankings. And though per-capita park spending increased markedly between 2014 and 2015, the city lost nearly 10,000 acres of total park space over the same period. Huizar said such neighborhoods as South Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Koreatown, and many parts of the San Fernando Valley desperately need more parks.

LA parks could be in for even more funding if county voters sign off on a one-and-a-half cent parcel tax this November. That measure could raise up to $94.5 million annually for the creation and upkeep of area parks.

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