Less than two months after its passage, an ambitious project to buy and improve parks through fees levied against developers has been scaled back by the City Council.
The council voted to reduce developer fees by about 24%, cutting the budget for parkland acquisition and park improvement from $56.7 million to $43.3 million over the next decade. The reduced fees will save developers $830 on every new single-family house, for example.
With less money available, the council called off plans to acquire land for three new parks.
But the revised plans still would maintain the goal of providing 1.35 acres of park space and playgrounds for every 1,000 residents in the city by improving school grounds so they can serve as parks on nights and weekends.
City Parks Director Ralph Cryder said it is cheaper to convert school playgrounds for off-hours use as parks rather than buying developed parcels, demolishing buildings and relocating families to create a new park.
On Tuesday, the council lowered developer fees on a single-family home from $3,510 to $2,680; for each unit of a duplex, condominium or apartment from $2,712 to $2,070, and for mobile homes from $1,994 to $1,522. When approving the original fees in January, the council asked city staff to examine cheaper alternatives to meeting the goal of providing adequate park space.
Only Councilman Ray Grabinski voted against the reduced fees, warning that the change could hamper the city’s ability to purchase new parkland in the future.
Under the revised programs, proposed parks to serve the Franklin-Burbank and Wrigley neighborhoods in the central city were deleted to save a total of nearly $17 million, Cryder said. A proposed park in an unincorporated area of East Long Beach, north of Westminster Avenue and west of Studebaker Road, was also deleted.
But the council approved a $3-million increase to the $7.5 million previously allocated for a new downtown park in the green space adjoining the Long Beach Freeway near the Broadway off-ramp. Cryder said the freeway lanes will have to be relocated to increase accessibility to the park.
Four elementary school playgrounds were added to the program for dual use as weekend parks.
Mayor Ernie Kell said the revised plan will lower the cost of housing because developers will not have to pass the higher costs on to home purchasers or renters.
At the same time, he said, the city will work aggressively with the Long Beach Unified School District to open more school grounds on nights and weekends as parks.
Grabinski said he was opposed to the reduction because prices for land in the city are rising faster than the city could raise funds to buy such land. By cutting almost a quarter of the funds the city would have reaped, the council is sacrificing recreational opportunities for future generations, he said.