Obtaining the two-thirds vote required under California law for a property tax increase--even for something as popular as parks--has been exceedingly difficult. Except for some school construction bonds, virtually no local measure has been able to garner enough votes.
The city of San Diego learned this unfortunate lesson when it put two alternate bond measures on the 1987 ballot to raise funds for badly needed repairs in Balboa and Mission Bay parks. Even the lesser of the two failed, and it would have raised taxes by only $18.80 per $100,000 of a home's assessed valuation.
Given this difficult revenue roadblock, the city of Encinitas is either being foolish or brave this November by putting a $25-million park bond measure on the ballot. City leaders say they have decided to take the chance because there is so little open land available in the city, and if it is not preserved for parks now, there might not be another chance.
That sounds more like bravery than foolishness.
The measure, Proposition A, is designed to provide enough funds to purchase 150 acres and to develop some of the parkland. Repaying the bonds would cost property owners up to $55 a year per $100,000 of assessed valuation over 25 years.
Proposition A has a long list of supporters: the entire City Council, plus more than 2 dozen community groups. And there is no opposing argument on the ballot.
At one recent forum on Proposition A, questions challenging the opposition to put up or shut up were at least as prevalent as questions challenging the measure itself.
Opponents mostly object to paying higher taxes. And they say the city has not demonstrated the need for the parks.
A tax increase of $55 per $100,000 in assessed valuation seems a reasonable price to have a neighborhood park within a half-mile of home, a community park within 2 miles and a citywide park, as is planned. Most homeowners will probably easily recoup that when they sell their homes. As for the need argument, the city says it based its plan on the standards of the National Recreation and Parks Assn. for a city of 53,000.
But there is one argument that is disturbing. More than a few people are worried that having more parkland will attract more transients. Some even sound as if that concern might be strong enough to make them vote against the measure.
That would be a classic case of biting the nose to spite the face. Encinitas may have a problem with homeless and unemployed migrants. But voting against parks won't solve that problem, any more than closing down Balboa Park would solve San Diego's homeless problem.
We recommend a yes vote on Proposition A in Encinitas.