More than a dozen projects that would enhance local recreational spots or create new ones could be bankrolled by an ambitious countywide bond act being prepared for the November ballot.
A five-mile-long pedestrian waterfront walkway that would link Wilmington to San Pedro and a wetlands and wildlife preserve in Gardena are two projects tentatively slated to receive funds under the Los Angeles County Beaches, Wildlife and Park Land Conservation Act of 1990.
In all, the act would raise $750 million over a 20-year period to pay for scores of projects. All cities in the county would receive a share of the money based on their population. In some cases, cities would also get money for specific projects. The rest of the money would go to various public agencies, including the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
The measure is being prepared for the fall ballot by the Malibu-based Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority, a nonprofit public agency that provides park services. In addition to funding individual projects, the measure, which would require a two-thirds majority to pass, would also provide each city with money based on population.
It is uncertain whether the bond act will go before voters. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will decide by early August whether to put the measure on the ballot.
Supervisor Pete Schabarum has said he will not support it because he is concerned that the county may be incurring too much bond debt, according to a spokeswoman. The other four supervisors have yet to commit themselves. Three supervisors must approve a measure before it can be placed on the ballot.
Although 14 cities have endorsed the measure--including two in the South Bay--Palos Verdes Estates has denounced it, contending that residents of the affluent community would face a hefty increase in property taxes but receive little in return.
"I think it is a motherhood and apple pie kind of approach," Palos Verdes Estates City Manager James Hendrickson said. "But there is not a whole lot of attention paid to what it is going to cost people."
The conservation authority contends that the money raised by general obligation bonds would pay for needed renovations to recreational and cultural facilities throughout the county. The measure would also generate funds to acquire new parklands and wildlife habitats.
"The need . . . for repairing our beaches and protecting open space in this county is critical," said Esther Feldman, spokeswoman for the authority. "The population has grown tremendously in the last decade, and the funds have not been available to keep up with these needs.
"The needs in this county are so great that this bond measure will be a small dent."
Feldman said the money would be managed by county officials. The measure calls for $140 million to be divided among all cities in the county on a per-capita basis.
For instance, if a city has 5% of the county's population, it would get 5% of the $140 million. Under the formula, Torrance, with 142,200 residents, would receive about $2.3 million; Carson, with a population of 88,800, would receive about $1.4 million, and Palos Verdes Estates, with 15,000 residents, would receive $242,700.
Besides those funds, $153 million would be set aside for specific county beach, park and museum projects and for a pool of money for which local agencies would vie on a competitive basis. Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy would get $120 million for a variety of projects.
The remaining money, $337 million, would fund specific projects. To be eligible, projects would have to be non-controversial and have local political support. If a city wanted to buy land for a specific project, there must be a willing seller.
Feldman said members of the conservation authority are in the process of reviewing about 70 proposed projects with an estimated price tag of $483 million. The agency is whittling down the list and will soon make its recommendations, Feldman said.
She said 14 cities have endorsed the bond act, although more have submitted tentative projects that would be funded under it. One city backing the measure is Rolling Hills Estates.
City Manager Doug Pritchard said that unlike some other cities supporting the measure, Rolling Hills Estates does not have a project or projects planned that could be funded from the bond act.
However, he said the city hopes to receive $2.5 million to buy as-yet-unspecified property, perhaps to preserve as open space. He said the city has been working with the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy, a group formed to acquire and protect undeveloped land in the four peninsula cities and San Pedro, to identify possible sites.
Under the measure, the publicly owned Friendship Park is tentatively slated to receive $3.8 million for renovations and the development of a nature center.
In Hermosa Beach, council members last week voted 3 to 2 to adopt a resolution supporting the bond measure. City Manager Kevin Northcraft said the city could receive money to renovate the municipal pier and to help pay off the loan it took out to buy the 19-acre Hermosa Valley Greenbelt. By paying off the loan, the city could reduce its utility tax from 10% to 6%, he said.
Despite the benefits other cities see, Palos Verdes Estates officials believe that their city would be shortchanged.
City Manager Hendrickson said the city would receive $242,700 as its share of per-capita money but would receive no other funds. According to the city's calculations, a homeowner with a residence assessed at $500,000 would pay an additional $100 annually in property taxes for 20 years, he said.
Hendrickson added that the city believes that the measure is not specific enough with regard to how the $120 million for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy would be spent. He said the city is also concerned about overloading the ballot with bond measures. Next week, for example, voters will decide seven state bond issues.
"We are loading up the state and county ballots with a lot of bond issues, and we ought to be a little more discretionary and focused," Hendrickson said.
Feldman said the authority estimates that, based on an average assessed property value countywide of $125,000, individual property owners would pay $25 the first year. The amount would decrease in the second year and continue to decrease in subsequent years, she said.
In its literature, the authority says recent polls show that 76% of the county's voters would support a measure such as the one it is proposing. It points to the passage in 1988 of the state Wildlife, Coastal and Park Land Initiative. More than 70% of the county's voters approved the act, the authority said.
"We believe the voters should have the right to choose," Feldman said.
PROPOSALS FOR FUNDING UNDER BOND ACT
Gardena development of a wetlands $850,000 Hawthorne improvements to Sherman $500,000 Lodge at Hawthorne Youth Camp Hermosa Beach pier restoration and undetermined greenbelt acquisition Palos Verdes Peninsula improvements to South $10 million Coast Botanic Garden Rancho Palos Verdes acquisition of undesignated $15 million wildlife habitat and natural lands; improvements to Point Vincente Park Redondo Beach pier renovations and $5.2 million park development at King Harbor Rolling Hills Estates acquisition of undesignated $2.5 million wildlife habitat San Pedro renovations to and $6.2 million development of nature center at Friendship Park; improvements to Angels Gate and White Point parks Torrance habitat improvements to $840,000 and development of interpretive center at Madrona Marsh Wilmington, San Pedro construction of 5-mile- $2.7 million long waterfront walking trail from city limits to White Point in San Pedro and wildlife preserve
Projects and dollar amounts listed are tentative and could change substantially