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Wide Support Shown for Parks Issue

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A $319-million ballot measure to buy open space, improve parks and provide new recreation facilities across Los Angeles County won broad public support Thursday, but the Board of Supervisors delayed until Tuesday a final vote to place the parks issue on the November ballot.

Most speakers--from affluent suburbs to poor inner-city neighborhoods--backed the measure during a board hearing, but Chairman Mike Antonovich expressed reservations, saying residents of his sprawling district will pay more in higher taxes than they receive back in park facilities. “They are being shortchanged,” he said.

But Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who pressed hard for board approval, said the parks measure would improve the quality of life in Los Angeles, help keep young people out of gangs and provide a rich natural heritage for future generations. He said all county residents will benefit from $132 million in regional projects included in the package.

The bond measure is patterned after Proposition A, a $540-million parks measure that won support in November 1992 from 64% of county voters.

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The latest package was crafted by the Trust for Public Land, a national environmental group, to pay for a long list of park projects from county beaches to inner-city recreation facilities, from renovating the Hollywood Bowl and Los Angeles Zoo to building a greenway along the Los Angeles River and acquiring mountain and canyon lands.

Other areas that would benefit with new parks or significant improvements include Glendale, Agoura, Calabasas, Palmdale, Lancaster, Burbank and San Fernando.

“There is just a huge need,” said Esther Feldman, director of the trust’s Los Angeles office. She said the Los Angeles area lags far behind the national average for parkland and must expand recreational opportunities.

If approved by a majority vote, the measure would boost property taxes for an average homeowner by $6.76 a year, although the amount varies depending on the size of the property. Backers said an investment of little more than 50 cents a month for the average homeowner would be a bargain.

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“This measure enjoys broad-based support . . . and stands a good chance of succeeding,” Yaroslavsky said.

Antonovich, however, questioned why it does not provide his vast district, which takes in the northern and eastern reaches of the county, with more benefits.

Antonovich aide Dave Vannatta said that Antonovich believes that under the present proposal, the northern unincorporated portions of the county will contribute $5.4 million more than the benefits they will get in return.

“We were real frustrated today,” said Vannatta. “But hopefully we can work out a decent arrangement by next week.”

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After the hearing ended, Antonovich and Yaroslavsky met privately in an effort to resolve their differences before Tuesday’s board meeting.

The measure has the backing of more than three-quarters of the county’s 88 cities and an array of organizations, from senior citizen groups to chambers of commerce.

Speaker after speaker praised the measure, saying it would improve their communities and make the region more livable.

Opposition came from speakers concerned that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy would have too much control over funds to acquire land in ridges that ring the San Fernando Valley. And developer Jason Zink, a town councilman from the unincorporated Antelope Valley community of Littlerock, called the measure unfair to owners of larger properties.

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