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$776-Million City Parks Measure Passes--Barely

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A measure that will raise $776 million over 30 years to refurbish city parks formally squeaked by Tuesday with a bare majority of voters approving it.

For weeks, Measure K drifted in limbo while the Los Angeles County registrar’s office tallied absentee and provisional ballots that determined the outcome of a number of close local races.

On Tuesday, the ballot measure was declared a winner as it inched ahead to victory with 50.19% of the vote.

When the polls closed three weeks ago, Measure K was 6,271 votes ahead, with 51% of the ballots. But during the early counts of absentee ballots, that number slipped as low as 50.08%. On Tuesday the final tally was 366,446 votes in favor, or 2,814 votes ahead.

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“This is a great victory for the children of Los Angeles,” said Steven Soboroff, president of the city Recreation and Parks Commission. “We’re going to continue on and make these improvements in a timely and efficient manner.”

The city parks measure will fund hundreds of projects from after-school child care to soccer fields. It will cost the average homeowner $18.75 a year. Landlords of three-story office buildings will pay $161.42.

The campaign for Measure K was funded with only $65,000, said City Councilman Mike Hernandez, who spearheaded the measure. It took a backseat to the better-financed Los Angeles County parks measure, Proposition K, which won easily and will provide funds for the city’s larger parks.

Hernandez supported Measure K, which targets neighborhood parks, because it provides inner-city districts with a way to raise funds. Many inner-city areas receive little money from developers, who are required to set aside 1% of their project money for parks and open spaces. Hernandez said his inner-city district, which covers the Pico-Union and Lincoln Heights areas, receives only one-eighth of 1% of the city’s developer fees.

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“There are just no parks in this area,” he said, adding that children are more tempted to join gangs when they have no place to play soccer, basketball and baseball. “The reality is the next 30 years will be better.”

Opponents of Measure K objected to the fee property owners would have to pay for services they wouldn’t necessarily enjoy.

“It was trickery, and I don’t think it was the right thing to do,” said Councilman Nate Holden, who opposed the measure. “I would say once again the people are paying for something they won’t get.”

The city Recreation and Parks Department hasn’t decided which projects will be funded first because the City Council has to decide which city department will administer the funds, said Ann Kerman, director of resource development for the parks department.

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