John P. Quimby, a former state assemblyman who helped create hundreds of California parks by writing legislation that allowed cities to require developers to donate land for recreational use, has died. He was 77.
Quimby, whose political career began in his early 20s when he was elected to the San Bernardino City Council, died Dec. 23 at a hospital near Sacramento of complications from pneumonia, his daughter Kimberly said.
Elected to the Assembly in 1962, Quimby represented parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties for 12 years. He later spent more than three decades working as a lobbyist for the two counties.
During his legislative tenure, Quimby, a Democrat, wrote the Farr-Quimby Act, which provided state funding for instructional television use in classrooms.
But his signature political achievement came in 1965.
That year, in the midst of a housing boom that was consuming much of the state’s green space, he wrote and passed the “Neighborhood Park Act,” legislation that was eventually renamed the Quimby Act. The landmark law allowed cities and local park agencies to require builders to donate up to five acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents expected to move into a new housing tract.
“I was really in love with neighborhood parks, with greenbelts and walkways,” Quimby told The Times in 2003. “I wanted to see little pocket parks set aside instead of being paved over.”
Born April 18, 1935, in Prescott, Ariz., Quimby moved to California with his family in 1941, later working as a television and radio announcer. He contracted polio when he was 12 and used a wheelchair in his later years.
Quimby, who had struggled with alcoholism for many years, remained active in political circles until 2011, when he retired from lobbying.
“He loved his time in the Legislature. He once said that it was in his blood,” his daughter said. “When he lost his election in the ‘70s, he got sober after that. Then he just lobbied for the rest of his life because he loved politics. That’s what he was made to do.”
In 1982, in a nod to his work and a rare honor for someone still living, the city of Los Angeles renamed a recreation area at Hart Street and De Soto Avenue in Canoga Park for the former lawmaker.
Although that was the only one formally named for him, his legacy also includes hundreds of unofficial “Quimby parks” across California.
In addition to his daughter Kimberly, Quimby is survived by his son John Jr.; stepdaughters Virginia and Mary George; stepson Kenny George; brother Merle; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.