Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The Sierra Club announced its opposition Tuesday to Los Angeles County ballot Measure P, which would levy a $23 annual parcel tax to fund the development of open space, trails and neighborhood parks over the next 30 years.

It is estimated that, if passed, the Safe Neighborhood Parks, Gang Prevention, Youth/Senior Recreation, Beaches/Wildlife Protection Measure would generate $54 million annually.

Measure P “claims to be a parks protection measure, but has troubling provisions that do not support environmental justice or sufficient safeguards for genuine acquisition and protection of greatly-needed park and natural open spaces in one of the country’s most dense population areas,” the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter said in a statement announcing its stance.

The environmental organization objected to what it characterized as inequities in the tax and spending plans.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on Aug. 5 to put the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot as a replacement for Proposition A — the Los Angeles County Safe Neighborhood Parks propositions approved by voters in 1992 and 1996 and set to expire June 30, 2015, and 2019, respectively.

Those measures have raised more than $1 billion for parks, trails, open space, wildlife habitats and recreational facilities across the county.

Proponents say Measure P would provide safe parks, reduce gang activity by providing alternatives for at-risk youth, protect beaches, improve water quality in creeks, rivers and bays and fund the repair and maintenance of parks and recreation centers.

At the time of the board’s vote, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called for an increase in the amount set aside for underserved communities and doing away with a methodology that allocates monies equally across all five supervisorial districts.

Ridley-Thomas failed to garner support from his colleagues, but today the Sierra Club agreed, objecting to “park poor and economically disadvantaged communities not getting their fair share.”

The club also raised concerns about implementing a flat tax, an issue raised by Supervisor Michael Antonovich in August.

County lawyers said the formula once used to calculate assessments — under which property owners pay almost nothing for vacant lots and as much as $10,000 for major commercial properties– is no longer allowed under state law.

On average, property owners currently pay $13, so would be asked to pay $10 more. Both the existing and proposed measures offer exemptions for hardship.

The measure is backed by The Conservation Fund, the Los Angeles Parks Foundation, The Trust for Public Land, People for Parks and the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, among others.

Other Sierra Club concerns included a lack of specific parks and open spaces targeted for funding, the possibility that some dollars could be used for bulldozing and re-engineering open space areas, such as the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, or for administrative costs.

“Our message is strong and clear,” said George Watland, director of the Sierra Club chapter. “Vote ‘no’ on L.A. County ballot measure P.”

Watland said he looked forward to working with the county to craft a “better parks measure.”

Passage requires that two-thirds of voters approve the measure. If passed, it would take effect on July 1.

If it fails, the county will lose $52 million in annual funding for parks as of June 30. Absent a special election, it would be 2016 before a new measure could be proposed.

City News Service

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