Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to spend $3.5 million on a comprehensive analysis of county parks, hiking trails and wildlife sanctuaries to identify underserved communities and prioritize spending on existing and new parks projects.

“This effort has never been done before and it is much needed,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Parks and recreational facilities can enhance and even transform neighborhoods.”

Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Michael Antonovich said the analysis could make a case for asking voters to approve a new parcel tax to fund parks and open space development.

Last August, Ridley-Thomas and Antonovich unsuccessfully voted against putting Measure P on the November ballot. The measure, which narrowly failed to garner the necessary two-thirds majority for approval, would have generated an estimated $54 million annually for parks.

That money would have replaced dollars generated by a similar tax approved in 1992 as Proposition A, which is set to expire in June.

During the August debate, Ridley-Thomas argued that not enough money was set aside for neighborhoods with few existing parks. When he failed to muster support for a proposal to raise the allocation for underserved communities from 10 to 20 percent, he voted against putting the measure on the ballot at all.

At the time, Antonovich objected to the $23-per-parcel flat tax in the measure.

Both concerns were picked up by the local chapter of the Sierra Club, which came out in opposition to Measure P, despite its backing by several other environmental groups.

Today, Antonovich said: “Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and I opposed the proposition on the ballot because there was money available,” adding that the analysis would provide a bottom-up rather than a top-down allocation of funds. “So when we do go before voters, we have a menu of what they will be seeing.”

The first opportunity for a ballot measure would be in 2016.

An administrator from the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District told the board that $140 million in Proposition A funds remains unallocated. She expects those dollars to be spent in full within three years.

Supervisor Hilda Solis said community outreach would be an important part of the analysis and echoed concerns about underserved communities.

“There are cities in the district that don’t even have pools for children to swim in,” she said, citing a study that found that 60 percent of Latino children under the age of 12 don’t know how to swim.

The analysis is expected to take roughly 16 months to complete.

City News Service

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