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April 18, 2005
Council reconsiders parkland-housing link
REACTIONS MIXED TO FEES FOR OTHER RECREATIONAL USES
San Jose is 137 acres richer in parkland thanks to two city ordinances that for almost 20 years have required housing developers to either build parks or pay fees to the city to build them.
But park-poor San Jose now is considering changes to those laws that could allow home builders to pay for recreational uses other than parkland. Included are trails, dog runs, community and roof-top gardens, plazas and sports fields on school grounds.
While the proposed changes would give more flexibility to developers, the plans are getting mixed reactions from residents, officials and home builders.
The city council will discuss changes to the parkland ordinances at its evening session on Tuesday. A public hearing is expected on May 17, with a vote likely in June. The final vote also likely will include an increase in developers' fees.
For some San Jose residents such as Robert Solis, the non-parkland uses seem to be a good idea, but not for his park-starved Burbank/Del Monte area.
And in Berryessa, resident Kerri Hamilton questions money spent for trail development instead of parks. ``I don't think they should be used as a substitute for parks,'' she said.
In downtown San Jose, where open space is scarce, officials said it makes sense to allow such alternatives as roof-top gardens, plazas and streetscapes that would be open to the public. Developers also could spend money on non-public amenities such as swimming pools, spas and recreation rooms.
``In more urbanized areas, we have to think about recreational opportunities,'' said Councilman Chuck Reed, who supports some of these changes. ``I don't see us ever knocking down a bunch of houses to build a park.''
Beverley Bryant, executive director of the Southern Division of the Home Builders Association of Northern California, said her members support the flexibility proposed in the revisions.
``It's good that the city is looking at new alternatives,'' she said. But the group will look closely at a proposal to raise fees the developers pay to the city in lieu of dedicating land. ``Fees make houses more expensive, period,'' said Bryant.
When the city council first approved the Parkland Dedication and Park Impact ordinances in 1988 and 1992, it was a way to help the city's park system keep up with population growth. At the time, developers were charged a flat fee. But in 1998, that changed and developer fees were tied to land values.
The 1998 ordinance also mandated that developer fees be reviewed and adjusted each year based on land values.
But no adjustment has been made by the city since 2002, because of the sour economy, rising building costs, and an urgency to respond to a critical housing shortage. In 2002, fees were set at 70 percent of land value, meaning that the developer who pays fees instead of building a park pays 70 percent of what the land would cost if the city purchased the land for a park.
But San Jose, which has been facing budget deficits for several years, can't make up the 30 percent as it tries to keep up with development and population growth.
``The fees need to go up,'' said Reed, who represents Berryessa, North San Jose and Alviso.
``There's just no way we're ever going to have enough money to buy land to meet the standard that exists,'' said Scott Reese, the city's park development manager.
Helen Chapman, chairwoman of the parks and recreation commission, a citizens advisory board, agrees. ``We are behind and we've been behind for several years now.''
Her commission recommends the fees be adjusted to 85 percent of land value beginning July 1, and bumped to 100 percent of land value starting July 1, 2006.
There's no question that San Jose has a long way to go to provide park and recreational space for a growing population. Overall, the city needs 930.6 acres added to its 3,500-acre inventory of park space, according to the Greenprint, a comprehensive study of the city's parkland and recreational needs done in 2000.
Based on a goal of 3.5 acres per 1,000 people, all council districts except District 8 (Evergreen) will need more parkland by 2020, the report says.
Since 1989, $56 million has been collected to create 24 new city parks, including 15 parks in the works.
Only 22 acres have been purchased directly by the city, an expensive venture. A 27,000-square-foot park in the works at 6th and William streets, for example, cost the city $1.2 million, the price of buying three parcels from several owners.
The San Jose City Council will discuss parkland ordinances at its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday at City Hall, 801 N. First St. More information can be found at www.sanjose ca.gov/prns/ParkPlanning.htm.Posted by Coalition Webbies at April 18, 2005 04:11 PM