Untapped Fund Could Bring Parks to Los Feliz
The Los Feliz Neighborhood Council (LFNC) declared in January its intent to “call dibs,” as LFNC Recreation Committee Chair Mark Mauceri put it, on a portion of the so-called Parks First Trust Fund, an as-yet-untapped city account of over $1.3 million in fees paid by developers specifically for the creation of pocket parks.
Per a 2001 city ordinance, residential developers wishing to build in the Vermont/Western Station Neighborhood Area Plan (SNAP) district—an approximately 2.2 square mile area defined by its density and proximity to public transit, which includes parts of Los Feliz along with East and West Hollywood—must contribute $4,300 per housing unit to the fund before they can receive a building permit.
The fund currently sits at just over $1.35 million but has gone virtually unspent for more than 15 years, save for one 2011 allocation that has yet to be disbursed, according to public records.
According to the city’s Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso, that’s because the fund was not large enough to tap until about five years ago.
“There wasn’t a lot of housing being built during the recession, and now there are a lot of more high-density projects being built all over the place,” said Tso.
According to public records, $984,542 was earmarked for use from the fund in 2011 for a community garden in East Hollywood.
That garden has been delayed repeatedly, as the construction bid process, according to public records, took “significantly longer than planned.”
David Moss, a senior analyst with the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, said that money should finally be spent “within the next six months,” though plenty of money will still be available for other projects.
“There’s still money left over,” Moss said, “and there’s still money that’s coming into the account.”
An additional $800,000 is expected to go into the fund from City Lights—a controversial apartment and retail complex at the six-point intersection of Hillhurst Avenue and Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, set to break ground this year.
Although the funds can be spent anywhere within the SNAP district, the LFNC made it clear in a January 17th letter to the city that they want Los Feliz to get a piece of the Parks First pie.
“With over 36,000 resident stakeholders, Los Feliz by comparison is larger in population that West Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Laguna Beach, yet we have no community centers…nor any playgrounds, parks or parklets outside of the regional Griffith Park,” the letter reads.
Additionally, members of the board claimed Los Feliz has been unfairly penalized for its proximity to Griffith Park, which offers significant golf, tennis and equestrian amenities, but few playgrounds or sports fields—a problem some said could finally be remedied through the Parks First fund.
“Now’s the time to ask the question, ‘What can we do with this money?’… 10 years of not spending money is 10 years too long in a park-poor city,” said Recreation Committee Chair Mauceri at the LFNC’s January meeting, referring to the fund’s creation date in 2001 and its first allocation in 2011.
Area parents, too, have noted a lack of accessible playgrounds in the area, some citing the difficulty of pushing strollers uphill to access Griffith or Barnsdall Art parks.
“Griffith Park is wonderful, but it’s really a regional facility. What we’re missing is somewhere we can walk to and meet our neighbors,” said Rebecca Kalauskas of the Moms Offering Moms Support (MOMS) Club of Los Feliz in an interview. “There aren’t many options that are safe for little kids to run around.”
Looking ahead, Kalauskas said, while the MOMS Club has been scouting potential local pocket park locations if the area does receive the funding, finding a central—and more importantly available—location has proved difficult.
“The challenge is really finding the space, because this is such a developed area and property values are very high,” she said. “We’ve been talking to property owners to gauge interest, and we have a few ideas, but nothing promising at the moment.”