City Council votes to increase funding for parks and open space in Los Angeles

by Council District 14 ( on September 12, 2016
Echo Park and Los Angeles Skyline

The Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0 to approve a new ordinance spearheaded by Councilmember Huizar updating the City’s archaic development fees program for the first time in more than three decades in order to increase funding for parks and open space in park-poor Los Angeles and address inequities in distribution of those funds, particularly in low-income communities.

Huizar estimates the new ordinance could add as much as $30 million annually to the City’s new parks and park improvement program. Currently, about $22 million a year is generated through the old program.

“It's been 31 years since we've updated our parks development fees in park-poor Los Angeles,” said Councilmember Huizar. “Reform is needed to increase funding for parks Citywide, adjust standards so that more green space gets built, and create incentives for developers to build parks on-site. As the 2nd largest City in the U.S., Los Angeles should be leading the nation in prioritizing greenspace so that all children and families have access to good, safe, quality parks.”

Councilmember Huizar restarted the discussion on Quimby reform to update the City’s development fees program and increase park space Citywide through a motion he introduced and as the Chair of the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee where he helped shape the City’s recommendations. Supported by Parks For All, a coalition of 68 community organizations, the new ordinance will significantly enhance Recreation and Parks’ ability to build facilities, such as aquatic centers, synthetic soccer fields, recreational facilities, world-class playground structures, and to acquire parkland to be dedicated in perpetuity for the public’s use.

Fees levied on residential developments, collectively known as “Quimby fees,” were established in 1971 as a way to mitigate negative impacts on communities and add park space for residents as new development is built. It was last updated in 1985. The proposed reforms promise more funding for parks, updated credits for developers who build recreational facilities on-site, and specific exemptions for affordable housing development. It also adds “by-right” apartment development to the already established condominium development funding, which is consistent with cities throughout the region. Through the years, lack of apartment development Quimby fees has meant hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for City parks were lost.

The City Council’s action follows decades of demand for Quimby reform, three years of study and public debate, and is an important first step to addressing the chronic underfunding of the City’s park system. Los Angeles is in desperate need of more parks and green space, particularly in neighborhoods like South Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Koreatown, and many parts of the San Fernando Valley. According to the nationally-recognized ParkScore rankings, the Los Angeles city park system currently ranks 65th among the 100 largest U.S. cities, placing it far behind nearby communities, including Long Beach, San Diego, and Irvine. The proposed reforms are critical to investing in parks and ensuring park access for all.

To see LA Neighborhood Land Trust 2014 Study, click here.