Audit Finds $129 Million in Unspent L.A. Parks Money

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It's not often that you stumble over $129 million, but that's what the Los Angeles City Controller found when she examined allocations for new parks. As KPCC's Special Correspondent Kitty Felde reports, city park officials say they'll find a way to spend the money.

Kitty Felde: For the last 33 years, developers of new homes in California have been required to pay a Quimby fee.

Mike Shull: The idea behind Quimby is, as development is happening, you need parks and open space around it.

Felde: Mike Shull is Superintendent of Planning and Development for L.A. city's Recreation and Parks Department.

Shull: So the intent is for that money to pay for either acquisition of new parks or renovation of existing parks.

Felde: An audit last month by L.A. City Controller Laura Chick found a lot of unspent Quimby money.

Laura Chick: We found $129 million kind of sitting there. Okay? Basically not much spoken for, no plan. No citywide plan, no council district by council district plan, and certainly no downtown plan.

Felde: Mike Shull of Rec and Parks says his department is developing a plan. His staff's already held over 20 meetings around the city, asking people what they want. But Shull says there aren't enough Quimby dollars to solve the city's growing need for open space.

Shull: We'd like to buy some parkland in the downtown area for the future, but we've just gotten to the point in the last 18 months to where there's enough money to do that.

Felde: City regulations require the department to spend Quimby dollars on parks within a mile or two of new housing. Downtown's share is $15 million. Shull says the city was looking at an acre and a half parcel. The price for the land, minus facilities, was $6 million. Add to that at least two million for demolition of existing buildings, environmental cleanup, and building the infrastructure needed for even a small park. L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents downtown, says there's another problem.

Jan Perry: We cannot use Quimby money for staffing and therein lies a very serious dilemma. We could build a park, but if we can't get someone to staff it and do the maintenance, we've got a problem.

Felde: The problem is worse this year given that the city budget is in the red. Councilwoman Perry says future projects are likely to rely on public/private partnerships where companies or non-profits supply personnel and programs. All three officials agree it's time the city reconsider the requirement that it spend Quimby money in the same neighborhood as new housing developments.