Politics

LA wants apartment builders to pay for parks

File: Construction of high-rise loft buildings near the then-in-development L.A. Live entertainment complex blocks away, next to the Staples Center sports arena, on Dec.15, 2006 in Los Angeles.
File: Construction of high-rise loft buildings near the then-in-development L.A. Live entertainment complex blocks away, next to the Staples Center sports arena, on Dec.15, 2006 in Los Angeles.
David McNew/Getty Images

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The Los Angeles City Planning Commission this week approved an overhaul of the city's Quimby and Finn fees, which, if approved by the city council, would require L.A. apartment developers to help pay for the construction of local parks.

As Los Angeles' high-rise residential building boom has ramped up, the builders of thousands of apartments have largely escaped paying the same park-building fees (often referred to as "Quimby fees"), which are typically charged on new houses and condos.

"The actual amount of funding was significantly one of the lowest levels in the state, and some categories were not covered by Quimbys," said David Ambroz, commission president.

Under the proposed overhaul, developers would be charged a $5000 park fee on each apartment unit they build.

As the city of Los Angeles becomes more dense, with more large-scale developments in the works, these park fees could mean the construction of many new parks for the new residents crowding big multi-family apartment buildings.

The disparity between what's charged of builders of single-family homes and those who build apartments comes from the way the Quimby and Finn fee laws were written, said Sr. City Planner Nick Maricich.

The Quimby fee was charged of new homes on subdivided land, so it was levied mostly on new houses and condos. The Finn fee (named for a former city council member) was charged of housing units built on property that had undergone a zone change. For example, if four single-home lots were combined and rezoned for apartments or condos, the fee would be charged on the net increase in residential units.

Since many of the big rental developments in downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, for example, have not required a zone change, the city's rules left most new apartment projects free of the park fees, Maricich said.

In addition to the proposed $5,000 park fee per new apartment unit, the Planning Commission also approved a $10,000 per unit fee on houses or condos built on subdivided land. The fees would be phased in over two years, Maricich said.

The commission is also recommending changing the geographic radius that determines where the park money can be spent.

Current rules require the money be spent on small neighborhood parks within one-half mile of the new housing unit. Under the proposed new rules, that would be extended to two miles.

The money could also go to medium-sized community parks within 5 miles, rather than the current two-mile radius of the new homes, Maricich said. Or the money could go to build regional parks within ten miles of new homes. Currently, for regional parks, there is no restriction on the distance it must be from the housing unit.

The commission also recommended that builders be able to get a 35 percent credit for their fee if they build private park space on their projects, or 100 percent credit if they build park space that is public. The proposal adds a requirement that builders confer with the city's planners early in their approval process to learn about the different options for paying fees, donating land, or building parks.