Election 2014 FAQ: LA County Prop P looks to fund parks

L.A.'s Griffith Park is among those that could benefit from Prop P funding.
L.A.'s Griffith Park is among those that could benefit from Prop P funding.
flickr/creative commons

Proposition P is a measure put on the ballot by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.  It’s called the Safe Neighborhood Parks, Gang Prevention, Youth/Senior Recreation, Beaches/Wildlife Protection Measure. But essentially, the measure seeks to enact a parcel tax to acquire new parkland and maintain current parks in the county.  

It is the only county proposition on the ballot and requires a two-thirds vote for passage. 

Who's behind this ballot measure?

The Board voted to place this measure on the ballot by a 3-2 margin, with Michael Antonovich and Mark Ridley-Thomas voting against.

What would it do?

The measure would levy a flat parcel tax of $23 a year on every residential and commercial property in Los Angeles County.

The measure would provide about $54 million in funding annually for the next 30 years – a total of about $1.6 billion. 

The money would be used to acquire parkland, maintain existing parks and develop new projects across the county. 

It is touted as a continuation of funding from Proposition A, which was approved in 1992 and expires on June 30, 2015. Proposition A created the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District, which has funded about 1,500 projects, including the renovation of the Griffith Park Observatory and replacement of the Hollywood Bowl shell. 

How Prop P money will be spent, according to the sample ballot:

The allocation and associated purposes of the tax include, but are not limited to:

How is this different from existing laws?

The main difference is in how taxes would be collected.

Proposition A raised funds through a so-called “benefit assessment tax” that arrived at the tax each property paid based on a complex formula that includes property value, lot size and proximity to parks among other factors. 

The average amount paid by single-family residences has been $13 a year. Large property owners, such as commercial businesses, pay thousands annually. 

Proposition P has a different tax structure – a flat $23 parcel tax. Critics say that the new structure is regressive, increasing costs for low-income property owners while greatly reducing costs for wealthier ones. 

Other changes include an allocation of 10 percent of funding that would specifically go towards underserved communities.

Proposition A only required a majority of the vote. Because Proposition P would use a flat parcel tax, it must now receive two-thirds of the vote in order to pass. 

How much will it cost taxpayers?

Each property owner in the county will pay $23 a year for 30 years. That increases the current average annual amount paid by single-family homes by $10. 

The ballot measure does not impact another assessment passed in 1996 that provides $28 million annually to county parks. That measure, often referred to as “Baby Prop A” will expire in June 2019. 

How much money’s being spent on the campaigns?

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is managing the campaign for Proposition P. Tori Kjer, Los Angeles program director for TPL, said that on Measure P alone, the campaign expects to raise and spend more than $53,000. 

Kjer said that the campaign began in September. Outreach has included sending mailers and emails to targeted demographics based on polling. She said the campaign does not use commercial advertisements. 

Kjer said that additional money has been spent on another campaign for Propositions 1, 2 and P. That campaign expects to spend just over $125,000 by election day. 

No committees have been formed to oppose Proposition P, according to the county’s elections website. 

Who's supporting it and why?

Proponents say that the measure is necessary to continue providing more than $50 million a year for parks and recreation programs. If the measure does not pass, maintenance funding from the county will end after June 30. 

Supporters argue that the funding provides the benefits of gang-activity reduction, water protection and park maintenance. They say that failure to pass the measure this year will jeopardize the major funding stream for county parks. 

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey supports the measure as does the Los Angeles City Council. Financial contributors to the campaign include the California Conservation Campaign, architect Glen Dake, the Los Angeles Parks Foundation, and Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters. The Los Angeles News Group, which publishes the Daily News and the Long Beach Press Telegram, has issued editorials in support of it.

The Trust for Public Land financed polls in April and September and found that about two-thirds of respondents were likely to vote for the proposition. 

Who's opposing it and why?

Perhaps the biggest opponent is the local chapter of the Sierra Club. The environment group says the measure fails to specify which existing facilities and potential parkland it would fund. The group is especially concerned disadvantaged communities would be largely bypassed.  It also worries significant funds would be spent on buildings and administration and not open space. 

Other opponents include West Covina City Councilman Mike Spence, Pasadena City Councilman John J. Kennedy and realtor Melvin Wilson. The Los Angeles Times also issued an editorial against Proposition P. 

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas voted against placing the measure on the ballot, saying more funding should be allocated for underserved communities. 

Critics say that the measure was rushed to ballot and that not enough public input was collected. They say the flat parcel tax is unfair to low-income property owners and that more information is needed about the specific projects that would receive funding.

They also point to $134 million in unallocated Prop A funds that could potentially cover expenses until a new ballot measure could be written and included on a future ballot. 

… a YES vote means…

You approve of plans to assess an annual parcel tax of $23 on all residential and commercial properties in the county. That will provide $50 million in park funding each year for 30 years. 

… a NO vote means…

You reject the measure, which stops more than $50 million from being collected by the county annually. Funding for existing programs will be drawn down from $134 million in unallocated funds at a rate of about $55 million a year. Funding for maintenance on projects financed by Proposition A will stop after June 30, 2015.