Kate Cagle

Daily Press Staff Writer

Santa Monica voters will not see a parks bond on their November 2018 ballots after a survey by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research found locals happy with the current park landscape in the city.

Only 55 percent of those polled leaned toward ‘yes’ on a general obligation bond to fund park expansions and improvements after the pollsters told them the estimated property tax impact.

A super-majority of 66.67 percent is needed for a bond to pass.

“What makes it a challenge is the very success of the parks program that you have here,” said Paul Goodwin, founding partner at the firm at a recent City Council meeting.

“If you look at the polling numbers, it’s quite remarkable not only how much they approve and like and feel warm about their parks – but the way they feel it’s integrated into their lives.”

Goodwin said nearly 90 percent of respondents said they feel good about how close they live to a park.

Santa Monica averages about 1.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, which is well below the county average of 3.3 acres per 1,000 acres. However, the metric does not include the 245 acres of sand and trails at Santa Monica State Beach.

Overall, Goodwin says there is a lack of urgency when it comes to funding park expansions and improvements.

“It becomes quite a challenge to pass a bond with this level of support,” Goodwin said.

With that information in mind, the City Council voted 6-1 to hit the pause button on drafting a bond measure until 2020.

Mayor Pro-Tempore Gleam Davis and Councilmember Sue Himmelrich both noted the recent homeless population increase throughout the region may make the campaign for parks funding more difficult in the upcoming election.

In the meantime, several popular parks projects remain unfunded, including the 12-acre expansion of Airport Park. With a wish list that includes sports fields, community gardens and open space, the estimated cost to develop the available land is approximately $30 million, according to a recent report from the Community and Cultural Services Department.

The City cannot request bids from a contractor until a funding source is identified.

A three-acre expansion of Memorial Park has also been in the pipeline since the City bought the Fisher Lumber site in 2004. In 2016, Santa Monica voters passed Measure V, which included up to $20 million for Memorial Park improvements.

“While the $20 million in Measure V funding is significant, it is anticipated that additional funding will be needed over time to support a full upgrade and expansion of Memorial Park,” the report said.

With the desire for more funding in mind, director Karen Ginsberg said her staff would look at potential public partnerships to pay for park improvements.

“I think that’s the reality,” Ginsberg said. “Whether it’s palatable or not that’s the reality.”

Ginsberg’s team selected MIG Inc. to update the City’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan to guide development and funding for parks projects over the next few decades. MIG did master parks plans for Palo Alto, Irvine, Pittsburgh and San Jose.

“A comprehensive process is needed to ensure the plan is updated to align with the City’s dynamic urban landscape and evolving resident demographics,” the report said.

The $500,000 master plan will take about 18 months to complete with adoption anticipated for June 2019.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press