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Catching Up With... Quimby Fees

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, January 05, 2009, at 09:25AM
Pershing Square's Palm Court Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Pershing Square's Palm Court is slated for $150,000 in improvements to be funded by Quimby fees.

As we start 2009, we thought it useful to take a look at some of the important Downtown projects working their way through the system.

One of the biggest Downtown issues of 2007 muddled its way into 2008, as no real progress was made on using Quimby fees collected from condo developers to create new park facilities for Downtown. The new year saw an audit by the Controller's office and new status reports and meetings, but no new parks.

Latest Status: Work is happening on two fronts. A working group has been meeting at the Central City Association with the aim of clarifying available opportunities and visualizing population. Up at City Hall, Councilwoman Jan Perry this month introduced a motion that looks to make Quimby funds available for purchasing foreclosed property at auction.

Background: In 1975, the California Legislature passed the Quimby Act, which allowed local governments to pass laws requiring developers to set aside land or pay fees that would go to parks and open space. The monies were required to go to new park creation or capital projects, not to ongoing park operation.

Los Angeles' Quimby rules collect the fees only from condo developments, not from apartments. They also require that funds be spent within two miles of where they were collected.

2008 Accomplishments: In February, City Controller Laura Chick released her audit of the Quimby program. She found a lack of planning and oversight, overcharging of developers and a sluggish parks department that had built up a $129 million balance in the program.

In response, the Parks department promised to release quarterly reports on Quimby balances. As of today, only March and July reports appears on their site.

In March, the Planning department reported back on a motion by Councilwoman Janice Hahn asking what it would take to charge Quimby fees to apartments, not just sales. The department recommended a complete review of the conditions for open space fees.

In July, Councilwoman Perry introduced a motion requesting that General Services, Recreation and Parks and the Planning department report on potential park sites in the Historic Core. The motion was referred to Arts, Parks, Health and Aging, but hasn't been heard.

In October, the Parks Commission re-approved improvements for Pershing Square's Palm Court to be funded via Quimby. The $150,000 in improvements would bring new landscaping and irrigation for a neglected corner of the park.

The danger of a pot of money sitting around in poor financial times is that it becomes a convenient source to replace and free up less restricted funds. In December, Council requested the CAO's office report back on how Quimby fees could be used as a funding source for the department of Recreation and Parks.

At least there are some efforts to acquire real property. On December 12, Councilwoman Perry introduced a motion asking for authorization for Quimby fees to be used to buy foreclosed property at auction.

What's Next: There's a group currently meeting at the Central City Association's offices looking at available park sites Downtown. Reports from the meetings have talked of a focus on mapping available fees and population densities to help visualize where park space should be created. The meetings have not been open to the public, but have included representatives from Council District 9, Recreation and Parks, Community Redevelopment Agency and DLANC.

On Wednesday, Council's Audits and Government Efficiency commission will hear two motions on Quimby fees, including an update on the Controller's audit.


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