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County Seeks Bond for Parks, Recreation

June 19, 1996|TIMOTHY WILLIAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday asked voters in November to approve a $319-million bond measure designed to improve parks, buy open space and provide new recreational facilities, despite criticism that tax-weary voters will reject it.

The average homeowner would pay between $6 and $7 annually if the measure is approved by voters in this fall's general election. Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to place the bond proposal on the ballot, agreeing with arguments that the chance to create better parks and obtain more open space is vital to provide county residents with a better quality of life.

"It's not just for us, but for future generations," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who introduced and pushed hard for the measure. "It isn't about parks and open space, it's about doing something constructive."

The bond proposal, drafted by the environmental group Trust for Public Land, will pay for projects that include renovating the Hollywood Bowl and Los Angeles Zoo, acquiring property for a natural woodlands in Santa Clarita, making improvements in inner-city parks, building a greenbelt along the Los Angeles River, and acquiring mountain and canyon lands in the San Fernando Valley and other areas.

Supervisor Gloria Molina was the only board member to vote against the bond proposal.

"I am very concerned at the kind of message we are sending to the taxpayers of Los Angeles County," said Molina, citing a school bond issue on the November ballot. "Particularly with all these other tax measures facing people, I don't think the voters are going to support it.

"We don't have the money to incarcerate felons, but we have the money to maintain trails," Molina said, referring to the county's inability to open up the downtown Twin Towers jail. "We can't put the jail on the ballot, but we should be fighting for that opportunity instead of for this."

The proposal is patterned after 1992's Proposition A, a $540-million parks bond that won the approval of more than 64% of county voters.

Molina said the ballot is crowded, noting the Los Angeles Unified School District bond issue that seeks to boost taxes $75 annually for every $100,000 assessed valuation. Anti-tax sentiment is evident, Molina said, in the negative reaction to the Los Angeles Community College District, which recently imposed a tax without voter approval.

She said it was more important for the county to concentrate on providing constituents with health care than new parks.

"This is frankly a tax assessment for a nonessential service," she said. "The worst thing is, everybody is going to be doing it. . . . We need to put real essential services on track."

Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, however, said that parks were particularly important in highly populated urban areas like the district she represents.

"The inner cities need parks and open space," she said. "And those parks are used. For $6 all year, the whole family will have something they don't have in their backyard. Disneyland costs $35."

Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who opposed the measure last week, changed his mind Tuesday after Yaroslavsky agreed to shift an additional $5 million to areas of the 5th District.

"This will enhance our unincorporated areas in the north part of the county," he said.

At a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors last week, residents and public officials from across the county spoke in favor of the bond.

Jason Zink, a member of the town council in the unincorporated Antelope Valley community of Littlerock, said Tuesday he opposes the bond proposal because on average, property owners in unincorporated portions of the county would be charged higher assessments than homeowners elsewhere, because of the larger lot size in rural areas.

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