Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsFixme

Valley Perspective

Palmdale's Pay-as-You-Go Plan

March 02, 1997

When California voters approved Proposition 218 last November, their message was simple: They were tired of special tax assessments that financed everything from parks and libraries to police and fire protection. The result, though, has been anything but simple: Cities and counties now must seek voter approval to maintain services many residents took for granted--or face lawsuits.

While communities up and down the state ponder whether their various levies would survive a court challenge, officials in the Antelope Valley city of Palmdale prefer to take no chances. Over the next several weeks, residents of nearly 200 subdivisions will be asked whether they want the city to continue maintaining the private landscaping that adorns their housing tracts. Palmdale's straightforward solution to a vague and complicated law gives voters the simple choice they asked for: They will only get as much city service as they are willing to pay for.

As it stands, subdivision residents belong to a special assessment district in which they are charged a flat fee to have the city maintain landscaping installed by developers--things like the strips of grass and trees that surround the walls of a tract. Total cost: About $3 million a year. But when Proposition 218 takes effect this summer, such assessment districts will be open to legal challenge. Palmdale has pledged to keep maintaining landscaping in median strips and other public areas at an annual cost of $700,000. But individual subdivisions will be on their own unless a two-thirds majority of responding property owners in each tract agrees to continue city landscaping service with the attendant fee.

City workers are tallying the costs for individual subdivisions. True to the intent of Proposition 218, Palmdale plans to assess property owners only for that amount of work actually done by city workers. Some residents in subdivisions with lush landscaping will pay more. Some residents will pay less. And it's up to residents of each tract whether they want to continue city maintenance--not an all or nothing proposition that affects the whole city. Postcards for voting will be sent out this month. The city vows to stop landscape maintenance of any subdivisions that reject the proposal, but residents are free to contract private gardening services.

Proposition 218 shifted the frustration of financing municipal government from residents to public officials, but the problem remains how to provide the kind of community people want at a price they are willing to pay. Palmdale's novel approach, however limited, confronts residents with the reality of keeping cities alive and livable: Nothing, not even the trees or the grass, comes without a price.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|