A divided Los Angeles city panel recommended Wednesday that $3 million in bonds be issued to help purchase open space in Mandeville Canyon, despite claims by opponents that it is a bad use of money needed for inner-city parks.
The steering committee for the Proposition K park tax measure voted 2 to 1 to ask the City Council to approve the bonds to help purchase 239 acres from Police Commissioner Bert Boeckmann as part of a larger package of $32 million in bonds for six projects.
City Administrative Officer Keith Comrie, who chaired the panel, predicted a heated discussion when the issue reaches the City Council.
"It will be an interesting debate on the council floor," Comrie said. "I think, personally, they are good regional projects and it's a step in the right direction."
But Sermid Al Sarraf, legal liaison for the city engineer, voted against the proposal, citing questions about whether the Boeckmann property and an adjacent 1,500 acres known as Eastport are good buys for limited resources.
"We felt there were too many uncertainties with the two projects involved--physically, geologically and financially," Al Sarraf said.
Patricia Bell Hearst, past president of the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns., said Boeckmann's demand of $5 million for the property is too much, in part because it is too remote for many Los Angeles residents to easily use.
She also said there is no threat to losing the open space because the site is too unstable for Boeckmann to develop it. Boeckmann, however, has said he hopes to build homes on the property if he does not sell it.
The concern about its remoteness was voiced to the committee by Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg and Rodney Collins, representing Councilwoman Rita Walters.
Both councilwomen also object to spending $9 million to relocate the Children's Museum from downtown to Travel Town in Griffith Park, which Collins said is less accessible and would reduce open-space parkland.
"This is going to be very difficult for me to support in council," Goldberg said of the package.
She said it will be difficult to explain to residents of inner-city council districts that have fewer than 90 acres of parks why most of the regional grants should go to council districts with 500 acres of parks but fewer people.
"For areas starving for parks, it seems to me . . . this doesn't deal with the inequities that already exist but maybe further exacerbates them," Goldberg said.
She said only people with cars will be able to gain access to the Boeckmann property, and there is limited parking at the site.
But Joe Edmiston, president of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said the Boeckmann property is served by a bus line, the county has pledged land for a parking lot, and the conservancy plans to bring inner-city children to the site for mountain biking.
The proposed bond issue also includes $2.1 million for a child-care center at Victory Boulevard and Vineland Avenue in North Hollywood, $10 million for the zoo and $5 million for the Cabrillo Aquarium.
The steering committee recommended that all of the projects come up with at least a 20% match of funds from other sources.
Edmiston said the $3 million proposed by the city for purchasing open space in the Santa Monica Mountains falls short of the $5 million Boeckmann is asking for. An appraisal is pending.
"Obviously we would hope the property could be acquired for the amount the city has," Edmiston said. "If not, we would have to go to Sacramento to get some additional revenue."
Boeckmann indicated $3 million would not be enough for him to sell the property, which he said he would prefer to develop with homes.
He said Mayor Richard Riordan asked him to reduce the price from more than $7 million.
"It was with great reluctance that I agreed to take $5 million for a property worth three times that," he said Wednesday. "I would have no reason to accept less than that, since my preference is to develop it."
If no deal can be reached with Boeckmann, Edmiston said the full $3 million might go toward clearing title on the adjacent Eastport property.