By George Pardon
On May 24, the Cypress City Council held a workshop to discuss the possible funding sources that should be pursued to maintain Lexington Park which is the nearly completed park at the corner of Cerritos Ave and Lexington Dr. It was reported in the workshop that the City needs $350,000 each year to cover the maintenance costs for the park. The $350,000 is made up of two components: $223,000 for operations and $127,000 to fund a reserve for future replacement/rehabilitation costs. As such, the city needs to seek a significant amount of revenue for ‘at market’ uses.
It is evident from the chart shown during the workshop that a significant portion of the use is being programmed for Market Use. The City Manager describes the park as a ‘Brand new, first class, super well designed amenity in an area that doesn’t have amenities like that.’ The City Manager went on to say: ‘We live in a world where recreation users are willing to spend money in exchange for value.’ The City Manager did say that the community will have access to the walking path, exercise equipment, and the playground. It was also noted that the community could reserve the picnic pavilions for a fee.
Mayor Peat made the point that ‘We are building a really fantastic asset and that’s what we should be charging for.’ When the question was raised as to whether or not the City should charge for parking, Mayor Peat said: ‘We are building a pristine asset, charge them for the use of the asset, not the parking.’
While I know that AYSO was a strong supporter of this park having the two soccer fields, it was stated that AYSO will continue to play most of its games at Lexington Junior High. The City Manager indicated that the later hours (7pm to 10pm) at the new park are being allocated to Market Use, not because ACUAF shouldn’t be out there, but because ACUAF should be asleep. ACUAF is the Advisory Committee on Use of Athletic Facilities. ACUAF makes recommendations for the use of fields for the youth leagues. The City Manager went on to say: ‘We dream of a world where there is a professional or collegiate soccer or lacrosse team that is a regular presence during the weekday to practice or train.’
Council Member Morales pointed out that if his family wanted to reserve a field, he would have to pay for it. He made that point in case someone wanted to say that city tax dollars are supporting a for profit event. He said that we already do that. The point that he doesn’t make is that there is a big difference between use by Cypress residents and the use by entities outside our city. The implications on noise and traffic by programs that come from outside of our city will be significantly greater than any use by our residents especially since the Market use is at night.
The city indicated that it is unlikely that there will be enough funds to maintain this park from the park portion of the property taxes generated at such time that the race course property is developed. Council Member Marquez was the only one to ask this very important question: ‘Was there any planning before all this started to think about these costs?’ The response she received was that they have been thinking about these costs since day one. One has to wonder why the City Council would sign a contract to build a very expensive park without having a funding plan to maintain it. Is it wise to buy anything when you don’t know if you can afford to maintain it?
The City Manager stated that the General Fund loaned the funds to Recreation and Community Services to build Lexington Park in anticipation of the loan being repaid from park fees paid when the race course property is developed. The earlier point made during the workshop was to charge Market users for operating costs, not development costs. It is very doubtful that this park would have cost what it is costing had it been developed as a community park with more passive space rather a ‘Brand new, first class, super well designed amenity’ as described by the City Manager. It also probably wouldn’t have necessitated so much night time Market use which will clearly be disruptive to adjacent neighborhoods. As such, one can conclude that the incremental costs to build the amenities for Market use are included in the loan that the General Fund made to Recreation and Community Services. Therefore any park fees paid by residential developers will be used to pay off the loan. It is important to remember that any fees paid by a developer are included in the price of a new home which means that anyone purchasing a newly constructed home in Cypress will be paying the development costs of this park including the costs related to Market use.
Another point that wasn’t discussed is: What will happen if the developer of the race course provides a built out park when the residential area is constructed? The park fee that the city charges is when a developer doesn’t provide new park space for residential development. State law gives a developer the option of providing a built out park or paying the park fee. If a built out park is provided, there won’t be any funds available to repay the General Fund for the loan made to build Lexington Park. Who will pay off the loan if park fees aren’t paid by the developer?
With the construction of the park nearing completion, the lights have been put in place. These lights have been estimated to be about 80 feet tall. While clearly little consideration was given to the residents across Cerritos Ave, absolutely no consideration was given to the Senior Housing that is one of the planned uses of the property surrounding the park at such time that the race course closes.
Since the City doesn’t post links to their workshops, you will need to ask the City Clerk to send you a copy to download via Dropbox. The workshop is an hour and twenty minutes long. After listening to the workshop, you can decide for yourself if this is a community park or a business enterprise.
Note: George Pardon is the founder and Director the advocacy group Citizens for the Responsible Development of Cypress.