Opinion: Do Not Reduce Developer Fees for City Parks

BY ROSEMARIE BENITEZ RUGGIERI
SPECIAL TO THE NATOMAS BUZZ

rosemarieruggieri

Rosemarie Benitez Ruggieri resides in Natomas with her family.

On Sept. 5 the Parks Commission, including me voted unanimously to reject the Sacramento city staff’s recommendation to decrease the calculation for developers to pay Quimby fees from its current 5 acres per population to 3.5 acres in Natomas and most of the city and from 5 acres to 1.75 acres in the central city. It is clear however that the city staff plan to move forward with this plan. This move will allow developers to pay much less in park fees when they build their projects. This will mean millions of dollars less to develop and rehab our existing parks than what we were promised in our city. And will mean millions less to develop and rehab our existing parks when the levee moratorium lifts and building starts again in Natomas.

The North Area Community Workshop on the 2035 General Plan Update is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. tonight, Sept. 8 at at the South Natomas Community Center, 2921 Truxel Road. More info and a copy of the draft plan can be found here.

The decrease will not incentivize developers to bring projects to Sacramento. They are already coming and the decrease does not mean much to them. But it will make a huge difference to the residents of the City of Sacramento. In North Natomas, we currently have 7.4 acres per population. We love our parks and we still have more to develop and now rehab in our existing parks. This change will pass less Quimby fees at a rate of 3.5 acres per population – a huge difference. This is when we still need money to build neighborhood and community amenities at our parks such as Witter Ranch Park, North Natomas Regional Park, Egret Park, Magnolia Park, South Natomas Community Center’s park, Regency Park and so on. And city staff, whom I am convinced was asking for the public’s help in defeating this directive of change, said Thursday night that if this passes then it is very likely that the developers will then ask to change the other main park fee, Park Impact Fee, which is also currently calculated at 5 acres per population, to be consistent with this immediate change of the Quimby fee calculation.

In the inner/central city it will be devastating. This change will decrease the park acreage per population from 5 acres to 1.75 acres. Remember, developers pay Quimby fees in either $ or buying park land. They will likely never purchase park land separately because land downtown is already too costly for their requirement and is becoming too costly in other parts of the city. So this money is necessary to help rehab and develop the existing parks downtown and near downtown that already see tremendous use, such as Cesar Chavez park, McKinley Park, Southside Park and Land Park. City Parks has in the recent past had to close a park in North Sacramento because it needed rehab so badly that it was a danger for people to use the park. There are at least $30 million in big rehab projects that could use Quimby fees in existing parks and we cannot do anything currently because there are insufficient funds. So we do not want to lower the calculation for Quimby fees at this point at all. Especially when these high density residences are going to increase the use of the existing parks. We already have rehabbed Cesar Chavez park a few times because of its use and overuse.

Nice, liveable area communities continue to keep their acreage at 5 acres per population such as Davis, Folsom and Long Beach. Some other cities such as Roseville do not use Quimby at all. Other cities, such as Anaheim and Los Angeles, have lower acreage per population. What do we want City of Sacramento parks to look like now and in the future? This change also does not make park maintenance better at our parks. It only makes it worse for the city. Thank goodness Mayor Pro Tem Ashby and her staff found out that CFD3 funds were supposed to help support park maintenance in Natomas. With that, she made the cityreimburse Natomas to do overdue park maintenance and to restart regular increased park maintenance in Natomas. But the rest of the city does not have a CFD3 fund. Their park maintenance is still in bad shape. This change however makes it worse because it will give less money in Quimby fees that are allowed to do big rehab projects such as redoing outdated and inefficient and broken entire irrigation systems, etc.

Let’s be clear: we want development in Sacramento and we want great parks. These are not mutually exclusive concepts. Do not hurt our parks. Come up with different and more imaginative solutions.

So please come to the meeting Monday, Sept. 8 from 5:30-7 at the South Natomas Community Center and let your opinion be known. Please attend and write a comment specifically rejecting the city’s recommendation to decrease the park acreage per population for Quimby or any park fees. Please spread the word about this important meeting.


Rosemarie Benitez Ruggieri is a parent and resident of Natomas. She currently represents Natomas as District 1 Parks Commissioner and is a Friends of the North Natomas Regional Park member.