At the CD 9 Quimby Fees Committee meeting today, it was announced that the parking lots on the east side of Spring Street between the El Dorado condos under construction and the just finished Rowan condos will no longer be the site of a hotel - but will instead become.. a park.
The city has just negotiated a price of $5,600,000 for the 36,518 foot site - which comes out to about $157 a foot - with a proposed closing date by the end of March. This still has to go to council for approval, but with Jan Perry's support, a willing seller and unanimous community approval at the meeting, this should be a no brainer.
This first ever acquisition of parkland downtown by the controversial Quimby fee program is a result of actions taken many years ago by the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. After I introduced a motion at our Transportation and Public Works Committee asking.... What the hell was happening to your Quimby fees? - first that committee and now our Parks Committee has been asking that question non-stop. Jan Perry also quickly picked up the issue and for the past few years, she has been a strong advocate for us on this.
And for those not following the story, Quimby fees are in lieu fees paid by developers of single family home subdivisions or condo projects upon the recordation of their track maps. That money is then to be used to either buy new parkland - or improve existing park spaces. Their other option is the dedication of park space from the project which is commonly done in large subdivisions, but which is not feasible with most condo projects.
Our problem, though, was no one knew how much of that money had been spent - and no one seemed to know how much of that money was left. The skyrocketing prices of land Downtown also made it hard to either find a willing seller - or a seller willing to sell at a price the city could justify. And since the city can only what a property is actually worth - with no recent comps in the current down market, it was hard to justify any of the current asking prices for unimproved land. This new comp, though, will make it easier to negotiate other purchases.
The next steps are for the Recreation and Parks Department to get the necessary sign-offs on the purchase from the City while also looking for possible matching funds for the purchase (which will be unlikely to to the shortness of the escrow) and matching funds for the actual development of the park, a more likely possibility.
There will then be a series of public meetings so the community can have input on the uses and design of the park - and there will also need to be a business plan developed to maintain the park since Rec and Parks does not have the budget to maintain existing parks, much less new parks.
Among the possibilities discussed at this morning's meeting was a Mellos-Roos benefit assessment district where adjacent property owners will pay for part of the maintenance, a underground parking garage (and the new ones are a lot better looking than the Pershing Square disaster), and a restaurant whose rent would help cover maintaining the park as well as providing security for the park.
Among the uses very briefly discussed were recreation facilities for the growing number of toddlers in the community, a dog park, movie screenings on the blank wall of the Rowan Building and arts events to be held in conjunction with the Art Walk and Gallery Row.
This park will also complement the neighboring Gilmore developed properties by protecting the views from both the Rowan and the El Dorado - plus it should considerably help the sales on the February 8th action of just under half of the Rowan's units. Not only will many of the units have better protected views - but the entire complex will have direct access to a new park.
Lastly, among the other things that still need to be worked out is how this park will relate to both the easement driveway next to the El Dorado which provides access from Spring Street to the Gilmore garage on Main Street and how the park will interact with Harlem Alley on the eastern rear side of the property. There is a possibly that Harlem alley could be largely or partly converted to a pedestrian walkway with shops and cafes added to the already existing Lost Souls Cafe.