Glendale Intends to Break Promise to Fund Deukmejian Park
“I’m still troubled by all the money being used up at Deukmejian. It’s just not fair.”
“Right now we have another $2.5 million parked in the Deukmejian account … this is $2.5 million that can be allocated for something else if we wanted to.” “Deukmejian, I’m sorry. I think we have to focus … on the downtown.”
These are actual statements made on the record by Glendale City Councilmembers in the last few months. What’s at stake here is the funding to finally finish the Le Mesnager stone barn in Deukmejian Wilderness Park as a nature education center and community room. The $2.5 million mentioned is money from “Development Impact Fees” that were already allocated by previous Councils to fund that completion. The current Council feels it is up for grabs for other projects.
What are Development Impact Fees? Development Impact Fees, DIFs for short, are funds collected from developers building in both north and south Glendale. The money is dedicated to creating and improving parks to mitigate all the monstrous huge apartments they’re building across Glendale. There is supposed to be a connection between where the development takes place and where the funds are spent. But funds can also be spent on projects that are regional in nature and benefit the entire community (like Deukmejian). Community input matters, too. There has been a huge spike in DIF money available for parks because of the frantic pace of building activity that seems to be a trademark of Glendale lately.
What to do with this newfound park money? “Let’s ask the community,” the Council said. They directed the Parks Dept. to hold a series of outreach meetings. In late 2015, meetings were held in south and central Glendale (none in North Glendale) where community members were asked to come and share their priorities for future park projects. The results of the meetings were presented to the Council on Dec. 8, 2015 as “Strategic Plan for Use of Development Impact Fees.” In the report, available online, under “What We Heard” the first entry reads: “Invest in citywide and regional assets – Deukmejian Nature Education Center, Rockhaven, and Riverwalk.” Comments throughout the survey supported creating a park at Rockhaven and finishing Deukmejian Nature Center. So what do you do when you get an answer you don’t like? You ignore it, of course. The Council put Rockhaven up for sale, and is proposing to defund the Deukmejian Nature Center
Deukmejian Wilderness Park has been one of the success stories of the Glendale Parks. It has become a regional attraction, and the parking lot fills up every weekend with people from all over Glendale and other cities. It has a volunteer corps unmatched by any other Glendale park. Community volunteers have planted hundreds of trees and built miles of hiking trails. It has docent-led educational hikes so popular that reservations are required. With the addition of a nature center, these volunteer and educational activities would have a central location to work from. As well, Glendale schools could have field trips there. Currently GUSD takes its nature education field trips to other cities, often Burbank, and as far away as Claremont.
Look, I get it – South Glendale needs parks. But North Glendale worked hard to maintain and expand the quality parks we have. Deukmejian Park, Oakmont 5 and Rockhaven were all purchased because we fought tenaciously for them. It’s unfair to take away all the resources we were promised and carry them south. There should be some balance.
Soon the Council will begin the budget process. Currently it appears the $2.5 million already allocated for Deukmejian will be re-directed to South Glendale, leaving exactly zero DIF dollars (out of a total of $27,000,000) allocated anywhere north of the Sports Complex. Please write an email to the City Council urging them to leave this money alone. Councilmembers Friedman and Devine so far support Deukmejian, but Gharpetian, Najarian and Sinanyan appear not to. Their email addresses can be found at www.glendaleca.gov/government/city-council.
First Rockhaven and now this? It appears Glendale’s new motto is “The City of Broken Promises.”