LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to put on the November ballot a measure that would add a one-and-a-half cent per square foot parcel tax on properties countywide to fund parks development and maintenance.
If approved by voters, the parcel tax is estimated to raise roughly $95 million annually. The annual tax bill for a 1,500-square-foot house would be $22.50.
The board’s vote was 3-1. Supervisor Hilda Solis said it was a small price to pay. “We’re not asking for a lot,” Solis said. “We’re being very cautious about the taxpayers.”
Supervisor Don Knabe voted against the measure because a sunset clause that would end the tax in 35 years was eliminated. Supervisor Michael Antonovich was absent for the vote.
The Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks, Open Space, Beaches, Rivers and Water Conservation Measure would replace funding under Proposition A passed more than 20 years ago. The last of that Proposition A funding is set to expire in 2019.
Solis pointed out that the new measure seeks to raise only about $10 million more than the original proposition.
In response to a comment by Solis that the parks tax amounts to less than one Starbucks latte each month, Knabe said voters would consider all the measures together. “(That’s) not just one latte, it’s an entire Starbucks franchise,” he said.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-authoried Solis’ motion, took a different perspective. “This is like walking into a Starbucks…and getting anything you want for free, forever,” Kuehl said. “Because the parks are free, the beaches are free.”
The parks assessment found that about 51 percent of county residents do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
The incidence of health problems like asthma, diabetes and heart disease is higher in park-poor communities, said Cynthia Harding, interim director of the county’s public health department.
“Our communities are in dire need of parks,” one single mother told the board, saying parks programs were critical for families who can’t afford private lessons and classes for their children.
The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations opposed the measure.
Chamber CEO Gary Toebben told the board that transportation and homelessness are the organization’s local priorities and that it wasn’t “strategic” to add another measure to a ballot expected to include 17 state propositions.
Toebben also objected to the fact that commercial property owners would pay nearly two-thirds of the total tax raised. “It’s pretty easy to have a cup of coffee when someone else is paying for it,” he told the board.
A representative for the Motion Picture Association of America warned the tax could impact future production decisions, saying it would amount to a five-fold increase over what its members currently pay.
In 2014, the board tried to replace Proposition A funding with Measure P, which fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage, with 62.8 percent in favor.