SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – The County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve a Parkland Acquisition Plan that maintains the historical practice of using Park Charter Funds for the purchase and expansion of regional parklands. The Board also directed staff to work with local officials to acquire land entitlements that would facilitate links to the regional system of trails envisioned within the Countywide Trails Master Plan.
“Our current policies allow us flexibility to make acquisitions in the both the rural and urban areas. The key for the Park Charter is that projects are intended to have countywide significance. We have a long history of leveraging our park lands to develop projects that benefit all our residents,” said Supervisor Mike Wasserman. “We can pursue these options without amending the General Plan or changing what the voters passed.”
In April 2012, the Department of Parks and Recreation presented a report and made three primary recommendations to the Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee (HLUET) after the Board of Supervisors directed staff to prepare a report on the development of a formalized acquisition program to address urban and suburban park needs:
1. Enhancing the County’s leadership role in support of urban trails
2. Enhancing the coordination with cities to address urban parks needs, and
3. Addressing park needs in the large unincorporated islands of Alum Rock and Burbank
At issue was whether to allocate funds for neighborhood serving parks in park deficient urban areas, in addition to existing regional parks.
“Bringing parks to our underserved neighborhoods is something I feel very passionate and personal about,” said President George Shirakawa, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, who preferred more flexibility to develop parks in neighborhoods. “It is not a matter of regional significance, for those in the inner-city. It is a matter of life and death with the high prevalence of diabetes and other health problems. We have an opportunity to do something about this by providing parks in these areas.”
Following the Board’s direction today, the County will focus on completing the Countywide Trails Master Plan, which calls for 170 miles of trails within the urban service area. To date, 75 miles of the trails have been completed. A planner will be reassigned to focus on trails planning. The County will work with cities to plan for acquisition of properties to achieve their park goals, which may be adjacent to regional and sub-regional trailhead access. The County also will seek partnership with schools and the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
“The question of regional significance is absolutely paramount in keeping our agreements with voters,” said Supervisor Liz Kniss. “We should focus on connectivity for the trail system. Under the option approved by the Board all five Supervisorial Districts that have land within or near unincorporated pockets will be treated equally.”
The County also will formalize its urban partnership by ensuring that cities are aware of opportunities to work collaboratively and reaching out to the 15 cities and park directors, annually and on an ongoing basis. One example of where this has been successful is the County’s work with San Jose towards the future development of Three Creeks Trail.
“Prioritizing the search for property to be developed into trails within or near unincorporated islands satisfies what we are trying to achieve – enhancing the connectivity of the countywide trails system and its linkage to our regional parks,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager. “At the same time, we keep our commitment to the voters.”
The County will identify properties owned by public entities within or in close proximity to unincorporated islands where expansion may provide facilities of countywide significance as well as direct services to residents living in those areas. Parks that are isolated and not connected to a regional trail access would not be considered.
“There may be properties in the urban areas that would offer the potential to link to trails that are not immediately obvious,” said Supervisor Dave Cortese. “My hope is that by working with local officials we will be able to work through the issues and not preclude these without thorough exploration and analysis.”
In March 2011, The Board accepted the results of the September 2012 Board of Supervisors Study Session which identified the County’s role has been primarily focused on acquisition of regional parks and trails, often through partnership with other entities that provide ongoing operations and maintenance of these facilities in providing a spectrum of urban park, open space and regional parks throughout the County. The Department of Parks and Recreation’s contribution to this partnership effort has been made possible through voter support of the Park Charter Fund which was first enacted in 1972 and later was renewed six times, allocates a percentage of the Department’s budget to land acquisition. Most recently renewed in 2006, the Charter sets aside 15% of annual allocations for real property acquisition.
The Board of Supervisors adopted the Parkland Acquisition Policy in 1993 that has been used by the Department of Parks and Recreation to evaluate possible acquisitions:
• Expansion of an Existing County Park
• Trail Connectivity
• Establishing a new General Plan-identified Park
• Consistency with an Adopted Plan
• Funding Availability, and
• Location within the Unincorporated County
Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Shirley Zackor, Office of Public Affairs (408) 299-5119
Posted: August 22, 2012