Developer seeks to appeal park fee that helps develop green space in marginalized communities

At the top of the City Council’s agenda for next week’s meeting is an item that would have implications for the way in which parks are funded throughout the city.

Lennar, the developer behind many properties in Long Beach, including its most recent construction of Oceanaire just a bit west of Pine Avenue at Ocean Boulevard, is seeking to avoid paying a $498,000 Park and Recreation facilities fee—and city staff is asking the council to deny their request.

The fee has not only been part of our code since 1989 but is a crucial component to how other parks in far more marginalized areas get much needed access to green space.

Of course, developers can negotiate rather than pay the fee, as did Irvine-based developer Brandywine Homes and Integral Communities, the groups behind the suburban Riverwalk development: Instead of paying the fee, they constructed Molina Park.

Lennar, however, wants to pay and do absolutely nothing, avoiding the nearly half-million dollar fee and excusing themselves from building another park because they have already spent money on improving their portion of the Victory Park.

“The improvements to Victory Park and development of the new dog and fitness park will cost Lennar approximately $976,000—an amount that is greater than the amount of the proposed park fee,” stated Lennar’s attorney, Michael Tidus.

Of course, Victory Park—the small stretch of lawn that sits on the south side of Ocean Boulevard in front of its southern tenants—mainly serves their residents and acts as a sales booster to lease the new apartments. Additionally, the Aqua condominium towers in Downtown, for example, paid over $575,000 as part of its required fee to parks when it was completed over a decade ago as well as making improvements to its attached slice of Victory Park.

This, on top of the fact that construction has causes its portion of Victory Park to be closed for nearly two years, compounds the lack of tact on Lennar’s behalf; it reads as if Lennar is happy to enhance a park that is directly connected to its own tenants but not the larger community—say, the west side, which is deemed legally park poor.

The move for refusal, extremely rare in and of itself, could set an unwelcome precedent for both the city and park advocates. Ultimately, this comes down to an equity issue: the park fee pays for new parts of or entirely new green spaces, most of which are developed in underserved communities.

Even more, on the same agenda is a request to seek some $8.5 million in grants in order to fulfill the vision plan for the Drake/Cesar Chavez Park—a park which could quickly benefit from the park fee imposed on Lennar for Oceanaire.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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