By George Pardon
On May 24, the Cypress City Council held a workshop to discuss possible sources of funding that should be sought to maintain Lexington Park, which is the nearly completed park at the corner of Cerritos Ave and Lexington Dr. It was reported in the workshop that the city needs $350,000 each year to cover maintenance costs for the park. The $350,000 is made up of two components: $223,000 for operations and $127,000 to fund a reserve for future replacement/rehabilitation costs. As such, the city must seek a significant amount of revenue for “in-market” uses.
It is clear from the table presented during the workshop that a significant part of the use is scheduled for commercial use. The city manager describes the park as a “brand new, first class, super well designed facility in an area that doesn’t have amenities like this”. The city manager went on to say, “We live in a world where leisure users are willing to spend money in exchange for value.” The city manager said the community will have access to the walking path, exercise equipment and playground. It was also noted that the community could reserve the picnic pavilions for a fee.
Mayor Peat remarked that “we’re building a really fantastic asset and that’s what we should be charging for.” When asked whether or not the city should charge for parking, Mayor Peat said, “We’re building a pristine asset, charge them for using the asset, not parking.”
Although I know AYSO was a strong supporter of this park having the two football fields, it was stated that AYSO would continue to play most of their games at Lexington Junior High. The City Manager advised that the last hours (7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.) of the new park are allotted to market use, not because ACUAF shouldn’t be there, but because ACUAF should be asleep. The ACUAF is the advisory committee on the use of sports facilities. The ACUAF makes recommendations for the use of grounds for youth leagues. The city manager went on to say, “We dream of a world where there is a professional or collegiate football or lacrosse team that is regularly present during the week to practice or practice.”
Council member Morales pointed out that if his family wanted to reserve a field, he would have to pay for it. He made this point in case someone would say that municipal tax money is supporting a for-profit event. He said we were already doing it. What it does not do is that there is a big difference between use by residents of Cypress and use by entities outside of our city. The noise and traffic implications of programming from outside our city will be considerably greater than any use by our residents, especially as market use occurs at night.
The city has indicated that it is unlikely there will be sufficient funds to maintain this park from the park portion of property taxes generated at the time the racetrack property is developed. Council member Marquez was the only one to ask this very important question: “Was there any planning before all of this started thinking about these costs?” The response she received was that they had been thinking about these costs since day one. One has to wonder why the city council would sign a contract to build a very expensive park without having a financing plan to maintain it. Is it wise to buy anything when you don’t know if you can afford to maintain it?
The city manager said the general fund lent the funds to recreation and community services to build Lexington Park in anticipation of repaying the loan from park fees paid when developing the racetrack property. The point raised earlier during the workshop was to charge market users for operating costs, not development costs. It is very doubtful that this park would have cost what it costs had it been developed as a community park with more passive space rather than a “brand new, first class, super well designed amenity” as the described the city manager. It also probably wouldn’t have required so much nighttime use of the market, which will clearly disrupt adjacent neighborhoods. As such, it can be concluded that the incremental costs of constructing amenities for market use are included in the General Fund loan to Recreation and Community Services. Therefore, any park fees paid by residential developers will be used to repay the loan. It is important to remember that all fees paid by a developer are included in the price of a new home, which means that anyone buying a newly built home in Cypress will pay for the development costs of that park, including market usage costs.
Another point that has not been addressed is: what will happen if the developer of the racecourse provides a landscaped park during the construction of the residential area? The park fee the city charges is when a developer does not provide new park space for residential development. State law gives a developer the option of providing a built park or paying the park fee. If a built park is provided, there will be no funds available to repay the general fund for the loan made to build Lexington Park. Who will repay the loan if the park fees are not paid by the promoter?
As the construction of the park comes to an end, the lights have been put in place. These lights have been estimated to be around 80 feet high. While it is clear that little consideration has been given to residents across Cerritos Avenue, no consideration has been given to senior housing which is one of the intended uses of the property surrounding the park when the racetrack closes.
Since the City does not post links to its workshops, you will need to ask the clerk to send you a copy to download via Dropbox. The workshop lasts one hour and twenty minutes. After listening to the workshop, you can decide for yourself whether this is a community park or a commercial enterprise.
Note: George Pardon is the founder and director of the advocacy group Citizens for the Responsible Development of Cypress.