UPDATE: State Denies Plummer Park Renovation Funds; Activists Oppose City Appeal

Plummer Park
(Creative Commons)

UPDATE: Protect Plummer Park, the organization of neighborhood activists that has opposed the city’s park redevelopment plans, asked its members Tuesday (Nov. 13) to let the state Department of Finance know they support the department’s denial of such funding.

“Particularly, in light of the current fiscal crisis in which the State of California, and we, the citizens of California, find ourselves, and further, in light of the poor state of our public education system, we request that you uphold your determination to deny the millions of dollars West Hollywood was requesting for the renovation of a small, fully-operational, neighborhood park. There are so many other things for which that money could be used,” reads a draft of the letter that Protect Plummer members are asked to send to the state.

 

[hr]

The City of West Hollywood plans to appeal a decision by the state of California saying the city may not use redevelopment money for the planned $41 million renovation of Plummer Park.

According to David Wilson, the city’s Interim Director of Finance and Information Technology, city officials will meet with state Department of Finance officials in Sacramento on Thursday at 9 a.m. to discuss the department’s decision regarding Plummer Park.

“There is a meet and confer process by which the [Successor] Agency can dispute the decision,” Wilson told WEHOville in an email interview. “The meet and confer process allows the Agency and DOF staff to discuss the disputed items and provide any additional information. At the conclusion of the meet and confer process, the DOF will make its final determination.”

Whatever the Department of Finance decides following the “meet and confer” appeal is final.

“There is no provision in the legislation to appeal that final determination by DOF,” Wilson said.

The city received a letter from the DOF dated Oct. 15, 2012 stating that the Plummer Park project was not eligible for redevelopment money funding. The city’s appeal is based on the fact it has already issued bonds to finance a portion of the $41 million makeover.

Stephanie Harker, who spearheaded the Protect Plummer Park movement, isn’t surprised the DOF denied the Plummer Park project.

“None of the other cities that have been trying to get millions of dollars from the state have had their projects approved, so Plummer Park seemed unlikely to be approved,” said Harker during a phone interview. “I’m not surprised they’re appealing the decision, but I suspect they will lose.”

Plummer Park Community Center
(Photo courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

The City planned to finance the Plummer Park renovations with $14 million in redevelopment money and $27 million in bond money. In March 2011, the city took out a $30 million bond for the project, $3 million of which was set aside for the cost of issuing the bonds and for repayment of the debt.

The redevelopment portion of that financing came into question in June 2011 when the state mandated that all cities must dissolve their redevelopment agencies and relinquish funds to the state, a move designed to shore up California’s budget problems. Since various projects were already underway, some cities, including West Hollywood, formed state-approved Successor Agencies to wind down the work.

The state’s Department of Finance is now in the process of reviewing the financial obligations those Successor Agencies inherited to determine which ones are enforceable.

In the case of Plummer Park, there were no contracts in place by June 27, 2011, the final date by which the state was required to honor the financial obligations. Thus the state denied the city’s Plummer Park request.

“They had a plan but not a project,” said Harker. “It wasn’t shovel ready. The contracts weren’t signed.”

As part of the $41 million makeover, the city planned to close the center portion of Plummer Park for 18-24 months during which time a 179-space subterranean parking garage was to be built.

In the process of digging for the underground parking, most of the park’s large “old growth” trees would have been removed. Additionally, the Tiny Tots Pre-school building and Great Hall-Long Hall, the conjoined buildings built by the Depression-era Work Projects Administration (WPA), would have been demolished.

Plummer Park
A view of a play area in the new park design. The city’s plan for a new design was further threatened in mid-October when the state denied it redevelopment money funding. (Photo courtesy of City of West Hollywood)

The pre-school was to be rebuilt, but Great Hall-Long Hall was not. Additionally, Fiesta Hall was slated to be renovated into a state-of-the-art performance center.

Those renovations were scheduled to start in February 2012, but public outcry forced the city to delay those plans. The City Council said in May that it would hold a single-agenda-item meeting to get more public input about revising the plans for Plummer Park, but that meeting has yet to be scheduled.

Harker pointed out that if the City had started the project in February as planned, there would now be a giant hole in the ground and not enough money to complete the project thanks to the DOF’s decision.

“If the community had not come forward and made themselves heard in no uncertain terms, we would have ended up with a hole and a fence around it for who knows how long,” Harker said. “In my heart of hearts, I feel the city was willing to destroy all the trees, demolish Great Hall-Long Hall, slice Fiesta Hall in half and dig a hole for the parking, then put a fence up around it until they found the money.”

Wilson said that would not have happened.

“The City’s position has always been and remains that the bonds themselves are the enforceable obligation,” Wilson said.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

5 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Geoffrey Buck
Geoffrey Buck
10 years ago

After all the public outcry against the plans for underground parking the city is still trying to have their way, the will of the public be damned. With all the development on the eastside Plummer Park and its trees and shade are more important than ever.

Pat Russell
Pat Russell
10 years ago

“Fiesta Hall was slated to be renovated into a state-of-the-art performance center.”

This was a silly idea to start with, although the design to put the preschool on the roof was just plain crazy. Don’t get me started on cutting down the trees…. I sure hope the money is not forthcoming.
.

Sheila Lightfoot
Sheila Lightfoot
10 years ago

This situation perfectly illustrates the disconnect between residents and the City officials who are supposed to be serving us. The officials are in Sacramento (on our dime) fighting for an obscene amount of money to pay for what the residents view as the destruction of their beloved neighborhood park. How has our City strayed so far from the original intent of self-governance for the inhabitants of our 1.9 square miles?

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
10 years ago

The State of California is reeling from the economic downturn, cutting education and health funds yet the rich City of West Hollywood wants millions for a vanity park renovation. Even with the passage of Prop. 30, Californis is still in for tough times. But our allegedly “progressive” City Council would take money from kids and the needy for an over priced project that is not even supported by the community. Is there no shame?

Steve Martin

martincomet
martincomet
10 years ago

what a mess. were it not for the efforts of Protect Plummer Park we would indeed have more than 50 old-growth trees destroyed and a giant construction site instead of a park with no money to finish the project. time to focus on a smaller and more reasonable plan to renovate the park without destroying its trees and historic buildings. yes to renovation, no to demolition.

5
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x