Park Impact Fees and Los Lagos Golf Course's Future..


will be heard at Park Commission this week and then to Council later this month.  Lower park impact fees for high rises are triggering deep concerns.  The staff report on Los Lagos Golf Course seems to open the door to repurposing the property.

Park Impact Fees are paid by developers to compensate the community for the impact of new residents. The fees are used to buy new parkland and make major repairs--a key tool in keeping the park system afloat. For ten years, a 50% discount program for residential high-rises covered downtown. Every time the discount was renewed and expanded, the rationale was thadowntown had a high water table and was an unproven market--discounts were needed to attract developers.  Now downtown high-rises are booming. The development community convinced council to measure the number of residents in their units and Parks staff surveyed two rental high rises, finding 1.5 residents per unit, lower than the rate currently charged. The proposal includes several features we are troubled by:

1. Staff surveyed only two rental high rises in downtown. This would fix the rate at 1.5 residents for all high rises no matter what product they contain: studio or 3-bedroom.

2. The new rate is proposed for citywide--not just downtown.  All future high-rises in urban villages or along transit corridors would pay fees based on these downtown rentals--even though the areas are park deficient (unlike downtown) and may not be at all like these downtown rental high-rises.

3.  No community outreach on the lower fees was conducted. Only the development community heard about these changes.  Urban village advocates have been blindsided and worry about the future of their plans. Changes to the park impact fee structure were scheduled as part of the Greenprint Update due out in Spring 2018. Why were these accelerated?  We think it should be part of a transparent Greenprint update.

4. Diridon Station Area Plan advocates oppose the extension of the current high rise discount program into this part of downtown west of highway 87. These lands are the future "Googleville" and they wonder why the richest corporation in the world and its partners can't afford to pay full fees to improve this former industrial area into a livable and vibrant community with walking trails, and a park for the thousands of planned residents and workers. Old Downtown has large parks but Googleville does not.

These changes were buried in a routine fee update. The Parks Commission saw through the ruse last November and rejected it all--the discount and the routine changes. Parks staff has brought the item back for this week so that the Commission can decide whether they can any of these: the routine changes, the lower high-rise fees, or the expansion of downtown discounting to the Googleville area. Here's a link to the staff report--Item VIIA

The Parks Commission meets on Wednesday at 5:30 pm. The Council is expected to hear the item on December 19. Email your thoughts to Parks Commission and Council.
Parks Commission
City Council

Diridon Station Area plan west of downtown showing the green walking trails. This is the site of Googleville. A pending proposal expands high-rise discounts to this area and all urban villages putting green space at risk. (Yes, this older map still shows the baseball stadium). Courtesy: SPUR

Los Lagos Golf Course

The outreach results, constraints, and options for the future of Los Lagos Golf Course will be presented this Wednesday December 6 to the Parks Commission. Council is worried about the cost of debt payment and the on-going operating cost. Generally, community meetings supported the golf course.  The land is constrained by riparian/creek setbacks, and the rules of the state grants the funded the land. The dimensions make a soccer complex infeasible. Benefits are highlighted: an enormous flood plain to catch last winter's waters, and an operator monitor the homeless problem and keeping the area clear of dumping.  The staff suggests council could revisit the Prevailing Wage requirement (which is normally applied only to construction contracts) and look at other ways to make the destination more of a community park.  Trends in golf are summarized.  Staff is asking for direction from the council, which could include pursuing state legislative relief to sell the property.

Wed. Dec. 6 Parks Commission 5:30 pm
Thurs. Dec 14 Council Neighborhood Services Committee 1:30 pm
Tues. Jan 9 City Council Meeting 1:30 pm (actual item probably after 3 pm)

The staff report is attached to Item VII D of this week's Park Commission.

What do you think should be done with Los Lagos Golf course?
Reach out to the Neighborhood Services Committee members before Dec. 14. Send an email.

To All Our Park Advocates--thank-you for what you do.  Please share these newsletters as appropriate and add to our email list.  Check us out on Facebook:  San Jose Parks Advocates.  There are many news updates and fine pictures.  Send pictures to share to

Jean Dresden

Fall Quarterly Meeting - San Jose Parks Advocates

Wednesday November 8, 2017

Calabasas Library Community Room – 7pm

1230 South Blaney Avenue near Rainbow Ave.

We’ll learn about grass root organizing from an award-winning expert, Deb Kramer of Keep Coyote Beautiful.

Followed by an introduction to POPOs—privately owned public open spaces. Then we’ll set this year’s advocacy agenda.

[Click here for Flyer]

Economic Benefit of Parks

When we visit our San Jose Parks, we often focus on the beauty or the fun that the parks provide. Yet, San Jose City Parks also provide extraordinary economic benefit. The Trust for Public Land has been analyzing the economic impact of parks for many cities across the contract, including Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco. Now they are studying San Jose. Later this year, we expect a report to be released with dollar figures.

Here are the preliminary results:

Parks contribute to City revenues through property taxes:

  • Increased annual San Jose property tax revenues/assessment attributed to proximity to a San Jose park.

Parks contribute to City revenues through property tourism:

  • Increased annual San Jose tax revenues from park-related tourism: Lake Cunningham skateboard park, Kelley Park and Happy Hollow Zoo, Christmas in the Park, Rosegarden, Renaissance Fair at Confluence Point, and many more.

Parks contribute to the wealth of San Jose residents:

  • Increased property sales value from property located within 500 feet of a park.
  • Profits to businesses from park-related tourism.

Parks save San Jose residents money:

  • Direct use value of park facilities, i.e. the amount residents would pay to use equivalent
  • private facilities
  • Health benefits from use of public parks.

The environmental benefits of parks save the City money:

  • Annual reduction in San Jose stormwater management costs each year resulting from parkland.
  • The role of parks in reducing San Jose air pollution cost each year.
  • Reducing cooling costs by absorbing urban heat.

The final report will compare San Jose with other major cities. How will we compare? We have fewer parks than most cities. Are we getting all the economic benefit that we should from our current city Park system?

SPUR sponsored a review of the San Francisco results in January 2015. The San Francisco report gives background on the analytic method and serves as a good preview for San Jose’s report. Check it out:

Street Parks:  Spaces Between Places

Ever experience the serendipity of discovering a tiny space in San Francisco--all covered with plants, or a bench and trees, or a small community garden?  These eye-catching beauties are "spaces between places" and are part of the Street Park program.  San Francisco's Public Works Department partners with San Francisco Park Alliance to help individual stewards to create these great little places.  Small pieces of public land--streets, medians, stairways, traffic circles, and bits of land are transformed and maintained by volunteer stewards.
Stewards use a template to work with the SF Parks Alliance and SF Public Works to create the public space that they wish to maintain. They hold a community meeting with nearby residents and collaborate with Public Works on their final plan.  Since 2004, over 100 street parks have been built or underway. Check out the video showing some transformed sites at
Find more information about the San Francisco process on the San Francisco Public Works Street Parks website
What San Francisco Street Parks have you found? Send pictures for our Facebook page and website at
San Jose has only a few neighborhood groups that care for a few circles and median strips for the Department of Transportation.  Do you think San Jose should work towards a better Street Park system?  Where would you put a San Jose street park?

Grants: How Local Groups Can Partner with PRNS

Many times Community Groups and residents find grants to support the Parks and Recreation Programs that they love. Yet, some experience the City’s process for approval as a “black box” that acts as a barrier. In June 1014, San Jose Parks Advocates sat with three PRNS officials and outlined the process for partnering with the city on grants and grants applications. Large projects (over $270,000) requiring Council approval were not the focus of discussion. Read how your group can successfully partner with PRNS. [Download Here]

Park Trust Fund

San Jose has a new proposal to divert $11M in Park Trust Fund fees to operations and maintenances of the three big downtown parks from long-planned land acquisitions, major improvements and necessary infrastructure renovations and repairs. With no public outreach, the proposal is scheduled for a December 2 hearing.  This diversion is on top of $20M in prior discounts, depriving the downtown area residents of more than $30 M in park improvements and major repairs. There's currently over $40M in backlog. Downtown area residents are expected to do without.

Read about the proposal and background in the staff memo here [Staff Memo]

Parks Commission's letter of opposition here [Parks Commission Letter]

Commentary column from Mercury News here [Don't divert money from Park Trust Fund]