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A Westside Proposal

news1-1Local sports supporter proposes plan for new recreational park

Felton resident John Golder is a lifelong sports enthusiast who says his three sons benefited immensely from participating in sports when they were growing up. Throughout Golder’s own extensive participation in sports and recreation as a coach, player, and club president, he was often frustrated by a lack of playing space available. Because of this, Golder has spent the past 20 years cataloguing and seeking to combat what he calls Santa Cruz’s “parks deficit.”

Golder worked for the City of Santa Cruz as energy inspector in the ‘80s and has since made a career in construction, where he puts a strong emphasis on solar energy, sustainable design and energy conservation. However, as the city’s latest General Plan process has unfolded in recent months, much of his time has been dedicated to drawing attention to the parks issue in Santa Cruz.  

He recently wrote the “Proposal for City of Santa Cruz West Side Recreational Facilities,” which seeks to improve the sports field situation in Santa Cruz. “I’m not a guy to just gripe,” he says. “I suggest solutions.”

The proposal would transform vacant industrial lands and empty indoor facilities on the Westside into usable sports fields through the cooperation of private developers, a self-designed nonprofit, and the implementation of a new city ordinance.  

Golder has spoken with several Westside property owners who wish to remain anonymous, but have expressed interest in his plan.

James Watson, a Watsonville resident and president of the Monterey Bay Rugby Football Club, sees merit in Golder’s proposal. Watson says the rugby club was based in Santa Cruz in the 1960s, but was forced to move further and further away as the growing population impacted facilities in town.

 “Now, even though most of our players are based in Santa Cruz, we have to say we’re ‘Monterey County,’” says Watson. He adds that their league, the Northern California Rugby Union, requires teams to schedule home games on the roster. Since his team has such difficulty scheduling games in Santa Cruz they have searched for “home game” locations over the hill, and even played a “home” game on their rival team’s turf.

Golder is in the midst of founding a 501c4 nonprofit organization, the Active Recreation Coalition of Santa Cruz (ARC-SC), which will serve as a vital player in his proposed plan to transform open spaces on the Westside into usable sports facilities. The nonprofit’s mission statement will read, “A team of teams speaking for sports.”

“I am in the process of picking up many old sports team contacts and talking to potential board members—I have a long and building list of team, club and sports business contacts,” Golder writes in an email. “The main purpose [of writing the proposal] is to get the community the recreational facilities and benefits that they’ve been paying for [for] 40 years, waiting for for a half century, and [that they] are legally and ethically entitled to.”

One of Golder’s primary problems with the city’s management of the parks situation in Santa Cruz is with its use of California Quimby Act funds.

news1-2After two decades of researching what he believes is a serious deficit of recreational parks space in the City of Santa Cruz, local John Golder has crafted a proposal for a sports field and recreational facility on the town's Westside. The Quimby Act, passed in 1975, requires local governments to set aside parkland and open space for recreational purposes. Under the act, cities and counties in California are authorized to pass ordinances requiring developers to set aside land, donate conservation easements, or pay fees for park improvements. The goal of the Quimby Act was to require developers to help mitigate the impacts of property developments on communities.

According to Dannettee Shoemaker, director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Santa Cruz, instead of setting aside land for new parks over the last 20 to 30 years, as Santa Cruz built out much of its land, the city has used Quimby Act fees largely for the improvement of existing parks.

The Quimby Act has more than a dozen specific requirements as to how developer fees can be used, and Golder thinks the Santa Cruz “misses” many requirements in its allocation of Quimby Act funds. For one, the Quimby Act prohibits its funds from being used for regular parks maintenance. In Golder’s opinion, the city has indeed used the funds for ordinary repair and maintenance expenses.

The city and Golder disagree on this point. Shoemaker says that the city has used Quimby funds for the improvement of existing parks space, which she and the city’s attorney both consider a proper distribution of the funds.

Golder’s objection to the city’s use of these funds, along with a determination to improve the parks situation in Santa Cruz, led him to develop his proposal for Westsde facilities. On the Parks and Recreation website, Santa Cruz is listed as having 18 "neighborhood" parks, seven of which are "sports" parks. According to Golder’s calculations, the city has accrued millions of dollars since the ’70s from Quimby Act fees, but has not dedicated an equivalent amount of land to parks.

A section of his proposal entitled “Time for a Different Approach to the Problem” lists a series of ideas Golder has to sustain new facilities on the Westside’s 30-plus acres of open land.

“These will be private facilities that anybody can join,” says Golder. “Money, labor and organization/leadership will come from the individual user groups, their sponsors, charitable contributions, fundraisers, grants, and who knows—maybe some day from the city.” For now, he isn’t counting on the city to contribute.  “ARC-SC will coordinate facility scheduling and maintenance, legal contracts, permits and design,” he says. “I will play a major role in design [and] permits.”

A financial incentives program is vital to his plan, and is the only portion of the proposal in which the City of Santa Cruz’s participation would be desired.

“The city does not need to contribute anything except a one-time ordinance,” says Golder.

The proposed city ordinance would credit developers of active recreation facilities via Quimby Act funds. Golder says that the credits could be made exchangeable between the property owner who agrees to develop recreational facility on their land, and the property developer who is required to dedicate parkland or pay Quimby Act fees.

“It’s very important that the active [recreational] facility credit is exchangeable and can be valued fairly,” says Golder. “I am currently studying other cities’ ordinances who have such [recreational] facility credit provisions.”

Golder says his property management firm, RedLog Properties, and ARC-SC would co-sponsor and develop an ordinance that would define qualifications necessary for park fee credit, as well as define how their value would be determined. Once Golder finishes his research, he plans to present an ordinance draft to the city.

 Shoemaker says the proposal seems exciting on the surface, but until the city feels a stronger pull from the community for new parks, they are unlikely to get behind Golder’s proposition in any way.

“I do not hear a loud cry from people saying we need more fields, because I think people have gotten real creative,” she says. “If we had more fields, would they get used? Absolutely. And I think all we have to do is look at Depot Park, our most recent community park. How often does Depot Park get used? Every day. … What I couldn’t tell you is, is there actually more play, or are we just seeing more at Depot Park, and on the flip side of that, is there less play at other fields? I have not seen any studies that would answer that question for me.”

Shoemaker concedes that, due to lack of funds, there have been neither studies nor master plans in place regarding Santa Cruz’s parks space for 20 to 30 years.

Golder has vocally taken issue with the lack of parks studies performed by the city for years. As an experienced geophysical surveyor who worked with mine enclaves and construction surveying for several years, he has even taken it into his own hands to survey the usability of land in existing parks.

“I’ve looked at the city’s parks by looking on Google Earth, going and walking [the parks] and saying, ‘What’s usable here?’” he says. “The way they’ve been counting [the usable land] is, ‘Just count the whole damn parcel.’” Golder believes the city has overestimated its usable parks space by more than 50 percent in some instances.

In regard to the lacking studies, Shoemaker says it all boils down to budget, noting that she often receives “wonderful proposals” for new parks and recreational facilities.  She says her hope is that as the economy picks up, the city can expand its facilities.

In the meantime, although the city most likely won’t support Golder’s plan at this time, Shoemaker is open to the idea.

“When he first mentioned a proposal to me he said that it was his hope to develop world class recreational sports facility without any cost to the city, and to me that’s very intriguing,” she says. “If John can pull this off then the community will definitely benefit. 

Comments (13)Add Comment
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written by Bill Smallman, January 24, 2012
For water conservation, they should consider using recycled water for landscaping. Or maybe artificial turf, which I don't really like.
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written by J. Golder, January 17, 2012
I will be contacting the state auditor's committee soon. They meet in Feb. and determine audits for the remainder of the fiscal year. I hope to get City of Santa Cruz on their list.
It is has been relatively easy for the City to hide what has been going on with these special reserved funds. I have no question whatsoever that they are not in compliance with state law on the use of their Quimby funds. They are trying, either deliberatey or negligently, to "muddy" the parks definitions and inventory and will not respond to queries of interpretation regarding those issues.

However, I have made inquiries in direct relation to their General Plan 2030 process that they must legally respond to. This is a long and difficult process to get them to recognize the "error of their ways".
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written by John Colby, January 14, 2012
What the article doesn't point out is that the City of Santa Cruz seems to have misappropriated funds for about 30 years. Tens of millions of dollars!

This is serious misconduct which should be investigated by a state agency. Santa Cruz has avoided accountability for official misconduct far too long.
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written by Robert Norse, January 13, 2012
Golder raises provocative issues. Dannettee Shoemaker and City Managers Martin Bernal and Dick Wilson are responsible here.

It's not surprising to hear about Shoemaker and other bureaucrats ignoring the Quimby Act requirements. Shoemaker's not too punctilious about following even local ordinances.

So, for instance, in 2010, in order to help police crackdown on peaceful protesters at City Hall, she had signs posted making the area illegal to be in after 10 PM. Even though this is the one 24-hour spot where City Council agendas are posted. This was done without the required consultation with the Parks and Recreation Commission--which she candidly admitted to me at the time.

Shoemaker's department spent massive amounts of money in the last decade pursuing, ticketing, and arresting homeless campers in the Pogonip for survival camping instead of developing new areas or improving old ones. Or creating a sustainable solution that would reduce the trashing of the parks by setting aside campground space or making campers responsible for cleaning up where they sleep instead of moving them around and encouraging them to hide.

Her department has opened the city to significant legal liability for its destruction of homeless property (state requires holding it for several months). Similar abuses in Fresno led to the successful Kinkaid lawsuit which cost Fresno $2.3 million.

Golder has personally experienced the kind of harassment city authorities can visit upon homeless people when he himself was homeless.

I'm glad Good Times is raising this issue---which may shame Parks and Recreation into doing the decent (and financially responsible) thing.
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written by J Golder, January 12, 2012
To J. Homeowner
I have actually looked at leasing the adjoining RR easement, which is 100 ft wide most of the way, as a dog run. It is already mostly fenced and has a nice variety of terrain and landscaping including crossing Arroyo Seco. I take my hound there regularly for a good run.
If you have a connection with FOLF (Friends of Lighthouse Field. a pro off-leash dog park advocacy group) contact me. J. Golder They are the type of user group who could take on that strip.
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written by J. Golder, January 12, 2012
The following is an op-ed piece GT couldn't publish because the City failed to respond.
It presents a more complete context of their neglect of the problem, re: budgets and law.

Have City leaders swindled us for almost 40 years? for millions of dollars in nonexistent urban parkland (not “open space”or “green belt”)? Where did all this money go? Who paid it and why? If you’re a city park or ball field user, soccer mom or dad, home owner, contractor or developer, this is the untold story.

In 1965 California was producing new subdivisions like weeds. In order to reserve useable park lands for new residents, Sacramento passed the Quimby Act (GC §66477) authorizing cities & counties to charge a parks fee and/or land dedication to developers. The intent was to reserve (not preserve) “open space” to develop into useable recreational facilities, aka urban (neighborhood & community) parks.

The City‘s “Parks Facilities Tax” (1973) and parkland dedication ordinance (aka Quimby Fees, 1980) started when the population was 41,843 (1980). Now (2010 census) it’s 59,546 people; a gain of nearly 18,000. Since 1994 developers have paid $3 per sq.ft. of new living area to fund the City to “acquire and develop parks to serve the subdivision”. That’s the City’s legal promise and obligation under state law!

The Quimby Act has more than a dozen requirements prerequisite to City planners enforcing parkland dedications or substitute “in-lieu” fees, but the city “misses” on most of them. They include level-of-service (LOS) determinations (in acres per 1000 residents), an accurate parkland inventory, fee calculation methodology, and restr-ictions on how, where and when these special reserved funds can be spent. Monies cannot be used for ordinary expenses, repair or maintenance. Also special “nexus” studies must show a strong relationship between new subdivision needs and proposed park spending. But record inquiries to the City cannot produce any park nexus study in 38 years!

With millions paid in park fees a general plan policy known as concurrency should have yielded 81+ additional acres of urban parks. ( LOS = 4.5 acres per 1000 people X 18k). Yet, author’s records inquiries cannot uncover a single example of developed (urban) parkland purchased or significant lot dedicated under the above ordinances!. City finance records show a significant portion (perhaps a third) of the funds unlawfully spent on repair and maintenance. The fees were raised 2500% in 1994, yet records show nearly all park and ballfield proposals never happened!.

FAIL? Read on!

General Plans in 1970,1980 and 1990 and a special sportsfield use study (1994) all recognized a significant shortage of ball fields and community parks (30+ acres), yet only one sports field (Depot Park) and no community parks have been built since the mid 1960’s. Analysis of city’s parkland inventory shows useable community park lands overstated by 60+ %, and that parkland losses at school grounds and Neary Park exceeded gains. In other words we have less developed parkland now than forty years ago!

At the May 2008 City Planning Commission meeting author’s testimony prompted Parks & Rec. Dir. D. Shoemaker’s revelation that the City has had no Parks Master Plan for almost thirty years (1983)! DeLaveaga, our largest park has its master plan lying unfinished since 1960!

What’s being done about this? In short, virtually nothing. Except for a half acre park in Lower Ocean area there are no plans to make up the deficit .

Is there a cover up? Even though they haven’t built one in over fifty years the City’s latest parkland inventory declares, unbelievably, a surplus of community park space!. How? They simply “reclassified” DeLaVeaga golf course (officially a “regional park”, ineligible for Quimby funds) and 110 acres of adjacent inaccessible wooded hillside as “community park”. (DEIR p.4.6-10 )

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, city planners wrote recreational facilities are “already adequate” and future population would have “no significant effect” created by need for new facilities (required CEQA analysis, 2002 & 2007 Housing Elements)* But they’re still demanding park fees from developers and homeowners under their legal promise and Dir. Shoemaker admits they haven’t done a facility inventory in 20 years! *.(Sec.13-14. PUBLIC SERVICES & RECREATION, 2007-14 Housing Element, Impact Analysis )

There’s much more to this readers. I do believe this community has been swindled!

Contact J. Golder: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with comment or to obtain a list of available research. Volunteer assistance or donations to our mission of acquiring abundant quality recreational facilities for all active recreation users and team sports in the area is welcome. Our task Is large, your support and help is appreciated and welcomed. ARC-SC PO Box 46, Felton 95018
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written by Tony Sloss, January 12, 2012
Much appreciation to Jon Golder for his sustained efforts to add sport fields/facilities, which our community is in great need. As former president and 10 year board member for the SC City Youth Soccer Club, I can readily attest to the need - we regularly maxed out field space for practices and games every fall. I find the "creativity" comment by Ms. Shoemaker very out of touch and ignoring of the problem - cramming teams of kids and teenagers into smaller and smaller spaces; dealing with encroachement by adult groups on our paid practice space at Depot Park, having to use poorly maintained and gopher hole-ridden school fields, scheduling our home games at the away team's field, and cutting the number of practices a team can hold are not what I call "creativity"!!! Its time the city take their responsibility for new field development seriously and work with community members like Mr. Golder to achieve that goal.

Tony Sloss
President, Santa Cruz County Youth Soccer League
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written by Todd Tsukushi, January 12, 2012
I find this intriguing and possible! There is a shortage of athletic fields. Soccer is unable to use fields that have baseball/softball priorities. There are few practice fields available from SC P&R so there is extreme crowding at the public school fields. The school fields are smaller than originally designed due to the need for parking and portable class rooms. It's a seller's market so the cost for using the few fields has gone from free to as much as $55/hr. Ultimate Frisbee, Lacrosse, Rugby and even American football seek regular playing fields. Even baseball and softball could expand and have a better experience if their fields weren't torn up with cleats.

Where are fields that support a regular 11v11 men's soccer league? Where does our large Latino population get to play? The best playing experience is on natural grass, but natural grass needs rest so there needs to be enough capacity to allow a rotation of use.

Bottom line - to have a healthier, happier and more interactive community we need a lot more field space.
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written by Dan Smith, January 11, 2012
I meant to say Mr. Golder, not Dr. Shoemaker.
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written by Dan Smith, January 11, 2012
I have spent literally hundreds of hours scouring the county for a place to play rugby. In the eighties, there were, in addition to UCSC, a senior men's club and three high school clubs. All have now folded simply for want of a place to play and practice. The rugby tradition in our county goes back at least fifty years and has produced at least two US National Team players, yet now we have virtually nothing, despite the fact that in terms of participation, rugby has seen by far the greatest increase of any other sport in the US in the past ten years. It is profoundly dispiriting and I sincerely hope that Dr. Shemaker's efforts are successful so that faclilities can accomodate a genuine demand for this healthy, wholesome, OLYMPIC , team sport. The players, coaches, and officials are here. we just don't have any place to play.
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written by J.HomeOwner, January 11, 2012
I am a born and raised SC homeowner, taxpayer and work over the hill to afford this spot. Please consider some of this space for well-built, suitable dog recreation as well. Dog owners enjoy dog sports as much as human sports :-)
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written by Samson, January 11, 2012
This guy is right on the money, the city needs to be accountable and use their fees for what they are intended for. And even better if they aren't next to the Sewage plant! Peeewwwwww
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written by J. Golder, January 10, 2012
Reporter/writer Ms. Short did a fine job on this article.

Some additional comment:
The proposal rests on leases: a primary special use lease by ARC-SC from the property owner, then sub leases from ARC-SC to non-profit sports goups who wish to use, service, maintain & improve the leased property. Both owner and sports non-profit orgnizations will benefit from the park fees credit under a well crafted ordinance. It would be like cash in the bank when sold to other devlopers.

Re: Dir . Shemaker's comment "I do not hear a loud cry from people saying we need more fields, because I think people have gotten real creative,"
Dannette, their creativity involves driving all over the county to get field time, or contracting thier enrollment. But sadly, many parents and volunteers have given up in frustration as, Depot Park not withstanding, neither the City Council nor P&R have managed or planned a net increase in developed parklands or ball fields in forty years. Two generations! They have no interst in speaking to a Council that won't act nor and administration that won't initiate.

Budget issues? Since 1980 over $40+ million has flowed thru City coffers from various park funding sources (about 2/3 gifts & grants from the State of Calif.) . Dannette: that's plenty of $ for studies. You have not done any of the five year inventory/facilitystudies mandated in the City's 1990 Gen Plan. But sports group volunteers, including myself completed (1994) the ONLY such study on a shoestring budget that clearly calls for at least 20 new fields. I documented that and the two public opinion polls that had about 2/3 of the residents supporting more ballfields and park improvements.
We have studied the tarplant to death, but City P&R does not even know their own attendance figures or accurately count their useable parkland.
And NO Master Park Plan for 28 years! Where is P&R INITIATING field development or developed park expansion ?

Nowhere? Fine! Then just drop the Quimby fee requirement and get out of the way so the citizens & their supporters can get the job done.

More later! J. Golder ARC-SC This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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