The perils of parkland dedication

Parks are great. One of the reasons they’re great is because they reduce the obligation, real or perceived, for people to buy private parks (otherwise known as yards). That’s why, as much as I’d like to see parts of Muny developed for housing, it’s important that a large part of it remain recreational open space.

Similarly, I wonder if the city’s plan to dedicate 57 acres of parkland on the east side could be altered to include some housing.

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This is an interesting area. It’s not considered “high-opportunity,” but it is an area that is rapidly gentrifying and where we should want to get some affordable housing in place before the market prices out the poor and working class.

The one problem is that this is one of a few areas of town that have unambiguously lost transit access from Cap Metro’s ReMap last year. Before the ReMap, the western edge of this tract at Terry Dr & Ledesma would have been less than a quarter-mile walk from downtown transit access at Ledesma & Lott (via Route 2).

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Now Route 2 no longer comes close:

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If there were housing placed on the northwestern part of the tract, the residents might be a reasonable distance from a stop on Route 6. It’s not clear.

The Questions & Answers report that accompanies every Council agenda shows that CM Jimmy Flannigan asked whether the parcel could be used for housing. Staff replied that 6-7 acres of it is “developable.” Staff estimated that transit access was 0.67 miles away, although it’s not clear what part of the property they’re referencing.

Regardless, if we had a ton of income-restricted housing on this property, perhaps Cap Metro would be willing to realign some routes to serve the new development.

Flannigan also asked whether land that is dedicated as parkland could ever become anything else. Staff’s response:

The property could not be used for non-recreational uses once it is dedicated parkland. Once this land becomes dedicated parkland, the City could not lease or sell the property without a voter referendum. If the City does decide to use the property for non-recreational uses, a Chapter 26 public hearing and Council action would be required before the use is changed to another city use.

My guess is that Council will vote to make all of this parkland. But hopefully both Council and staff has considered the potential opportunities for other uses, notably housing. We’ve got a $250 million housing bond to spend!

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