A preliminary report on how to fund the purchase of open space — including the creation of benefit assessment districts in which nearby residents would be asked to pay a portion of the acquisition cost — affects how city officials approach the possibility of folding Mountain Oaks into the more than 5,000 acres of city-owned open space.
“At a bare minimum, I think the city should take a leadership role in trying to facilitate the purchase of that property, even if we’re not the primary funding source,” Councilman John Drayman said.
While he remains skeptical of using benefit assessment districts as a blanket answer to funding the purchase of all public recreation assets, Drayman said it may be part of the solution for Mountain Oaks, which could provide enough space for some of the Capital Improvement Projects that the council will begin prioritizing this week.
“It’s something that would be immediately available for recreational purposes,” he said.
Among them could be an equestrian facility or an aquatic center and soccer fields, which are included in the long wish list of multimillion-dollar improvement projects for the city, he said.
The discussion will likely draw supporters of acquiring the property, who view the issue as being dependent on the city’s interest.
“It’s encouraging news that the city is looking at ways to fund open space,” said David Meyers, chairman of Friends of Mountain Oaks, a nonprofit group of local residents and area activists who are working to preserve the area’s natural landscape. “To resolve the Mountain Oaks issue, it will take some movement by the city.”
But creating a benefit assessment district in the surrounding area to fund such proposals would also require movement by nearby residents.
“If you live down in Adams Square, do you care about Mountain Oaks?” said City Councilman Dave Weaver, who has been a strong proponent of the concept. “People care about what’s in their backyard.”
Almost all of the city’s open space is tied up in steep hillside and is purchased under different provisions — usually to preserve habitat — that govern the creation of public parks, said Ann-Marie Ortiz, senior administrative analyst for the city.
Council members will be asked to set general priorities in acquiring open space and to direct staff members toward developing a benefit assessment districting process, she said.
The meeting will be at 2:30 p.m. today in City Council Chambers, 613 E. Broadway.