A crucial item is on the October 21st city council meeting agenda. ITEM 20 is asking city council members to vote on whether the current Parkland Dedication (PLD) fee structure should be revisited. This could be a huge loss for Austin's parks, trails and green spaces!
Austin's Parkland Dedication Ordinance requires new real estate developments to set aside a certain amount of land as parkland OR pay a fee that will help the city acquire and develop parks and facilities. This has been crucial as Austin's grows year after year, especially with our already drastically underfunded parks system. Unfortunately, is seems that the interests of commercial real estate groups are being considered over protecting and expanding our city's beloved parks and outdoor spaces.
Do you want to help to protect Austin's current and future parkland? Contact your council member and urge them to vote NO on ITEM 20 on October 21st! Check out some helpful tips in our Connect With Your Council Member blog and head to our Advocacy page to contact your CM when you're ready. We're super grateful for your support!
Austin Parks Foundation's Letter to Mayor Adler and City Council Members Regarding ITEM 20
Item 20 on your October 21st council meeting agenda aims to gut critical funding for Austin’s parks. The Council is being asked to vote on whether the parkland dedication (PLD) fee structure should be revisited (presumably significantly reduced). The pandemic has illustrated just how important our parks are to our health and mental well being.
The city’s population continues to grow, creating a need for more parkland to serve existing and new residents. The PLD allows the City to purchase parkland and work toward meeting Austin’s goal of all residents living within a half mile walk of a park. Please vote no on item 20 and direct staff to stop any work revisiting the parkland dedication fee structure.
We understand that this effort is being spearheaded by RECA (Real Estate Council of Austin). It is disturbing that real estate interests were able to push for changes to parkland and get this item on a city council agenda, without council sponsorship, and with no notice or discussion with the parks community. It is also disturbing that staff seem to be moving forward with this “study process” without any guidance from Council asking them to revisit the fee structure.
RECA helped write the formula for parkland dedication in a collaborative process in 2015-2016, when the current ordinance structure was decided upon. It is therefore not reasonable to believe that they were not aware that the fee could go up since the fee is partially based on the cost of land (reflecting the money needed to purchase parkland).
False arguments are being made over the parkland dedication ordinance influencing affordability. If affordability is the real issue, it should be tackled holistically and with a look at all City fees and all of the non-City determining factors, rather than singling out the public good that is our parks. Apartment dwellers and low income Austinites rely heavily on parks for programing including free summer and after school programs, public pools and playgrounds, and sports facilities.
There are conversations happening at the parks board right now about additional funding mechanisms for parks. The parks community is trying to solve the problem of underfunded parks so that we can meet city-wide goals for parks access and the goals of PARD’s long range plan. Parks are also critical in meeting goals in other city plans and planning processes including the Climate Equity Plan, Urban Forest Plan, and ATX Walk Bike Roll.
Austin Parks Foundation urges you to vote No on this item and direct staff to stop any work revisiting the parkland dedication fee structure.
Colin Wallis, Chief Executive Officer
Austin Parks Foundation