Anaheim officials are attempting to sell the city’s last available parkland near the high-density Platinum Triangle development site, potentially leaving the area’s 27,000 future residents with no significant open space.
The city’s redevelopment agency bought the approximately seven-acre site in 1997 and later transferred it to the community services department with the intention of building a park, according to city staff. The purchase price at the time was $2.9 million, paid for from fees levied on developers to create parks in or near the Platinum Triangle.
But officials changed their minds about the site’s park potential, citing a California Environmental Protection Agency advisement in 2005 against having recreational sites within 500 feet of a freeway, according to Larry Pasco, the city’s parks manager.
The site, at 1710 S. Anaheim Way, is adjacent to the 5 Freeway.
They also say there aren’t enough soccer fields or a “large, lighted complex” in the city to meet demand, and that selling the land offers a revenue source to add three soccer fields at La Palma Park and artificial turf for the park’s stadium, which could expand its use. La Palma Park is approximately four miles north of the Platinum Triangle.
Much of north Orange County, including Anaheim, is “park poor,” with little or no neighborhood open space for it residents.
In a Cal State Fullerton demographics study ranking the county’s 34 cities by their parks disparity, Anaheim, with a population of roughly 350,000 and the county’s largest city, comes in at 24.
The Platinum Triangle land has an appraised value of between $9 million and $10 million, and officials said the improving economy has led to unsolicited offers to buy the site, which they hope to sell to a developer for an industrial or manufacturing business.
The current site offers poor access and is awkwardly shaped, meaning it’s only suitable for one soccer field and at a high construction cost, officials said.
The City Council voted 4-1 at its May 5 meeting to solicit bids for the site, with Mayor Tom Tait being the sole no vote. Tait said he voted no because the site is the last available parkland in the area.
“Once we sell it, it's gone forever, and I think we’d be making a big mistake,” Tait said. “Those people buying those spaces will be paying a lot in park fees, but they won’t have any parks.”
Tait acknowledged the site’s proximity to a freeway makes it less than ideal, but argued that it’s better than having no park space at all for Platinum Triangle residents. He also speculated that, with car manufacturing moving toward zero-emission standards, freeway pollution won’t be a significant factor some 20 years in the future.
Councilman Jordan Brandman disagreed, saying if the city builds a park at the site, the state EPA advisement might “accelerate” to something more severe.
“We purchased this land with the best of intents, but I think the conditions are different now,” Brandman said.
City officials have said in the past that efforts to find a site near the Platinum Triangle to purchase for park land haven’t been successful. At the meeting, they said they would even consider buying land with a building and tearing it down to make way for a park.
Platinum Triangle developer impact fees could provide up to $100 million, according to staff.
Councilman James Vanderbilt, considered a Tait ally, at first voted for a Tait motion to strike staff’s proposal to solicit bids for the site. But he then voted for issuing the request for proposals, so long as city staff aggressively tried to acquire other land near the Platinum Triangle for park space.
“That’s been our goal from the very beginning, and we’ll continue to be aggressive,” Pasco said. “We’ll leave no stone unturned.”
Tait pointed out that the city has already tried unsuccessfully for years to find a site.
“My concern is we’ve been doing that for a long time and we haven’t been able to, and I don’t think it’s getting any cheaper,” Tait said.