Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | June 7, 2005

Where’s the equity in park funding?

I live in a 26-home subdivision called Rose Haven. Our neighborhood has a nice park, open to all city residents, that has playground equipment, half basketball courts, horseshoe courts, open lawn area, and covered picnic tables.

Maintenance for this lovely park, which often draws visitors who do not live in my 26-home subdivision, is paid entirely by the homeowners of Rose Haven.

One block to my south is another neighborhood with another attractive park, but it has a key difference: A private property sign, clearly making outsiders unwelcome. A few blocks to my north, another park has a similar but even more explicit sign.

Those parks are considered private property and are maintained by the subdivision’s homeowner’s association. Rose Haven Park is considered public property, even though the only people who pay for it are the 26 households of the Rose Haven subdivision.

It is patently unfair that only 26 households pay for a park that the entire city can visit.

It just pours salt in the wound that there are two parks within steps of my home that are also maintained by their subdivisions, but my family cannot visit them.

When my children were much younger and the park to the south of us had just been completed, my son and daughter walked the block-and-a-half to it, excited about the prospect of exploring new playground equipment. They came home just a few minutes later, much to my surprise. The HOA’s private-property sign sent them home.

Whenever I tell this story, I get one of two reactions. The first is from people who tell me I should ignore the sign and let my kids play there. I don’t like this at all. How do I teach my kids to ignore that sign, but not to ignore the ones that warn them not to cross the street yet, or to keep away from danger, or in a few years, to stay under the speed limit?

The second reaction espouses the notion that no one would ever enforce that sign. I beg to differ. Many HOAs are so adamant about their turf that they fence their parks. According to a city official, residents in Conte Gardens pay for maintenance of a neighborhood park with a one-way locked gate (currently broken) that aims to allow residents of a neighboring HOA subdivision access to Conte Gardens Park that only 11 households pay to maintain while keeping Conte Gardens residents out of the HOA neighborhood.

A friend told me about a jog she took on trails that went through an HOA neighborhood. A man who resided in the HOA neighborhood followed her in his car until he got her attention, and then yelled at her about the signs (that she hadn’t noticed) stating that this was private HOA property.

This muddled mess has come up because the city of Morgan Hill is currently asking 17 of the 20 neighborhoods with city parks maintained by subdivision residents to increase their assessments.

After attending a meeting about the assessment ballots that was held last week at the city’s public works department, I know I’m not the only resident who thinks this situation is outrageously unfair.

Between those who don’t like subsidizing services for the entire city and those who just won’t vote for any new tax, and considering the fact that the last time the city asked for an assessment increase, all three neighborhoods involved said no, I’m not predicting a yes vote from any of these 17 subdivisions.

I don’t believe that there’s any way to get rid of those nasty, elitist HOA signs, and I don’t want one posted at my neighborhood park. I’m happy that it’s available for for citywide use.

However, it’s unfair that anyone can use Rose Haven Park but only 26 households pay for its maintenance.

So I’m hoping Morgan Hill City Council will take the steps necessary to establish a citywide landscape assessment district. This has a number of benefits, including the fact that the city won’t have to manage 20 landscape maintenance budgets for 20 different parks.

But the biggest advantage is that it rights a wrong. It fixes the wholly inappropriate mechanism that demands, in my case, that 26 households pay for a park that is open to the entire city.

Just like homeowners who unfairly get Williamson Act tax breaks, people who don’t pay their fair share of city park maintenance are being subsidized by those who do pay for it. And that’s got to change.



  1. […] It’s not an ADA lawsuit, but perhaps the perfect illustration that Conte Gardens Park provides of the inequities and flaws in the current system will finally give Morgan Hill City Council the political will to enact the only real solution: Creating a citywide landscape assessment district so that all city residents pay for parks open to all city residents. It’s a solution I advocated two years ago. […]

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