When a from under the city's nose earlier this month, the chances for a pocket park on the south side of town looked even bleaker.
But the city learned this week that the buyer was Wells Fargo bank, and it was merely buying back the property when no one else bid on it at auction. The bank paid $234,000--about $65,000 less than the city was prepared to offer.
Now city officials hope the discounted price the bank paid will allow them to get the corner lot for less than they originally planned for.
"We’re hopeful based on what they bought it at auction for that that's going to determine what the value is," City Manager Scott Ochoa said.
The city's meager open space offerings have been a hot topic for discussion at recent council meetings, and community members, along with Councilman Tom Adams, have repeatedly pressed to erect a pocket park on the south side of town, where no park has existed since the city's founding 125 years ago.
But other council members have stressed that parks like Julian Fisher Park are in dire need of renovation, and repairs could cost close to $1 million. And the city still plans to build a park near the in anticipation of the Gold Line Foothill Extension.
City staff will spend the next several weeks meeting with community members to try and hash out its open space priorities, Ochoa said. But the council's hand could be forced by Adam's push for a park on the south side. Adams made his frustration apparent at the last council meeting, saying that the south side should not have to accept any more delays.
"Repeatedly what that neighborhood has heard is, 'Not yet, it's not the right time, we can’t afford it,' and I’ve been hearing that for a long time," he said.
After a lot of hand-wringing, the directed staff to pursue purchasing the property at 601 Los Angeles Avenue. If the city buys that land, it will essentially be committing to building a park there.
"If you buy that property for the express public purpose of a pocket park, then you’re locked into that," Ochoa said.
There is only so much money to go around, so a pocket park could affect the city's ability to pay for other open space improvements, Ochoa said.
"These things are not mutually exclusive, but they have an impact on one another," he said.
The city hopes to get grant funding to pay for some of the playground renovations at Julian Fisher, but the rest of the money would have to come out of the general fund reserve--the same pot that would pay for a park on the south side, which could cost a total of more than $500,000.
Ochoa said the city will soon begin notifying residents of community meetings to discuss the city's parks master plan.