(Source: By Mariecar Mendoza, Daily News, Los Angeles (MCT) Despite a sluggish economy, two measures that would put higher taxes on property owners in some Santa Monica Mountains communities are not facing organized opposition.
The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority is proposing the special taxes to generate an estimated $1 million per year to help maintain and improve open space, parklands and wildlife corridors, natural habitats and facilities in two districts of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Zone.
Measure HH covers the hillside areas located west of Griffith Park and east of the 405 Freeway, including the Hollywood Hills, and asks property owners to pay $24 annually for an estimated $681,000 in revenue each year.
Measure MM asks for $19 a year, generating $305,000 annually to protect the northern slope of the Santa Monica Mountains west of the 405 and the Woodland Hills, Encino and Tarzana hillside areas.
The funds may also be used to acquire more open space, said authority spokeswoman Dash Stolarz.
Woodland Hills resident Gordon Murley said the special taxes come with the territory.
“When you live up in the hills you have two choices: either you try and buy the vacant land up there or resign yourself to a lot of traffic when it gets bought by someone else and developed,” said Murley, who serves as president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization, which endorses Measure MM.
While there is no campaign against the measures, some individual
residents and property owners have concerns.
Fellow Woodland Hills resident Pat Patton said he’s not particularly happy about having to hand over more money to the authority, but he said the measures do seem more palatable. Many homeowners in the affected areas have property on more than one parcel, but the measures only ask for the $19 or $24 annual tax per property.
Also, property owners don’t have to pay for undeveloped land, Stolarz said.
The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority voted Aug. 7 to place both measures on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Each measure must be approved by a two-thirds vote.
Conservancy officials said the special tax measures are necessary because of the upcoming expiration of the Proposition A property tax assessment, which was approved in 1992.
Proposition A provides $1.6 million annually to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. Those funds, however, will no longer be available in 2014 as part of Prop. A’s phaseout plan, Stolarz said.
Sean McCarthy, a Woodland Hills-based executive recruiting and career consultant who used to live in what is now considered the Measure HH district, said that while he now lives in Encino and therefore is not eligible to vote on the new taxes, he doesn’t understand why residents in the affected areas aren’t more vocally opposed to the measures.
“The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority has, over the years, seized a lot of real estate through legal means and at bargain-basement prices,” he said, “so why is it they haven’t found a way to make money to operate without taxing nearby residents?”
McCarthy’s major gripe is that he doesn’t believe the authority has been maintaining its land with the funds it has had over the years.
“They need to figure out how to spend the money they have better,” he said. “They need to clean up their own house before they take money from anybody else. I don’t believe they’ve lived up to their obligation to the public.”
If the measures are approved, the taxes go into effect for 10 years starting in 2014 and will only affect the households within the designated districts.
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