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LA Measure SP
Measure SP would impose a new parcel tax in the city of L.A. to raise funds for parks and other recreational spaces.
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Measure SP would impose a parcel tax of 8.4 cents per square foot to raise funds for developing, improving, acquiring, and maintaining parks, museums, waterways, and other public facilities. A parcel tax is a type of flat property tax.

Official title on the ballot: Parks and Recreational Facilities Parcel Tax

Shall an ordinance providing funding for parks, recreational centers, pools, playgrounds, waterways, beaches, green spaces, open spaces, childcare and other facilities, and increasing park equity in the City of Los Angeles, through a tax of $0.08414 per square foot on improved parcels, reduced to $0.0222 upon completion of certain programs or in 30 years, with citizen oversight and exemptions for low-income households, generating approximately $227 million annually, be adopted?

What Your Vote Means

  • A "yes" vote means:

      • You support imposing an 8.4 cent per square foot parcel tax on property in the city of L.A. to generate additional funding for parks, museums, waterways, and other public recreation facilities.
    • A "no" vote means:

      • You do not support a new parcel tax for those projects.

    What The Measure Would Do

    Proposition SP would impose a parcel tax of 8.4 cents per square foot on residential and commercial buildings in the city of L.A. The tax would generate an estimated $227 million a year, which would be spent on the improvement, development, acquisition, and maintenance of public spaces such as parks, museums, and waterways like the L.A. River.

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    Unlike the property taxes you're probably more used to — which are based on value and typically go up over time — a parcel tax is assessed on the characteristics of the parcel. It’s a flat tax.

    All revenue from the tax would be put into a fund for parks and recreation and — this is important — could not be redirected to the city’s general fund. Priority would be based on L.A 's equity index, which assesses ares in greatest need of better parks and other recreational facilities.

    The measure requires the creation of a citizens oversight committee that would make recommendations on how to spend the funds and to monitor the spending and implementation. It would also create an administrative oversight committee to adopt the citizens oversight committee’s recommendations. The city controller would present an annual report on the fund.

    Low-income households would be exempt from the tax. Low-income is defined as “a household with an income below the 80% AMI.” AMI stands for annual median income, and it is determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). AMI varies based on household size. For example, AMI for a one-person household in Los Angeles is $66,750, while it is $95,300 for a four-person household.

    According to Yolanda Chavez, an assistant city administrative officer, any household with income below 80% of the AMI would qualify for an exemption to the Measure SP parcel tax.

    Proposition SP comes as a similar tax, Proposition K, approaches expiration. L.A. voters approved Proposition K in 1996 and it has since generated $25 million a year for the development, improvement, acquisition, etc. of parks, waterways, and other public facilities. In other words, projects similar to what this new proposition would fund. Proposition K expires in Fiscal Year 2026-27, which means the assessment generation that $25 million a year goes away too.

    Proposition SP requires two-thirds approval to pass, as all parcel taxes do.

    No later than 2053-54 (or sooner if the city council determines capital projects are completed) the tax would go down to 2.2 cents per square foot. The measure offers an exemption for land parcels owned by nonprofits, low-income households, and governmental bodies.

    Fun fact: Parcel taxes are unique to California. They’re most commonly used to raise funds for school districts. That said, because they require that two-thirds vote, there aren't many of them across the state. They emerged as a way for school districts to get around restrictions created by Proposition 13, which passed in 1978 and set a two-thirds threshold rather than 50%-plus-one to pass any new “special” tax in a local election. If you want to geek out on parcel taxes further, Ed100 has a good breakdown.

    The most common characteristic for assessing a parcel tax is the size of the parcel, although other characteristics could be considered.

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    Arguments For

    Proponents of Proposition SP point to the many problems facing parks in L.A.: everything from asbestos, mold, and bad plumbing to lack of accessibility for seniors and people with disabilities. They say Proposition SP would not just fix those problems, it would also help the transition to drought-tolerant plants, increase water recycling, and clear brush that increases wildfire risk.

    Proposition SP has some well-known names behind it: Councilmember (and recent candidate for L.A. mayor) Joe Buscaino; Caroline Ramsay, the executive director of the L.A. Parks Foundation, a nonprofit that provides funding for L.A. Parks; and Jimmy Kim, the general manager of L.A. City Recreation and Parks, the government agency that oversees the parks.

    Arguments Against

    Opponents of Proposition SP point out that taxpayers already help maintain the parks. They also say that this is a tax to improve facilities ahead of the 2028 Summer Olympics, which will be held in L.A., a claim supporters say is untrue. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and former L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich signed the ballot argument against the measure.

    The L.A. Times editorial board also opposes Proposition SP on the basis that it was written with very little community input and that it lacks a guarantee that the funds generated will actually be spent on parks (it could be used on anything that fits into the following categories: open space, recreation venues, waterways).

    The editorial board encourages voters to reject Proposition SP and pressure leaders to gather community input and include a guarantee to use the money for parks before bringing it back to the ballot in 2024.

    Potential Financial Impact

    From the financial analysis by City Administrative Officer Matthew Szabo:

    … The tax is expected to generate approximately $227.4 million in annual revenue. Tax revenues shall be used for the purposes of funding the acquisition, maintenance, and operation of parks, recreational centers, pools, playgrounds, waterways, beaches, green spaces, open spaces, childcare and other facilities. The tax would be reduced to $0.0222 per square footage of improvements upon the completion of certain capital programs or in the fiscal year beginning 2053-54, whichever occurs first. The reduced rate is expected to generate approximately $60 million in annual revenue, to continue funding program administrative, operational and maintenance costs. The proposition is not anticipated to have a significant impact on City finances as program expenses would be fully funded from the parcel tax collections.

    What that means:

    Proposition SP would not cost the city government anything because implementation would be fully funded by the new parcel tax at the heart of the ballot measure.

    Further Reading

    More Voter Guides

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    California propositions

    • Propositions 26 and 27: The difference between the sports betting ballot measures
    • Proposition 29: Why kidney dialysis is on your ballot for the third time
    • Proposition 30: Why Lyft is the biggest funder of this ballot measure

    Head to the Voter Game Plan homepage for guides to the rest of your ballot.

    Updated October 20, 2022 at 7:48 AM PDT
    This story was updated to include new information on how the city is defining "low-income" for the purpose of tax exemption.
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