Homes Association, the Parks & Recreation Board
The open spaces set aside for PVE were originally under the jurisdiction of the Homes Association in the early 1920's. To protect and utilize these open spaces for recreation and the benefit of residents a Parks and Recreation Board was established within the Homes Association. These lands, known as Parklands, were the private property of PVE. However, after the onset of the Great Depression which began in 1929, many lot owners in PVE, who often purchased under speculation, no longer paid dues to the Homes Association. There were also many defaults. As a result, by 1939, the Homes Association was unable to pay some $50,000 in taxes on the Parklands,
Transfer of Parklands to the City and the School District
Unable to pay taxes on Parklands, and wanting to retain these lands as open space, PVE residents discovered that they could do both if they incorporated as a City. So, in 1939 PVE became (a class VI) City and the Homes Association made two transfers of Parklands. One involved the transfer of about 800 acres of Parkland to the newly formed City of Palos Verdes Estates. This included the City's concessions (the PV Golf Course, the PV Stables and the PV Athletic and Beach Club.). The second transfer, and lesser recognized, was the conveyance of about a dozen plots dedicated for schools (most undeveloped) comprising some 100 acres to the local school district. In both conveyances the Homes Association also transferred the same deed restrictions and covenants that were originally placed on these lands to preserve and protect them.
An Under Funded City
For the next two or three decades after PVE was incorporated, there were limited funds available to the City of PVE, especially for Parklands. Various streets were unpaved and there were still many unimproved lots. However, after WWII, beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, baby boomers began raising families, an influx of people were attracted to California and housing development took off. This phenomenon occurred not only in PVE and the Penisula, but elsewhere in the state and throughout different regions of the country. The first high school in PVE (PV High) was built in 1965. Unfortunately In that same year, one of the largest forest fires in PVE history destroyed the Malaga Hills area on the south side of Malaga Cove Plaza. A decade or two later, a fire also destroyed a forested area on the Dunes northwest of the PV Golf Course. These areas were not reforested, apparently due to lack of funds, despite some community interest to do so (according to some older PVE residents). As another indication of the lack of City funds, underground telephone lines were not provided for until 1980s. They were usually added on to the property taxes of a residence for over a decade, making it more affordable for the owners to have this done.
Avoiding Parklands and Trails
Besides the reluctance of reforesting the above noted areas, it's interesting to note that City has never established a Parks and Recreation Board to proceed over Parklands as had the Homes Association. The Art Jury was retained to evaluate every new home and remodel. But the City had no entity to manage the aesthetic qualities and recreational uses of PVE's Parklands. Even though the City established a Parkland Committee, it was given limited authority with the ultimate responsibility resting with the City Council. Also, the Parkland Committee's role actually has had little to do with Parklands. Instead, it has been relegated to a street tree committee involving view issues with plantings nearly always on right-of-way. For example, this committee has had no involvement in Landscape Maintenance and Fire Abatement contracts that involve Paths and Parklands, nor has it been involved in establishing any Trail Maintenance Standards. (Such contracts are the responsibility of staff with limited supervision and such standards have not been adopted.) Further, the City Council has explictedly not given this committee any authority to set it's own agendas or to make final decisions. Basically, the Parklands Committee has only been able to make recommendations involving trees on R/W to the City Council for final approval.
Parkland Committee Activity in Parklands and Trails
However, there were periods that the Parkland Committee seemed to be more involved in particularly trails and paths. In 1995 the Parkland Committee apparently prepared an inventory of all paths, lanes and alleys. The City council apparently also directed the committee to prioritize those pathways which the city could re-establish, concentrating on 10 that were considered most important.
Also, beginning in 2011 the Parklands Committee also had some involvement in Paths and Trails. In that year, it became involved in an LA County (Knabe) Grant that provided public funds to replace and add stairs on a few Paths in PVE and some trees. A year later, this committee and the City staff unanimously approved a recommendation to hire a trail consultant to better maintain mostly existing sections of trails through the largest green belt in PVE connecting all four neighborhoods. (It was referred to as the PVE Backbone Trail, but a more accurate name as depicted on an early 1926 Olmstead map of PVE is the Paseo Del Sol Trail.) However, due to objections of residents living next to portions of this trail, even though the intent of the recommendation was unclear to them and they sometimes distorted the facts, it was rejected by the City Council. The City Council decided it would be best to first establish Parkland and Trail Policies. Interestingly, in September, 2013, the CC decided not to have the Parklands Committee develop these policies, but simply review them. Instead, the CC has decided to have the City Manager and staff develop the policies, have them open for public comments (probably in early 2014) and ultimately finalized by the CC a few months later. It's notable that both the CC and the staff have very little experience in policy issues involving Parklands and Trails as well as Paths.
2012 Sale of Parkland
(Note: As most PVE residents know, the PVU School District has recently tried to sell a couple parcels known as "Lots C & D" challenging the deeded restrictions. This has created legal fees of over $1 million for the school district and some $400,000 for the Homes Association, who were trying to defend the covenants. However, in a turnaround, when a resident encroaching on Parkland for decades offered to give $1million to the school district and $400,000 to the Homes Association to procure this land, the Homes Association and the PVE City Council agreed to sell this land in 2012. It transaction involved 1.7 acres of Parklands, but is being contested. (Please see www.pveopenspace.com.)