Is there a revenue bonanza to be found in the city parks of Los Angeles?
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says yes. But budget crisis or not, his new plan is already drawing fire.
City leaders are looking for a type of hidden treasure in city parks and the L.A. Zoo: A place for signage, where corporations and big money sponsors could display their names in exchange for a generous donation.
Never has the need for private funding been greater, according to L.A. Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.
"We are trying to keep our programs open and we are trying not to impose addition fees to the residents, so we have to come up with creative alternatives," said Santana.
How big would signs be and where would they go? Park visitors and members of the L.A. City Council are worried.
"I know we have tremendous budget challenges, but you can't put signs, signs, everywhere a sign in our parks, because you go to parks to get into nature," said Councilman Tom LaBonge.
But park officials say present signage laws are too restrictive. Even a banner that would bear the name of a corporate sponsor of a Fourth of July event at Angel's Gate Park in San Pedro is banned under the current ordinance.
They point out many non-profit museums have a place to recognize corporate donors who provide critical funding.
"You have usually a founders wall that shows who's been major supporters. It's not something that's completely farfetched," said Santana.
Plans are far from formulated. The city council is asking the Planning and Land Use Committee to explore the possibilities and the legal hurdles.
The potential benefits could overcome objections. Even after major cuts, the Recreation and Parks Department faces a shortfall next year of $7 million to $12 million.
The zoo is also hurting.
"Without finding a new revenue source we're going to possibly even shut it down," said Santana.
The planning committee has 30 to 60 days to review the matter. It will come back to report to the rest of the committee and the council.
Meantime, before anything is passed, there will be plenty of opportunity later for citizen input.