Calif. justices relax rules on parkland sales

Chris Rizo May 14, 2009, 3:35pm

Kathryn Mickle Werdegar

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline)-California's regional park districts can sell some of their land holdings without first getting voter approval, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday, relaxing restrictions on local officials.

The high court's decision overturned two lower court decisions that blocked the Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District from selling 161 acres to the Mt. San Jacinto Community College District.

The lawsuit was brought by Gerard Ste. Marie of the city of Wildomar, who argued that state rules limiting the sale of parkland come into effect as soon as a district acquires land.

Meanwhile, the Riverside County Regional Park and Open-Space District and six other similar park districts argued that the trial court decisions would force them to bankroll elections for many minor land deals.

Currently, California law states that dedicated parks land cannot be sold without voter approval. The state Supreme Court ruled that the lands do not become dedicated lands, protected by the law, until the districts' governing boards decide so.

Writing for the court's majority, Associate Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar said if the state law were interpreted to mean that land is dedicated immediately upon acquisition it would "eliminate a district's flexibility in dealing with its land holdings and actually diminish a park district's willingness to acquire land for park and open space purposes."

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