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Report outlines cost estimates for Andy Lopez memorial park


The estimated cost of building a park where 13-year-old Andy Lopez died last October could be between $2 million and $3 million, according to Sonoma County officials.

Add to that an estimated $20,000 to $25,000 a year it would cost to maintain and operate the park, and another $500,000 for environmental mitigation of possible tiger salamander habitat.

These are among the initial findings in a report that outlines progress being made by county officials in the ongoing effort to create a park in the Moorland Avenue neighborhood where Lopez was shot and killed. The report will be presented to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Blake Carnaris, 2, plays in the makeshift park on the site of a proposed park in honor of teenager Andy Lopez, who was killed by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy last October while carrying an airsoft rifle. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

Blake Carnaris, 2, plays in the makeshift park on the site of a proposed park in honor of teenager Andy Lopez, who was killed by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy last October while carrying an airsoft rifle. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

“It’s there; the money is there,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane. “We obviously have to do whatever we can to help the community heal.”

Zane said the money could come out of $7 million in Open Space District tax sales the board initially put into a reserve fund to kick-start recreational access. The money is now in the Open Space District’s general revenue fund and could be used for acquisitions, including land purchased in fee or conservation easements.

The report states that the desired location among those who want to build a park as a memorial to Lopez is 3399 Moorland Avenue. The address is an empty grass lot near where Lopez died on Oct. 22 after he was shot by Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus. Gelhaus told investigators he mistook the airsoft BB gun the boy was carrying for an AK-47 assault rifle.

“Although other sites exist in the area, there is strong community interest to secure at least the 1-acre property,” the report states. “The current hope is that funding could be secured to purchase both pieces of property which total 4.18 acres. Various acquisition options are being evaluated by staff, and will be presented to the Board as they become more fully developed.”

The properties in question are owned by real estate agent David Poulsen, who county officials said is willing to sell the properties for the creation of a park. The two adjacent lots are bounded by the Northwestern Pacific Railroad to the west, Moorland Avenue to the east, West Robles Avenue to the south and the Parkview subdivision on the north.

The nearby Parkview subdivision was originally designed to extend into the empty lot where Lopez died and also include a 2-acre park. County supervisors however rejected that proposal because of housing density restrictions. The subdivision was dramatically reduced in size and the park component of the development was eliminated.

In 2005, Poulsen proposed to develop the two parcels with a 1-acre park. That plan, however, fell victim to the ensuing economic recession and housing crisis.

Poulsen could not be reached for comment Friday. Local political consultant Herb Williams, who Poulsen has designated his spokesman, said Poulsen is willing to sell both properties “if the price is right.”

“There’s been several inquiries but no concrete proposal,” Williams said.

On Tuesday, the county’s regional parks department will request that the board give the green light for staff to seek funds from the state’s Housing-Related Parks program to help cover the cost of acquiring and developing the park. County officials said that $25 million in such funds is available, with the share available to the county estimated at $450,000.

In the report, county staff also raised the possibility of setting up a “highly successful” fundraising campaign that could “conceivably secure enough to set up an operations trust fund to address ongoing maintenance and operations.”

The report also states that “community input” is a key element of the eventual development of the park. To that end, the county hopes to enlist the nonprofit Community Action Partnership to help with fundraising efforts and seeking community input.

Activists who have been calling for the construction of a park in Lopez’s name have stressed the importance of involving the local community in the park campaign.

“It would be a big mistake for the park to be a top-down process,” said Jonathan Melrod, a Sebastopol resident and organizer with the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez. “It does no healing if you don’t involve people.”

While Melrod applauded the county’s efforts to build a park in Lopez’s name, he said more is needed to address the “open wound” caused by Lopez’s death.

“It’s a great thing that they’re looking at putting a park there,” Melrod said. “But it doesn’t absolve Gelhaus for shooting Andy.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.)

10 Responses to “Report outlines cost estimates for Andy Lopez memorial park”

  1. Be Fair to Moorland says:

    The area around Moorland avenue has needed a park for a very long time. Other areas of the county have parks. Their turn is up.

    However the Board of Supes has a responsibility to the taxpayers if not a fiduciary duty to ensure that there is a solid appraisal and that the cost of mitigation is factored into it. No investor should gain a windfall.

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  2. Shocked Monkey says:

    Blood Money for poor behavior!

    A park? really? how about some educational seminars on situational awareness. How about teaching kids in Andy’s neighborhood that appearances and your actions are serious business.

    You see the truth here is that some of the citizens of that neighborhood look like and may be gang members.

    I hate to say it but it needs saying, first impressions are everything so look your best, act your best, and you will be treated accordingly.

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  3. Robert says:

    Maybe if there wasn’t so much crime in the neighborhood and calls to to police asking for help, there would be fewer police cars and the police would not be so jumpy when they see a youth carrying what appears to be a real weapon.

    Time for the “neighborhood” to support the cops and not support the gangs.

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  4. Jim says:

    A complete waste of money. I can’t believe this continues. How many kids are shot by rival gang members in the Moorland area? Where are the parks for them?

    A park at that corner will be a haven for drug dealing. Every stop sign in the area is tagged with gang signs. Every fence in the area is tagged. Yeah, let’s put a park there.

    This is merely another example of politicians wasting taxpayer money on political projects. A park doesn’t help people “heal”. What an embarrassment.

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  5. Betty says:

    Waste of money and time. If the politicians feel the need to do buy something buy the property and build a police station.

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  6. The Hammer says:

    Do any of these people have jobs?

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  7. Geoff Johnson says:

    Poulsen could do a service to the community — and make himself look good — by offering his “worthless” properties to the County at a bargain price — or better yet, donating them for the Lopez park.

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  8. Steveguy says:

    My vision is for 13- 30 foot tall obelisks for each of his years with fountains and orchid gardens. Gazebos and play areas, bocce ball courts and badminton nets.

    Ohh, and better have a Sheriff’s substation next door.

    Pay the owner and let the residents create their own, this time not burning it down.

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  9. Geoff Johnson says:

    If the County buys one or both lots, Poulsen may be the major — and perhaps, the only — beneficiary of Lopez’ death.

    How about a SMART station on the west side of the park?

    And the CAP is a War on Poverty agency, founded in 1967 — a government bureaucracy, not the voice of the community.

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  10. Paulson Greed says:

    Paulson is really exploiting this and seeking to make a killing himself. It is not developed because he doesn’t have or want to spend the $500,000 himself on mitigation…so now that big bill shifts to taxpayers? The board should negotiate the cost down by $500,000 from an appraised price. For Paulson the land has been worthless, now he can exploit a kid’s death for profit.

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