Housing and Structures in County Parks

Originally Released 3/20/95

INTRODUCTION

The Santa Barbara County Park Department maintains 83 parks and 53 open spaces. It employs 80 employees and has a budget of approximately 7 million dollars. Part of the budget includes Accumulated Capital Outlay (Funds that may be used for lands, structures, and equipment.), Costal Resources Enhancement Funds (Funds for agencies within close proximity of oil & gas onshore/offshore facilities.), Quimby Funds (Provided by land developers to provide recreation facilities in residential areas.), and a special budget for Lake Cachuma.

A County Park Commission, made up of a private citizen from each supervisorial district, provides advice to the Park Department and the Board of Supervisors. It also serves as a liaison to the community.

OBJECTIVE

The Grand Jury was concerned with the use of County funds to provide housing for some Park Department employees. Some housing is provided as a condition of employment. Additional housing is available to other Park Department employees. The presence of private citizens living at Lake Cachuma and the physical condition of Park structures at many sites were also concerns.

APPROACH

The Grand Jury made numerous visits to County parks and open spaces, including Lake Cachuma and the County Park Administration Center.

Interviews were held with the Park Department Director and the Deputy Park Department Directors. The Grand Jury also interviewed Park Rangers and some members of the County Park Commission. A review of the Park Department Budget was made. Department documents, commission reports and newspaper articles were also reviewed and interviews with concerned private individuals were held.

OBSERVATIONS

At Lake Cachuma fifteen mobile home spaces are provided as housing for private citizens. These spaces are occupied under an agreement with the county at little cost to the residents and are now in the process of being phased out. Seven County Park Department employees are also provided housing at Lake Cachuma on a voluntary basis for a charge of $165 per month plus $20 for utilities.[1] The Park Department provides housing for seventeen employees in other selected county parks as conditions of employment. These are shown in Table 1 below.

TABLE I

Distribution and Number of Employees Living in Parks[2]

	County Park	Number of		Number of		Number of
Name Houses Mobile Homes Park Rangers

NORTH COUNTY
Nojoqui 1 1 2
Los Almos 0 1 1
Waller 2 0 2
Jalama 0 4 4

SOUTH COUNTY
Toro Canyon 0 1 1
Manning 2 0 2
Lookout 0 1 1
Tucker's Grove 0 1 1
Stow Grove 1 0 1
Goleta Beach 1 1 2

Park employees living on site are required to work, in addition to their regular duties, an additional 10 hours per week to compensate the County for their housing allowance. There is no accountability system to determine whether or not these hours have been worked. Witnesses before the Grand Jury expressed concern that a morale problem among Park Department employees not provided with housing may exist. These employees may hope to have access to this housing in the future.

There is no separate budget category within the Park Department General Budget identifying expenditures for the maintenance and upkeep of housing located in the parks.

The Park Department successfully uses Park Hosts to a limited extent. A Park Host is a private individual who resides in a County park in a personally owned recreational vehicle at the pleasure of the Park Department. The Host performs certain services in the park in exchange for a recreational vehicle site and utilities. A detailed Host Agreement exists between the Park Department and the Host. The term of the agreement is for 90 days and may be renewed for an additional 90 day period.

The Grand Jury heard from concerned community sources that Santa Barbara County has not complied with its verbal understanding to properly maintain certain structures in the Manning Park property so generously donated to the citizens of this county by Mrs. J. F. Manning in the 1930's. An inspection by the Grand Jury found this to be the case. This bequest was made with a verbal agreement that the County would provide upkeep for the structures on the property.[3] The "Cottage" has been renovated to serve as living quarters for a Park Ranger and is well maintained. A second building, now known as the "Scout House", has been allowed to fall into disrepair, i.e. leaking roof, faulty rain gutters, outdated electrical system and other serious problems. A November 4, 1994 County Park Department study details the full specifics of the structure's poor condition and includes the cost to bring the "Scout House" up to standard as per the verbal acceptance agreement with Mrs. Manning. The estimated cost will be approximately $60,000.[4]

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

FINDING #1: The Santa Barbara County Park Department needs a written policy regarding the need for live-in park employees and written qualifications for personnel required to live in County park housing.

RECOMMENDATION #1a: The Park Department should develop a written housing policy for park residency which justifies the need for housing in specific County parks.

RECOMMENDATION #1b: The Park Department should develop a written criteria for personnel assigned to these parks.

FINDING #2: Too much housing is provided in some County parks for park employees as a condition of employment.

RECOMMENDATION #2: The following recommendations are made for County parks where housing is required as a condition of employment:

* Jalama Beach Park - Maintain four residences as a condition of employment because of its remote location.

* Nojoqui Park - Leave the house and remove the mobile home. A resident ranger is needed because of the remote location.

* Los Alamos Park - Retain the residence because of remote location.

* Waller Park - Eliminate the two residences or make them available for other County use.

* Goleta Beach Park - Retain the house and remove the mobile home. One employee should remain as a condition of employment for emergency response to Goleta Beach Park, Isla Vista Park, Stow Grove Park, Lake Carneros Park, and Tucker's Grove Park.

* Arroyo Burro Park - Eliminate the residence or make it available for other County use.

* Stow Grove Park - Eliminate the residence or make it available for other County use.

* Tucker's Grove Park - Eliminate the residence or make it available for other County use.

* Manning Park - Refurbish the Scout House and convert the residences for other County use.

* Lookout Park - Eliminate the residence or make it available for other County use.

* Toro Canyon Park - Continue the residence as a condition of employment. This

employee could provide service at Toro Canyon Park as well as Lookout Park, Manning Park, Loon Point and Wallace Avenue Parks.

FINDING #3: It is impossible to identify the actual expenditures for the maintenance and upkeep of housing located in the parks because there is no separate budget category.

RECOMMENDATION #3: The Park Department must develop a budget category for income and expenditures associated with park housing.

FINDING #4: The Park Host Program works well at minimum cost to the County.

RECOMMENDATION #4: The Park Host Program concept should be expanded to assist in maintaining the County parks.

FINDING #5: The housing provided at Lake Cachuma is not a condition of employment and is unnecessary.

RECOMMENDATION #5: Eliminate housing at Lake Cachuma for non-essential County employees and convert the spaces for recreational/camping use.

FINDING #6: The "Scout House", located in Manning Park, has deteriorated into a deplorable condition. It is unacceptable for the County to be the beneficiary of a generous civic donation and to subsequently not honor the commitment to properly maintain this valuable gift.

RECOMMENDATION #6: The Park Department should refurbish the "Scout House."

AFFECTED AGENCIES (California Penal Code Section 933c requires that comments to Findings and Recommendations be made in writing within 60 days by all affected agencies except governing bodies, which are allowed 90 days.)

1. Santa Barbara County Park Department - response

REFERENCES CITED

[1] Information provided by the Santa Barbara County Park Department Business Manager.

[2] Table created from information provided by the Santa Barbara County Park Department.

[3] Santa Barbara News-Press, June 8, 1947.

[4] Custom Design Drafting Report, November 4, 1994