On the Anaheim City Council’s agenda on September 24 was some good news amidst all the usual unpleasantness: the creation of Miraloma Park and Community Center. The city had its eye on a commercial property for some time, and moved to purchase it when it became available. According to the staff report, amenities will include:

Miraloma Park and Community Center in the City of Anaheim consisting of re-purpose the existing 4,312-square-foot building to create a Silver-level, LEED-certified community center with a multi-purpose room, classrooms, counseling offices, a kitchen, restrooms, a computer center, and a lounge. The project will also include a perimeter loop trail, a sloping skate plaza, an outdoor classroom plaza, a picnic and BBQ area, a multi-court/events plaza, an interactive water feature, a variety of play areas, native gardens, a vertical garden wall, storm/bio swales, solar canopies and a parking area.


It will be small park, but it illustrates the creativity required by older cities like Anaheim when it comes to increasing park and recreational amenities for residents. As with other cities in north OC, the explosive growth that took place in Anaheim in the 1950s and 1960s occurred before the advent of the kind of master planning we now take for granted.  Hence , the relative scarcity of public parks in more mature areas of Anaheim compared to the hills. The situation is similar in orange, where I live: the newer, eastern section of town has more parks and open space since it was developed later and happens to be adjacent to several county regional parks (in addition to city parks).

The challenge for older cities is finding available land for additional parks – no easy task.  Buying and scraping a commercial space for a small park is one way to provide such an amenity for the immediate neighborhood.

The county’s new Hastert Basin Recreation Area in Garden Grove is an example of an outside-the-box approach to creating additional park space in an established suburban environment. A 2.4-acre active recreation area was constructed over a flood control basin as part of a flood channel improvement project, which will provide residents new soccer fields, exercise stations, park shelters, an improved jogging trail and an expanded parking lot.

The reality is Anaheim doesn’t have open space available for conversion to parkland in areas of the city most in need of parks. The ingenuity and creativity to envision potential park space isn’t a function of political philosophy. It also requires ongoing economic activity in the city to generate the revenue to make what is potential into something actual, and that in turn requires a city government that continues to be guided by a mindset that is friendly to fostering economic activity.

And here I think we find a nexus with the ongoing debate over shifting council elections from at-large to single-member council districts. If Anaheim does, by choice or by judicial fiat, move to single-member districts, even smaller projects like Miraloma Park and Community Center will be complicated and weighed down by the squabbling that is inherent in by-district municipal governance. “Why is the first district getting that park when my constituents want a park, too?” councilmembers from some other districts will demand of city staff, creating a dynamic that tends to gum up the works and actually hamper the ability to city government efficiently, rationally plan.

Single-member districts would likely lead to the election of more left-leaning councilmembers pushing policies that retard economic growth and opportunity by making the city a more difficult and expensive place to do business — which further undermine the ability of Anaheim city government to meets its fundamental responsibilities. After all, who are the elements of the single-member district coalition: OCCORD, UNITE-HERE, the Democratic Party of Orange County, Los Amigos and other left-liberal interests – organizations that espouse policies like the “living wage,” gate taxes, retention and other policies that reduce economic activity by making it more costly — ultimately making the city and therefore city government, poorer.

My point is the issue of at-large versus by-district has serious consequences for Anaheim that go beyond facile slogans like “neighbors electing neighbors.” By-district election will lead to a significant difference in how city government operates. That difference will be taking a city government that under historically Republican governance, works well in the main, and imbuing that government with a level of dysfunction more characteristic of the other large California cities that have declined under the weight of left-liberal policies and interests.