The Department has made regular reports to the Housing, Land Use, Environment, and Transportation Committee and the Parks and Recreation Commission during the process of developing the Strategic Plan Update. No formal recommendations have been made with respect to this report.
There is no fiscal implication to receiving the report to either the County General Fund or the Park Charter Fund. The Strategic Plan Update will identify general funding priorities within the Park Charter Fund. Additionally, the Department is seeking direction related to the projected gap in funding over the next decade.
REASONS FOR RECOMMENDATION
The 2003 Strategic Plan for the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation System (Strategic Plan) sought to present a road map to guide the following 10-15 years of acquisition, planning, development, programming, management, and funding of regional parks and recreation in Santa Clara County. The 2006 abbreviated update re-assessed the 2003 park planning priorities and updated them as part of the 2006 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Action Plan. Most of the strategies and actions of the Strategic Plan have been accomplished in the intervening period, and although the plan is nearing the end of its useful life, much of the strategic direction set forth in the plan remains relevant.
Consequently, in late 2016, the Department initiated a major update of the Strategic Plan, at that time envisioned to include background research and analysis, an abbreviated visioning process, a countywide Needs Assessment including facilitation of public and internal Department input, and developing a final Strategic Plan Update document including a ten-year integrated capital and operating plan. The intent was to maximize the efficiency of the planning process while producing an inclusive and innovative update to the Strategic Plan in under two years.
Since that time, the vast majority of the of the data gathering and analysis has been completed and other planning efforts have been carried out, including updating the Department’s Vision Statement, executing a countywide Needs Assessment, including public outreach and analysis of the information collected, and guided discussions with several Technical Advisory Committees.
Key outcomes include:
· Updated draft Vision Statement.
· Identification of emerging themes.
· Draft Strategic Goals, Strategies and Actions, and
· Development of a ten-year Integrated Capital and Operating Plan (ICOP) which establishes ten-year CIP project priorities and improves on the traditional CIP planning process by incorporating anticipated impacts to the operating budget.
The ICOP built upon the long range financial forecast prepared by the Department in the lead up to the 2016 renewal and amendment of the Park Charter Fund. As with the earlier financial analysis, the ICOP shows capital funding resources falling far short ($150M+ over ten years) of anticipated demand. Through the ICOP, the Strategic Plan Update recommends priorities and attempts to balance the competing needs of renovating aging infrastructure, updating amenities to meet current and anticipated visitor needs, and opening over 10,000 acres of County Parkland to public use, within the context of inadequate resources.
The Department seeks feedback from the Board regarding these preliminary outcomes and recommendations, and asks for direction regarding whether to leave the plan focused on prioritizing capital needs within existing resources or to establish a goal of identifying options for additional financial support for the Department. The Department will use the Board’s guidance and direction to inform development of a full draft document and will bring the final document back to the Board in the coming months for final approval.
The recommended action will have no/neutral impact on children and youth.
The recommended action will have no/neutral impact on seniors.
The recommended action will have no/neutral sustainability implications.
The County General Plan provides the basic principles that guide the actions of the Department. The Regional Parks, Trails and Scenic Highways Plan of the County General Plan provides the basic planning vision of "a necklace of parks" for the regional parks, trails and open space system, where this "...vision remains alive as a positive blueprint for meeting current and long-term recreation needs and for preserving portions of our county's unique open space heritage."
In 2003, the original Strategic Plan further refined the vision set forth by the Regional Parks, Trails and Scenic Highways Plan and the Parks and Recreation Element of the General Plan, and outlined a set of strategies and goals for the decade that followed. It established a near-term Action Plan and new priority-setting criteria for vetting capital projects to be incorporated in the formal Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). In 2006, the Department completed an abbreviated update of the Strategic Plan in the form of a CIP Action Plan.
A program to review and update the Strategic Plan, including a financial plan, is intended to be carried out approximately every 10 years; as such, the Department has undertaken this recent effort. The process to develop the 2017/18 Strategic Plan Update has been underway since September 2016. The below outlines work that has been performed to date.
Background work for the Strategic Plan Update began in the months prior to the project’s official kick-off which took place in September 2016. During July and August 2016, Department Planning staff reviewed the existing Strategic Plan documents and developed a Scope of Work and formal contract with a consultant team from PlaceWorks, Inc., including subconsultants from 2M Associates and Land Economics Consultants (LEC). Following the kickoff, the consultant team began an intensive review of a variety of internal Department materials, including existing CIP lists and other financial planning resources, General Plan and guiding documents, Master Plans, the previous Strategic Plan, various policies and procedures manuals, etc. External materials consulted included partner visioning, strategic, and financial planning documents such as the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (OSA) Greenprint, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s Vision Plan, Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s annual Silicon Valley Index, and the CIP priority-setting processes of similar agencies.
Preliminary Review of Department Mission, Vision, and Capital Needs
Following review of the literature, two Technical Advisory Committee meetings and several Steering Committee meetings were held to discuss the existing Mission, Vision, and CIP process within the Department. The Department recommends retaining the existing Department Mission to “provide, protect and preserve regional parklands for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” The Department also developed a preliminary revised Vision statement and sub-statements. These preliminary revisions were useful in gaining feedback for the Needs Assessment. Other work that occurred during this phase included review of the Department’s existing priority-setting process for CIP projects and consolidation of various internal project and CIP lists.
The Needs Assessment constituted a major portion of the strategic planning process, and included a series of data and information collection efforts performed from January to June 2017.
The first effort was a mapping activity performed primarily via Geographic Information System (GIS) software by Department staff. This was intended to result in a “snapshot” of the existing physical conditions of the Department including inventories of parklands, trails, and facilities, and assessment of their accessibility.
The next focused effort of the Needs Assessment was public outreach. This outreach was performed via several channels, including an online engagement tool [interactive website], live outreach by the project team at five existing regional events throughout the County (i.e., farmer’s market, music festivals, etc.), a public workshop held prior to a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, and lastly, a phone survey of registered voters carried out by the firm EMC Research. Advertisement and outreach informing the public of the engagement tools and live events were through the Department website, e-blasts, social media, Board of Supervisor offices, and our open space and park partners. The total number of participants generated via this outreach was over 1,800 individuals.
Alongside the public outreach effort, the consultant team performed a general market analysis to serve as an informative comparison to the input received from residents. The market research primarily reviewed four publications, including Santa Clara County Parks Annual Activity Report – 2015, Public Opinion Survey Results – 2014 by EMC Research, Outdoor Recreation Participation Report – 2016 by The Outdoor Foundation, and the Survey on Public Opinions and Attitudes on Outdoor Recreation in California – 2012 by the State of California, Natural Resources Agency, and California State Parks.
Another major area of research and analysis as part of the Needs Assessment was that of Customer Demographics. Department Planning staff collected and summarized a considerable amount of data. Data and statistics were gathered from the US Census, California Department of Finance, the American Communities Strategy, and from the County Department of Health and Hospitals.
Lastly, a survey of major trends in Natural and Cultural Resource Preservation was carried out by the project team. In this work, the group looked at existing regional, partner and other planning efforts, as well as publications from the industry. A basic inventory of existing natural and cultural resources within County Parks was documented.
Following collection and analysis of the Needs Assessment data and information, the Department held a series of Technical Advisory Committee meetings to present and discuss the outcomes with internal managers and supervisors, and with key partner agencies, jurisdictions, and other County Departments. The meetings invited discourse around notable emerging themes, focus areas, actions, and goals.
The major emerging themes included the following:
1. Natural resource protection in the form of landscape-level management
2. Various implications of a changing population / customer demographics
3. Importance of Regional Trails Network
4. Role of climate change and the resilience of parklands for future generations
5. Importance of planning for fiscal sustainability
6. Role of technology
7. Importance of partnerships
8. Protection, preservation and education of archeological, historical and cultural resources
Noting the emerging themes and cross-referencing with the visioning work carried out earlier in the strategic planning process, the Department recommends an updated Vision Statement as follows:
We create and manage a sustainable, vibrant system of regional parks and trails where exceptional visitor experiences enrich the human spirit and offer all people the opportunity to connect with the County’s protected natural, cultural, historic, and scenic resources.
The updated Vision Statement includes five sub-statements:
Ø Interconnected and Inclusive
The County of Santa Clara’s parks, trails and natural areas form an interconnected “Emerald Web” that preserves contiguous wildlife habitat and critical linkages and offers equitable access to people throughout the County.
Ø Enriched Visitor Experience
Santa Clara County Parks acquires parkland and provides high quality facilities and programs that offer an accessible, enjoyable, safe, and educational visitor experience.
Ø Resource Stewardship
Natural, cultural, historic, and scenic resources are acquired, protected and enhanced in balance with the provision of public access and outdoor experiences. Land management practices promote healthy ecosystems that strengthen the region’s resilience to climate change.
Ø Human Health
The County of Santa Clara’s regional park system provides important human health benefits. Parks provide opportunities to engage in active recreation that enhances physical health. Being in nature reduces stress and renews the human spirit.
Ø Operational Excellence
By actively embracing innovation, fiscal responsibility, employee engagement, adaptive management practices and collaboration with partners, the Department serves as a model of excellence in customer service, resource protection, and park management.
For purposes of comparison, the 2003 Vision Statement read:
We create a growing and diverse system of regional parks, trails, and open spaces of Countywide significance that connects people with the natural environment, offers visitor experiences that renew the human spirit, and balances recreation opportunities with resource protection.
Along with the emerging themes and Vision Statement, a set of nine updated goals has been developed
· GOAL #1: Protect Natural Resources in the Context of the Greater Region
· GOAL #2: Meet the Needs of a Diverse Customer Base
· GOAL #3: Manage the Parks System in a Fiscally Sustainable Manner
· GOAL #4: Balance the Role of Technology
· GOAL #5: Elevate the Role of Parks in Improving Human Health
· GOAL #6: Provide Exceptionally Safe, Welcoming, and Well-Maintained Parks and Trails
· GOAL #7: Prioritize Core Outdoor Recreational Uses
· GOAL #8: Demonstrate Leadership in Trail Development and the Provision of Equitable Access
· GOAL#9: Prioritize Regionally Significant Historical and Cultural Resources
Capital Improvement and Financial Plan
Alongside all the above-named strategic planning work, the Department carried out extensive review of its previous approaches to long-term financial planning. The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) priority-setting process was studied and careful analysis of prior and anticipated fiscal conditions was performed to inform development of an improved financial planning model.
The Park Charter Fund
The primary financial support for the Department is the Park Charter Fund, established in 1972 following voter approval of the Park Charter amendment. It is a provision in the County’s Charter that sets aside a portion of property tax revenue exclusively for County Park purposes. Since its inception, the Park Charter Fund has historically provided a stable funding source for the Department.
The Park Charter Fund has been renewed seven times since its first approval and has been adjusted over the years, first to respond the fiscal realities following Proposition 13, and later, to shift the allocation of funds to respond to the needs of a growing and aging park system. As the park system has grown, the allocation of funds has shifted from acquisition and growing the park system, to building the park system and amenities, to supporting the operations and maintenance of the regional park system, and finally, to developing and rehabilitating park amenities and infrastructure.
The Park Charter Fund was originally established at 10 cents per $100 of assessed value, and focused largely on funding the acquisition of parkland. In 1986, the Park Charter Fund was reduced to 1.5 cents per $100 assessed value. Last approved by voters in 2016, with over 78% voting in favor, the Park Charter Fund currently sets aside 1.5 cents per $100 of assessed value and dedicates 10% for acquisition, and 10% for capital improvements, with 80% unrestricted.
The Department anticipates approximately $60M in Park Charter Fund revenues for FY2018. The approximately $60M dedicates a minimum of $6M for acquisition and $6M for capital improvements with the remaining $48M unrestricted. A portion of the unrestricted funds are made available for one-time purposes (capital projects and equipment) to help address the significant shortfall in capital resources, while preserving approximately $2M in annual operating budget capacity to address operating needs resulting from the growth of the park system; this reserved capacity is typically allocated to capital projects, equipment, or retained in reserves for future use
The Park Charter revenues are supplemented by approximately $9.5M in operating fees, grants and other revenue sources for a combined $69M annual budget.
The anticipated actual spending is expected to be $7.4M for acquisition, $11.3M for capital improvements, and $53M for the operating budget.
Constraints on Growth of Operating Budget
Typically, the Parks and Recreation budget operates as a stand-alone fund, living within the means of the Park Charter Fund set-aside and revenues from operations and leases. This creates a relatively stable fiscal environment. Historically, property tax revenues, which feed the Park Charter Fund, have grown at an average rate of about 5% per year, while the cost of salaries, benefits, materials and supplies have risen at an average annual rate of approximately 4%. This means the Department must take a very conservative approach to managing its annual budget to maintain a cushion between the operating costs and the revenues available to support the system. This cushion provides a hedge in times of economic downturn and the unallocated revenue is typically used as one-time funds to help fill the gap in funding for current or future capital projects and equipment.
Integrated Capital and Operating Plan
As part of the Strategic Plan Update process, the Department worked to develop a new, more comprehensive financial forecasting model. This new model strives to improve project scoping, build upon previous CIP estimates, and better identify the operating budget impacts associated with each project. As such, this new long-range financial planning approach has been titled the Integrated Capital and Operating Plan or ICOP.
During the ICOP development process, rough estimates were developed for all efforts and projects currently included on the Department’s overall workplan. As a result, the Department conservatively identified a need to invest approximately $250M over the next ten years. However, less than $90M in funding resources are currently estimated to be available during that same period. Given that funding will be insufficient to address identified needs to rehabilitate aging infrastructure (sustain), update existing visitor amenities (enhance), and to open remaining County Parkland which is not yet accessible to the public (approximately 10,000 acres or 20% of our landholdings) (expand), the Department ICOP attempts to balance available resources with a focus on rehabilitating aging infrastructure and updating existing facilities.
The charts below illustrate the significant gap, or unfunded need, to address the identified needs of the County’s Regional Park System
The ICOP assumes the Department will live within its existing resources and attempts to balance the competing needs of renovating aging infrastructure, updating amenities to meet current and anticipated visitor needs, and opening over 10,000 acres of County Parkland to public use, within the context of inadequate resources.
The charts below depict the proposed allocation of anticipated capital funding by project role and category.
Keeping the projected shortfall in view, the Department used the ICOP to plan tentative allocations of funding in alignment with projected resources, and to develop a conservative plan for carrying out the workplan. The ICOP essentially presents a ten-year framework that establishes priorities within projected resources. The Department intends to update the ICOP on an annual basis. The Department expects that as projects move further along in planning and design, costs will change and priorities will shift. However, the ICOP should allow the Department to keep funding of the long-term capital program at the fore, and it should also help expedite the project delivery process: establishing project scope and priorities within the limits of projected available capital and operating resources.
The chart below shows the major projects that the Department proposes to advance over the coming decade.
The Department seeks Board input on these tentative priorities as developed during the course of this Strategic Plan Update process, recognizing that actual budget authorization will continue to be accomplished via the Annual Budget process. The Department also seeks direction regarding whether to leave the Draft Plan focused on prioritizing capital needs within existing resources, or to establish a goal of identifying options for additional financial support for the Department.
The Department is working to create a 3 to 5-year Action Plan that ties strategic goals with planned capital projects and other Departmental actions that respond to the findings of the Needs Assessment, in concert with anticipated impacts to park operations and maintenance.
The various draft pieces of the Strategic Plan will be compiled in a full draft document and presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee in the coming months with consideration of approval of the final Strategic Plan document by the Board of Supervisors projected for late Spring 2018.
CONSEQUENCES OF NEGATIVE ACTION
Without the Board's acceptance of the report, the Parks and Recreation Department would not be able to include Board feedback as it moves forward with completing the update of the Strategic Plan.
STEPS FOLLOWING APPROVAL
Upon processing notify Annie Thomson and Sabine Sander of the Parks and Recreation Department.
· Strategic Plan Update-Presentation (PPTX)
· Strategic Plan Summary of Findings and Key Outcomes (DOCX)