Park group presents Hanford with new ballot initiative

For the second time in two years a citizens group is asking the city of Hanford to put an initiative on the ballot to change the zoning on the 18 acres of undeveloped section of Hidden Valley Park from residential back to public facilities.

Hidden Valley Park was purchased by the City of Hanford in 1967. The land was bought with taxpayer money with the intent that the 40 acres remain open space, be it a wilderness area, golf course, sports facility or developed parkland.

The initiative involving the extension of Hidden Valley Park was filed with the city on November

4. The initiative would involve rezoning the 18-acre property west of 11th Avenue and Cortner

Street from low-density residential back to public facilities.

Members of previous city council wanted to sell the property to a developer and construct

Housing but residents have continuously fought back.

Accordingly, as part of the city’s 2035 General Plan Update in 2017 the property was declared surplus by the city council and rezoned to its current low-density residential designation. If the property were sold to a developer the city could get in excess of a $1 million for the land which is bounded by Cortner to the north, railroad tracks to the west and the existing Hidden Valley Park to the east, said the previous city manager, Darrel Pyle, during a council meeting.

The city attorney had 15 days to certify the initiative petition from the day of its filing on November 4. The park group, Saveourparkland93230, received a reply from the city attorney on November 19. The city attorney has proposed a series of changes to the initiative petition which the group is considering.

Petition sponsors are Mark and Patricia Pratter and Louis Martinez, a former Hanford council member.

Various city councils have been trying to sell the property for development for years but each time the public fought the change and the property was retained for future park development. This time the city is in the process of updating its parks master plan and the adoption of that plan will have bearing on the Hidden Valley Park extension.

Speakers have regularly voiced their opposition to the sale at twice-a-month city council meetings.

Among the points the speakers have made are: the city is short of park space, the city will never be able to acquire such a large tract for a park again and that more housing will add to the city’s serious air and water pollution problems.

City staff and Mayor Sue Sorensen have said the city has greater park needs in other areas than west of the existing Hidden Valley Park.

At the November 5 city council meeting Pratter said, “The public’s will on this issue is clear. Close to 3,000 signatures were collected to reverse the zoning in 2017 before the city rejected the petition.

And the city’s own poll and our extensive contacts with city residents show the vast majority of the public wants the property retained for parkland.”

Martinez wondered why the city council keeps bringing this issue back when the residents have made it clear they want open space. He said that the council was elected to do what the residents want, not what special interests or developers want.

“Listen to what we have to say.”

Ken Franks told the council that when he drives past the undeveloped acres “I can picture Frisbees and kites, soccer balls being kicked, children playing tag, and friends and families enjoying our beautiful weather in a great new addition to an already beautiful park. We have a great opportunity to offer children and adults more access to healthy habits and recreational activities.”

Once the city certifies the petition, the sponsors would be eligible to start gathering signatures to get the measure on the ballot. The signatures would not be gathered in time for the November 2020 ballot but would be soon after. The city, in the mean time, could sell the 18 acres.

The city council is expected to make a decision on the issue late this year or early next year.

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