Saveourparkland 93230, a local group trying to save 18 acres of Hidden Valley Park, has filed a revised initiative petition. The group had to file a new petition to be put on the ballot to change the zoning of Hidden Valley Park from residential back to parkland.
The revised petition was filed last Thursday after the city objected to some of the provisions of a previous petition filed in late 2019, said Mark Pratter, a spokesman for the group. Lou Martinez, a former city councilman, is a co-sponsor of the initiative.
At issue is the western 18 acres of Hidden Valley Park that is still undeveloped. The group wants to save the acreage from being developed into housing. The city has been eyeing the property for years despite objections of the park’s neighbors to sell it as a housing development.
The ballot initiative would put the question to the voters whether the property should be reinstated to public facilities from its current designation of low density residential.
The issue of selling the 18 acres has been controversial for years and previous city councils have tried to sell it only to be stopped when a large turnout of residents spoke against the sale at city council meetings. However, the current city council appears closer than ever to deciding to sell the property although Mayor John Draxler said no final decision has been made.
In 2019 and 2020 city councils have taken a series of steps leading to a possible sale. These include rezoning the property from public facilities to low density residential, having the planning commission certify that the rezoning conforms to the city’s 2035 General Plan Update, and overruling the Parks and Recreation Commission’s 4-1 vote to reinstate the 18 acres into the Parks Master Plan.
The city council proceeds in this direction despite the results of the city’s own poll which stated that a majority of residents wanted the land retained for park expansion.
Those in the city in favor of the sale for a housing development have argued that the city does not need a 38 acre park, that the city could expand parks in other areas and that the expected $1 million in proceeds from a sale could be used for other city projects such as a recreation center.
Councilperson Sue Sorensen, whose district includes the park, has long opposed developing the second half of Hidden Valley Park. She and Vice Mayor Francisco Ramirez, Draxler and Councilperson Martin Devine voted to eliminate 18 acres of Hidden Valley Park from the parks master plan.
Only Councilperson Art Brieno agreed with the parks and recreation commission that the property needed to be retained for a park.
Whether the city objects to the new filing or not, Pratter said, once a 15-day waiting period is over and a legal ad is published for the required period, the park group is free to start collecting signatures to get the measure on the ballot. In order to qualify for a ballot measure the park group will need valid signatures from 10 percent of city’s registered voters Pratter said.
“This has been a long, hard fight with the city of Hanford,” Pratter said. “Clearly the will of the people is to retain the property for park space which Hanford is short of. We can win this fight with all the strong public support we are receiving.”