Sonoma County report outlines cost estimates for Andy Lopez memorial park

  • Blake Carnaris, 2, plays in the makeshift park on the site of a proposed park in honor of teenager Andy Lopez, who was killed by a Sonoma County Sheriff last October while carrying an airsoft rifle. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

The estimated cost of building a park where 13-year-old Andy Lopez died last October could be between $2 million and $3 million, according to Sonoma County officials.

Add to that an estimated $20,000 to $25,000 a year it would cost to maintain and operate the park, and another $500,000 for environmental mitigation of possible tiger salamander habitat.

These are among the initial findings in a report that outlines progress being made by county officials in the ongoing effort to create a park in the Moorland Avenue neighborhood where Lopez was shot and killed. The report will be presented to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

"It's there; the money is there," said Supervisor Shirlee Zane. "We obviously have to do whatever we can to help the community heal."

Zane said the money could come out of $7 million in Open Space District tax sales the board initially put into a reserve fund to kick-start recreational access. The money is now in the Open Space District's general revenue fund and could be used for acquisitions, including land purchased in fee or conservation easements.

The report states that the desired location among those who want to build a park as a memorial to Lopez is 3399 Moorland Avenue. The address is an empty grass lot near where Lopez died on Oct. 22 after he was shot by Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus. Gelhaus told investigators he mistook the airsoft BB gun the boy was carrying for an AK-47 assault rifle.

"Although other sites exist in the area, there is strong community interest to secure at least the 1-acre property," the report states. "The current hope is that funding could be secured to purchase both pieces of property which total 4.18 acres. Various acquisition options are being evaluated by staff, and will be presented to the Board as they become more fully developed."

The properties in question are owned by real estate agent David Poulsen, who county officials said is willing to sell the properties for the creation of a park. The two adjacent lots are bounded by the Northwestern Pacific Railroad to the west, Moorland Avenue to the east, West Robles Avenue to the south and the Parkview subdivision on the north.

The nearby Parkview subdivision was originally designed to extend into the empty lot where Lopez died and also include a 2-acre park. County supervisors however rejected that proposal because of housing density restrictions. The subdivision was dramatically reduced in size and the park component of the development was eliminated.

In 2005, Poulsen proposed to develop the two parcels with a 1-acre park. That plan, however, fell victim to the ensuing economic recession and housing crisis.

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