continued Wilson says that sale would have provided a larger footprint for future developers. “If the City sold one portion to them, then they could get a tall building overlooking the canyon. Eventually, you could stick in a big condo complex, and the impact on Maple Canyon would be enormous.”
To Wilson’s surprise, in May of this year, Park and Recreation representative Debra Sharp showed up unannounced at the monthly meeting of the Uptown Planners to discuss options for Olive Park, despite the fact that the item was not on the agenda. Wilson said he felt as though the City was “passing a hot potato” to the planning group because the City wasn’t sure what to do with the land.
Wilson was even more astounded to see KUSI News investigative reporter Michael Turko arrive at the meeting to report on the issue.
Responding to the newfound interest from the City and local media, Wilson, along with fellow boardmember and law professor Don Liddell, took the initiative and spent the following months reviewing the court’s 1981 decision and visiting the city attorney’s office for advice.
Armed with new information and reassurance from the city attorney’s office, Wilson and Liddell were prepared to make a recommendation.
The City gave them four options to choose from. The first three involved selling all or portions of the park to Brandon. The last option included charging Brandon rent for his use of the land, as well as enlarging the park through a City purchase of two adjacent vacant lots to form a one-acre park called Wood/McKee Community Park.
In August, Uptown Planners voted 13–0 in favor of the last proposition.
Mark Brandon, son of Milan Brandon, says there are some misconceptions about the property and how his family has managed it over the years. “One of the pieces of misinformation is the idea that the McKees and the Woods gave the property to the City as a gift,” explains Brandon. “It’s a misleading way to portray it. What really happened was all of the families were using Olive Park, or then Olive Street, to get to their properties, just as we use it today. Somewhere along the way, one of the families suggested to the City that they close the paper street. If the City closed the paper street, then the homeowners agreed not to take the property. What they proposed to the City was, if you close the street, when the property comes to us we will give it back to the City and the City would keep it as a park. So that’s how the property got created as Olive Park. When that happened, the families still used the land exactly as they had before, and everyone just used it that way for decades. Nothing really changed. When we bought our property, we bought it with the understanding that we would always continue to use it the same way they had.
“Our position is we are not taking anything from the City, and we shouldn’t be paying rent on this,” says Brandon. “It’s an established access to our property that existed long before we bought it, and it’s the only way to get into our garage. At this point, we’re concerned with what to do because so many people have gotten involved in this recently. Frankly, the City hasn’t come to us — we’ve been hearing about all this from everyone else. We’re getting hit from all different directions on this.”
The Brandons feel that they have been fighting for access to their garage the entire 40 years they’ve been there. “It just means there would probably be another lawsuit. We’re in the neighborhood too — we’ve been here for four decades — and we like the idea of a park here. There’s been talk to take some of the other property and use some of that land for it. We’d support that, but no one has come to us.”
Councilmember Kevin Faulconer favors the establishment of a new Olive Park. “I will be working with them [Uptown Planners] and the rest of the community when we figure out the best options for the site,” he says. “Parks are very important, and getting new parks is good for every community. Earlier this year, we became aware of the renewed community effort to pursue the park, so I think it’s taking on a lot of momentum.”
According to Wilson, the Bankers Hill/Park West Community Association, a citizens’ group that works on neighborhood issues, formed a task force in September to make sure Olive Park isn’t once again forgotten, and Wilson vows to push the City forward with buying the adjacent lots for parkland. “The City will move forward, but we need to push them to make this happen,” he says. “We’re going to take the ball and run with this in Banker’s Hill.”