Proposition 13 and its progency - the most recent being Propositon 218 - didn't just limit California's taxes. They also sent a message that some of California's citizens wanted to rein in government activity of all kinds - and one of the major areas affected has been spending for parks and open space. With the passage of the original initiative in 1978, parks and open space suddenly fell low on the spending list for both state and federal governments - far behind such needs as public safety, education, and health services. Over time, a new structure has emerged - one that relies more heavily on state bond funds, private foundation dollars, the work of entrepreneurial private land trusts, local tax increases that can survive a two-thirds vote requirement, and mitigation from private developers. While this new structure has helped plug the gap, it also tends to focus on land acquisition - often at the expense of maintenance and management of parks and open space. After Proposition 13 - and especially after Proposition 98, which earmarks some 40% of the state general fund for education - state budget priorities shifted away from parks and open space. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, state spending for new parks has dropped from $46 million 15 years ago to $7 million today. Though the recent economic boom has improved the state's fiscal condition for the moment, both the state Department of Parks & Recreation and other agencies that manage open space land, such as the Department of Fish & Game, struggle to maintain the property they now own. For a while, it appeared as though state bond funds might plug the gap. In the 1980s, lack of state spending motivated the Planning and Conservation League, a well-established environmental group, to qualify the first bond measure via initiative in the state's history. The result was Proposition 70 in 1988, which provided $770 million for parks and open space acquisition statewide. Working with land trusts and open space groups around the state, PCL later qualified and passed Proposition 117 in 1990, the so-called "mountain lion" initiative, which appropriates $30 million a year for certain types of open-space acquisition. PCL later ran into criticism, however, for its alleged "park barrel" tactics - supposedly enlisting local conservation organizations to gather signatures in exchange for listing their pet projects in the bonds. PCL never admitted to such tactics and they were never proven. However, the "park barrel" criticism, along with the recession, seemed to put a damper on the statewide bond initiatives. Proposition 180, a $2 billion bond initiative, was defeated by the voters in 1994. Local governments have also struggled to find ways to pay for parks and open space. In some cases - including Sonoma County and more recently Napa County - local voters have approved sales-tax increases for open space acquisition. More typical was the strategy of land conservation activists in Los Angeles County, who won voter approval for large property-assessment bond issues in both 1992 and 1996. Property assessments for park purposes, however, were the main cause of Proposition 218, an initiative supported by taxpayer groups that passed statewide in 1996. Prop. 218 was stimulated largely by the California Supreme Court's ruling in Knox v. Orland, 4 Cal.4th 132, which authorized expansive use of assessment districts for such purposes as park maintenance. Proposition 218 essentially requires two-thirds voter approval from property owners for increased property assessments. As the public money has dried up, private foundations and non-profit land conservation organization have attempted to step into the breach. While public budgets have withered, foundations have grown in wealth dramatically in the last 15 years because of the stock market boom. Several large foundations in California and elsewhere have made major commitments to parks and open space. Most notably, the Packard Foundation announced in March that it would provide $175 million over the next five years to protect open space, farmland, and wildlife habitat in the Central Valley, the Central Coast, and the Sierra Nevadas. The Lila Wallace Readers Digest Fund likewise helps fund urban parks. While initial reports made the Packard program sound like the grants alone would be sufficient to save much of the open space in these regions, the funds come with strings attached. Foundation money will provide only half the funds required to acquire a property. Local governments must match the grant with their own funds - which can come from other private organizations or from state or federal sources. Foundation money "shouldn't be an excuse for local or state governments not to do their fair share," said Michael Mantell, former undersecretary of the California Resources Agency and now a consultant to the Packard conservation program. Also plugging the gap are a variety of "mitigation" efforts, as well as the efforts of private conservation organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, and local land trusts up and down the state. In addition, a new breed of organization has emerged in recent years - private firms such as the Center for Natural Lands Management in Sacramento, which specialize in owning and/or maintaining land that has been set aside for open space or wildlife preservation. Local, state, and federal agencies often acquire open land as part of a "mitigation" package that permits some private development to occur on environmentally sensitive land. In addition, large landowners, such as The Irvine Co. and Newhall Land & Farming Co., often retain ownership to sensitive land but contract with The Nature Conservancy or the Center for Natural Lands Management to help meet mitigation requirements for other development projects. The result is a crazy-quilt of land ownership and management patterns. Some land is owned by the government - federal, state, and local. Some land is owned by non-profit organizations, and some land remains in the hands of private developers. Land is bought or traded with the help of public, non-profit, and private money. And, increasingly, these different groups and organizations work together. For example, the Orange County Natural Reserve created as part of the state's endangered-species preservation program is overseen by a board that includes public, private, and non-profit organizations. And in spite of everything else, the public bond may be on the way back. Currently, Sen. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, has proposed SB 2, which would place an $880 million park bond issue on the ballot in November. The bill is currently stuck in the Assembly, but if it goes on the ballot and passes it will be the first major park bond to pass statewide since Proposition 70 a decade ago.