Parks are some of the few widely accessible public spaces in Los Angeles,
spaces in which communities are invested. The process of creating a park is complex,
and involves many organizations working in partnership, from state
and city agencies to national and local non-profits. It is entirely possible to
re-imagine the urban landscape; communities with available land are now in an ideal
position to advocate for parks, as there is much public and media interest, and now most
A map of parks in the LA area shows about 400 publicly accessible green spaces,
inadequate to support the city's population, especially in economically
disadvantaged, densely populated neighborhoods. Patterns emerge in the distribution
of parks across the city- the most park-poor neighborhoods are either the very
wealthiest, or the very poorest. Well-heeled neighborhoods contain residences with
large yards or other private green spaces, like golf courses or gated parks.
Economically disadvantaged neighborhoods usually contain too few parks for massive
numbers of people living without access to private space. State forests ring the
city, but without adequate public transportation to or information about these
areas, they are rendered virtually invisible to urban communities.
Current funding for parks comes from several sources. State, county, and city
legislation gives money to city agencies and non-profits to buy land, and to create,
modify, improve and maintain parks. Legislation includes Proposition 12 (Safe
Neighborhood Parks, Clean Water, Clean Air, and Coastal Protection Bond Act) and
Proposition 13 (Safe Drinking Water, Clean Water, Watershed Protection, and Flood
Protection Bond Act). In addition, LA has gotten parkland from private owners who reduced tax liability by selling or donating land to a non-profit organization or to the city.
The passage of Propositions 12 and 13 last year, as well as the county's "Los
Angeles River Master Plan", have channeled new funding and energy into greening the
city. The city's Department of Recreation and Parks has a recent
mandate to create pocket parks, which it was somewhat reluctant to do previously
since these small green spaces are time-consuming to maintain. LA parks an
election-year issue: recent mayoral candidates included Antonio Villaraigosa, who
co-authored Proposition 13 and received a lot of support for this action. On a local level, the recent acquisition of the Cornfields, a large property in Chinatown, has pushed the parks issue to the front pages of the LA Times and Weekly. Advocates for the creation of a state park at the former Taylor rail yard have thwarted the initial development of the site for industrial purposes.
Los Angeles was built with commercial interests in mind- the decentralized,
auto centric city was shaped by profiteering as well as the pursuit of the
American Dream, the pastoral Jeffersonian image of the rural (translated to Suburban) yeoman. In the early 20th century, there were still significant open areas.
Some city leaders advocated for the purchase of acreage for parks when
inexpensive land was still available and went so far as to fund a large scale study
and plan for an extensive network of parks created by the son of the man who designed NY City