Employ Existing Financing to Ring L.A. With a Green Necklace
#3 – More Parks
L.A. is known more for its congestion and sprawl than its trees and greenery. Only a third of the children living in the city of Los Angeles are within walking distance of a park, compared with 78 percent in Boston, according to a recent study.
At 8.1 acres per 1,000 residents, L.A. falls somewhere in the middle among major cities for total parks and open space, but much of the parkland is concentrated in the outer edges of the city. Park space doesn’t reach into the denser locations.
A report by the USC Center for Sustainable Cities found that areas with a median household income of less than $20,000 had 1.6 acres of park space per 1,000 residents; for incomes greater than $40,000, it’s 102.9 acres. As might be expected, predominantly minority communities usually get the short end.
Urban Los Angeles needs more parks and green space at least up to the city standard of four acres per 1,000 residents. An increase in greenery is beneficial in many ways from building a sense of community to providing children with a place to play to giving the environment a break with reduced air pollution and soil erosion.
A large step forward has been taken in the past year with the creation of the non-profit L.A. Neighborhood Land Trust. Modeled after Chicago’s NeighborSpace, the Neighborhood Land Trust will coordinate greening efforts by focusing on small community parks in the most deprived areas and acquiring and holding land in perpetuity.
“The land trust will become the local based clearinghouse for information and the actual execution for park construction at the neighborhood level,” said City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who has been active in his own district with greening projects.
The effort should be concentrated on small vacant and abandoned lots, as well as surplus and tax-delinquent properties. Garcetti has implemented an inventory system in his district area and it might serve as model. To further aid the process, a list of surplus city properties is being compiled that serves as a starting point for potential park spaces. The list is expected to be available in the next few months.
The Department of Recreation and Parks should also be involved to aid in the mapping of potential sites and contribute already identified spaces, as well as to provide guidance on constructing parks in these limited spaces.
The city has provided the L.A. Neighborhood with $500,000 in seed money and it recently hired an executive director. But in order to speed the process, further resources should be tapped, including voter-approved propositions for park creation, foundation grants and donations from individuals and businesses.
The L.A. Neighborhood Land Trust also should be allowed to tap into so-called Quimby fees, which must be paid by residential developers to mitigate the impact of their developments on recreation and park space in the vicinity of their projects.
The city currently directs those fees to the Department of Recreation and Parks, but that could be amended so that the Neighborhood Land Trust or other non-profit organizations have access to them.
With a pool of potential sites ready and a supplementary funding source from developer fees, pockets parks and community gardens could come to life on a larger scale in two to three years.
Proposal: Increase park space in neediest communities by helping the newly established L.A. Neighborhood Land Trust identify potential property and access existing developer fees
Obstacles: Very few; fees already in place, resources available to aid in identifying potential property
Cost: $25,000 to $1 million per park or garden, including land
Time Frame: Six months to one year to amend developer fee ordinance, six months to compile potential property list