August 23, 2012
MAYOR VILLARAIGOSA ANNOUNCES DETAILS OF 50 PARKS INITIATIVE
LOS ANGELES – Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today announced details of the 50 Parks Initiative, a public-private partnership that will add over 170 acres of new park space to the City of Los Angeles, at one of the program’s first parks, 49th Street Park, in South Los Angeles. The parks, a quarter of which are under an acre in size, include safety and environmentally sustainable features and are located in neighborhoods identified as most in need. Over the past seven years, the Villaraigosa administration has added almost 660 acres of park space, twice the amount of the previous two administrations combined.
“We have scouted the City, looked in the hidden corners, and found the small parcels, the vacant lots, and the weedy patches that would be perfect for neighborhood parks,” said Mayor Villaraigosa. “The 50 Parks Initiative is putting some much needed nature in neighborhood after neighborhood.
In 2009, the Department of Recreation and Parks began a Citywide Community Needs Assessment that found many dense areas of the City lack sufficient park space and facilities. Neighborhood parks and fitness facilities were at the top of the recommended changes.
"By creating these 50 parks in the least served neighborhoods of Los Angeles we are permanently transforming our City,” said Barry A. Sanders, Recreation and Parks Commission President. “The Department of Recreation and Parks has been adding parks to its stewardship for over 120 years. Since 2005, we added 37 new parks and enlarged 15. With the addition of the 50 Parks Initiative, about 20% of the parks established during this Department’s long history will be the work of the last eight years.”
Locations for the 50 Parks Initiative were determined by analyzing key demographic statistics including population density, median household income, number and percentage of residents in poverty, and the number of existing parks in a half-mile radius.
“In dense, urban communities throughout Los Angeles, there is a desperate need for more park space,” said Councilwoman Jan Perry. “The 50 Parks Initiative is a unique opportunity for the city to address blight, green communities, and create neighborhood parks. I am proud to join the Mayor in unveiling this program in South Los Angeles and continuing our joint efforts to bring safe, quality open space to our communities.”
Many of the parks are located on properties left vacant from the housing crisis that cannot be rehabilitated. This strategy works in concert with federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Within one mile of the McKinley Avenue and 49th Street Parks, the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD) has rehabilitated 19 properties using NSP funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The City has made an additional 114 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funded improvements in the neighborhoods within one mile of the parks.
“New parks help stabilize neighborhoods and increase property values by removing blight from abandoned buildings and empty lots and revamping underutilized public property,” said Mercedes Marquez, Interim General Manager for the LAHD and Deputy Mayor for Housing. “The 50 Parks program will help us in our effort to turn around the neighborhoods hardest hit by the recession.”
The Department identified and coordinated with local partner organizations to conduct outreach, engage community stakeholders, and organize local meetings. Working closely with local communities in the design and development process develops a sense of local ownership, a critical component in the long-term success of any public space.
"My family has lived in this community for over 30 years and we are so happy to see this abandoned house turn into a new park that brightens our neighborhood,” said Los Angeles resident Maria Flores, who attended community meetings as the park was being designed and built. “I know the 49th Street Park will be a great place for everyone in our community, from young children to the elderly."
To minimize maintenance, each park includes automatic safety features, efficient waste disposal, and environmentally sustainable design. Decorative fencing and automatic time-lock gates ensure that the parks close automatically and solar motion-activated cameras act as deterrents for intruders after park hours. The parks use BigBelly solar-powered, self-contained waste bins that can hold five times the average amount of trash. The bins cut labor time and keep the public spaces cleaner and pest free. Each of the parks uses efficient landscaping like “no mow” turf, drought tolerant planting, and smart irrigation, as well as LED lighting to keep maintenance, water, and energy costs low.
“The Mayor’s initiative is like no other in the country, and through our ‘Parks Build Community’ projects, we are glad to partner with the City to demonstrate the transformative value that urban parks can bring to communities in need,” says Barbara Tulipane, president and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association.”
Approximately $80.9 million in funding has been secured or identified for the acquisition, design, and construction of these new parks. These funds have been secured from over a dozen sources including local, state, and federal funds as well as private funds from foundations, non-profits, and corporate donations. This initiative could not have happened without the support of the Department of Recreation and Parks Board of Commissioners and the Los Angeles Parks Foundation.
To date, 53 sites have been identified for inclusion in the program, emphasizing that the title of the initiative is only a starting point for a program that can continue to grow. Of those 53 sites, 39 have been secured by the Department and 14 are in the process of being purchased, leased or transferred. Each park takes between four and six months to build and with the addition of today’s McKinley Ave and 49th Street parks, three parks have officially opened. The Department hopes to open 16 of the 53 before July 2013.