Why We Need More Parks in Los Angeles

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My first and fondest memory of parks go back to my childhood when I was just five years old, riding my training bike to the park with my sisters. Having just immigrated to Los Angeles from Vietnam, I must admit riding and running freely and safely through the park was a new concept, though for 5 year-old Anna it was a quick embrace. Of course, I’m not the only person to hold such a sentimental relationship with parks.

Countless studies have revealed the importance of incorporating green space and nature into community planning. It isn’t a coincidence that park use and access correlate with children’s health and emotional well-being. Aside from being excellent natural CO2 vacuums, urban neighborhood greenspace can help reduce adolescent aggression. Yet, over 75% of the population in Los Angeles County shows a need for more parks, according to a Parks Needs Assessment conducted by the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation.

What’s even more of a “coincidence” is that the relationship between community well-being and park access is strong! Places with serious park deficits have life expectancies below the county average (A Portrait of Los Angeles County 2017-2018). In another study by the City Project, overlaying maps of household income with park needs reveals that low-income communities reflect higher park needs.

How do we address these park and health inequities?

Prioritizing funding for parks and open spaces is one of the key solutions to addressing these intertwined inequity issues. With numerous studies and reports assessing parks in Los Angeles, local government agencies now have adequate knowledge to take action, such as which neighborhoods are park poor* and why it is that they are park poor.

So, what’s the next step? Allocate proper funding to transform ideas into action.

Proposition 68, formerly known as Senate Bill 5, provides a solution by proposing $4 billion in bonds to fund grants and projects for creating and restoring parks in park-poor neighborhoods, expanding outdoor opportunities for disadvantaged youth, and maintaining state parks and infrastructure. Funding can be allocated resourcefully to neighborhoods that need it the most without jeopardizing funds to maintain existing parks and open space.

Investing in a new park is more than just an investment in a soccer field and a shiny new playground; it’s an investment to ensure that 50 years from now, all five-year-olds can ride their training bikes throughout the park without compromising their health, and regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds.

*Park poor: “ Refers to any geographic area that provides less than three acres of green space per 1,000 residents, as defined by California law. Three acres is the size of approximately one and one half soccer or football fields (The City Project).”

Posted on Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

Local Climate Leadership: Fern Nueno

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Fern Nueno is a Planner at the City of Long Beach and will be a guest speaker at our next Leadership Circle Quarterly Meeting on February 7th.

Tell us about your work on climate.

Long Beach is developing its first Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), which builds upon the previous work done by the City and other organizations in the area.  Community engagement is an important part of creating and implementing this plan, so we reached out to residents, business owners, and the local scientific community early in the process and will continue the discussion throughout development of the plan.  Through the CAAP, Long Beach will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become a more resilient city by preparing for the impacts of climate change.

What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?

I have had many interests that shaped my career path, and have been inspired along the way by amazing new scientific discoveries and technologies.  I enjoy planning because of the variety of projects that planners work on to improve our communities.  I continue to be inspired when I hear presentations by people who are passionate about protecting the environment and improving quality of life locally and globally.  I especially enjoy discussions with multidisciplinary groups of planners, public health professionals, economists, and scientists.

What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?

One barrier is a lack of resources, from information to staff time to funding.  Another barrier is trying to balance conflicting priorities, both in Long Beach and at the regional, national, and global level.  Continued collaboration with other agencies, research institutions, and organizations could make my job easier.

A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).

  1. I want a deep understanding of physics and psychology downloaded into my brain.
  2. An empathy button that I could press to help people consider previously unknown possibilities. 
  3. Super powers!  Maybe teleportation abilities?
Posted on Monday, January 29th, 2018

Local Climate Leadership: Garrett Wong

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Garrett Wong is Senior Sustainability Analyst for the City of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment and will be a guest speaker at our next Leadership Circle Quarterly Meeting on February 7th.

Tell us about your work related to climate.

I lead policy, programs and projects in climate action & adaptation planning, energy efficiency and renewable energy and electric vehicle charging. We started with the City’s first Climate Action Plan in 2013; an EV Action Plan in 2017 and now a forthcoming Climate Action & Adaptation in 2018.

What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?

I spent a year in India working on sustainable development issues. There, many Indians admire the US for its wealth and aspire to have more things like Americans do. From then, I felt it was necessary to make my community (SoCal), a better example of sustainability.

I feel really wonky, but I like doing GHG inventories and plans. It’s technical, yet bridges many sectors so it requires a breadth of knowledge and engagement with others.

Also, I have a daughter now and it’s pretty grim to think about the world she is growing up in.

What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?

Time and capacity. Which also means there is a lot of great work to do and I just can’t do it all. Our team is growing, as it used to be just me, so it’s getting easier.

A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).

  1. Make Santa Monica its own CCA (don’t tell anyone else that!).
  2. Pull together some kind of cross-sectoral turnkey project and finance delivery model to address multitenant building needs (energy, water, solar, storage, EVs, seismic).
  3. A sweet RV to travel all the national parks.
Posted on Wednesday, January 24th, 2018
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