Why We Need More Parks in Los Angeles

Posted by on Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

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).”

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