This November, Los Angeles County residents will vote on Measure A, an initiative to replace much-needed funding to build, maintain, and improve our local parks, beaches, and open spaces. At stake is access to parks and open space for County residents—particularly low-income people of color.
Los Angeles County is “park poor” compared to other urban areas throughout the United States, and study after study has shown that our low-income communities of color are the worst off in terms of park availability. The County estimates our existing parks are suffering from $12 billion in deferred maintenance costs, and our park system faces a total of $21.5 billion in needed park improvements. Yet the voter-approved funding that the County has relied on for over twenty years to help build and maintain its parks partially expired in 2015 and will end by 2019.
Measure A, the “Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks, Open Space, Beaches, Rivers Protection, and Water Conservation Measure,” would replace the expiring funding with an annual parcel tax of 1.5 cents per square foot, generating $94 million annually for local park projects. This measure would help bridge the park funding gap, building on the City of Los Angeles’ recently passed updated Quimby ordinance, which is projected to bring in an additional $30 million each year to support city parks.
Making sure these funds advance park equity is critical to ensuring that all Angelenos can enjoy the benefits associated with park access. While the County overall provides an average of 3.3 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents, those parks are disproportionately distributed. The Countywide Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment—which analyzed the physical condition of parks, community access to green spaces, neighborhood demographics, and population density—found that more than half of County residents live in areas classified either “Very High Need,” averaging 0.7 acres per 1,000 residents, or “High Need,” averaging 1.6 acres per 1,000 residents. Accordingly, Measure A was developed with a focus on park equity, prioritizing the neighborhoods that most need park improvements, as identified through the Needs Assessment and its extensive 18-month community engagement process.
Funding from the measure will help build, repair, and upgrade neighborhood parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, and senior centers, making facilities safer and more accessible to all County residents. It will help preserve local water resources by making parks more drought resistant and implementing water recycling projects. And it will protect our last open spaces and natural areas, rivers, and beaches.
Prior voter-approved funding backed hundreds of neighborhood parks and beloved LA places, supporting projects at Griffith Park and the Hollywood Bowl, restoration of the Los Angeles River, and preservation of the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains and foothills. By replacing the funding that is set to expire, we can help ensure another generation of Angelenos can enjoy the parks and open spaces that make our communities a better place to live. Measure A represents a significant step towards promoting healthy and equitable park access for all Angelenos—which is why NRDC is proud to support it.
Thanks to my colleague Heather Kryczka for contributing to this post.