PARK POLITICS - I’m lying low this election. Since both mayoral candidates are products of the dysfunctional Los Angeles City Council, my preference in the mayoral race is not someone I feel very good about. By contrast, I have friends all over town who have passionately jumped on board some candidate’s platform – and I don’t want to rain on their parades with my gloomy outlook for our City’s future.
Besides, with my history of backing losing candidates in City elections, I’m not sure anybody really wants my support.
But over the past few days, some of the noise has begun to break through my fog. It started with an article on KPCC's website concerning the mayoral candidates’ stance on parks. In it, I saw a reference to Eric Garcetti having “tripled” the parks in his district.
Apparently, this is true. At least according to a friend I know who supports Garcetti. He has tripled the number of parks in his district from 9 to 27. What this comes down to in terms of acreage or actual park space, I don’t know. I can only speak to my own slice of CD 13: East Hollywood.
East Hollywood “shares” the beautiful Barnsdall Art Park with its tonier neighbor Los Feliz. Although finding the East Hollywood entrance into the Park is a little like trying to find teeth in a hen. Barnsdall, however, is no place to play baseball or ride your bike. In fact, the people who run the Park sometimes act as if they would prefer you just don’t come up there at all.
The other “park” in East Hollywood is a patch of dirt surrounded by a fence next to the 101 Freeway. Kids can run around there, but their risk of contracting asthma increases by 90% every time they visit.
In the 12 years Eric Garcetti has been in charge of my neighborhood, he has increased the number and size of the parks in East Hollywood by exactly zero. Silver Lake got a nice park next to the reservoir. I’m sure the poor kids in East Hollywood are very happy for the hipsters next door.
To be fair, there are two “parks” in the works. One: a vacant city lot – maybe an eighth of an acre – where the City proposes planting a couple shrubs, setting up a few park benches, and erecting a six-foot-high fence. This potential parklet has been in the works for several years and still does not exist. I have no reason to doubt that it will someday be born – but the neighborhood will remain safe from any spontaneous recreation taking place on this parcel since no more than three children will be able to fit on the tiny space at one time.
The other “park” is a garden. Or let’s say a garden of the mind, since it, too, does not exist in fact yet. Gardens are wonderful. We’ll take all the gardens we can get in East Hollywood. But a garden is not a park. It’s not a 20-storey office building – and for that we can be thankful – but a kid can’t play soccer in a cabbage patch.
I don’t know Wendy Gruel’s record on parks. I haven’t been paying attention. But don’t tell me my neighborhood is somehow evidence of Eric Garcetti’s commitment to more parks in this most park-poor of American cities. Hollywood – the heart of Garcetti’s district – is currently at 3% of City Standard for parks. Three percent! That’s the kind of record most politicians would run from – like an alcoholic brother or a conviction for tax evasion. It’s not something to run on.
Many of the kids growing up in my neighborhood don’t even know how to ride bikes, because they have nowhere to go. How many of these kids will develop diabetes, lifelong obesity, or be lured into gangs? For the past ten years I have been screaming that this is a crisis that is occurring in real time.
Campaigning on the abysmal record of creating parks in this City is not just a joke. It’s a cruel joke.
(David Bell is President, East Hollywood Neighborhood Council. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Vol 11 Issue 40
Pub: May 17