Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

October 2017

L.A. Parks Earn Mostly Positive Report Card

By Deborah L. Vence

While community parks in the city of Los Angeles received good grades for playgrounds, trails and gyms, restrooms scored lower, a C and below, in fact, based on maintenance and cleanliness, according to new report cards issued by L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin.

The report cards took a look at community parks in Los Angeles and discovered that park users reported general satisfaction with their local parks, but many indicated that cleanliness and safety concerns deter them from using their community parks more.

The report urged the city's Department of Recreation & Parks (RAP) to push for improvements to safety, sanitary conditions, environmental sustainability, and programs and services, while being open about the results with L.A. residents. Galperin launched, an interactive map of the city's parks, to display the grades, a community survey, in-depth environmental case studies and social media snapshots of how the city's residents use their local parks.

The grades were based on visits to 40 of Los Angeles' 95 specifically designated community parks, ranging in size from less than an acre to 77.6 acres. KH Consulting Group, USC faculty and the RAND Corporation assessed the condition of various amenities and facilities.

"Our parks are so important to our quality of life, providing recreational outlets for all ages, much-needed green space and venues for community-building," Galperin stated in a press release. "I hope city leaders will use my report card to drive improvements at city parks to better serve all Angelenos."

Some of the challenges faced by the city's RAP department, Galperin noted, included having added 37 parks, for a total of 444, in the past nine years. Meanwhile, funding for maintenance of parks decreased to about $81 million, while staffing was cut by 33 percent from 2,117 employees to 1,421 employees over the same period. The rise in homelessness added to the challenge of maintenance, too.

A survey that was conducted of more than 3,700 park users offered similar assessments of the community parks as the consultants. Safety concerns were cited by 46 percent of respondents as deterrents to using parks more; 37 percent indicated maintenance as being their largest concern. Generally, community parks in the Westside of the city and West San Fernando Valley fared best, while those located in the East Valley and downtown, south of downtown and Eastside areas, received lower grades.

The report recommended the following:

  • Expanding and regularizing the report card model to include more parks and annual or semi-annual assessments. Such a project could be undertaken by RAP or by a nonprofit partner.
  • Stepped-up and proactive maintenance: The city of L.A. and RAP must invest more resources in cleaning and ongoing and preventive maintenance. RAP would further benefit from using a city-wide asset inventory and asset management system.
  • Have a clear plan for maintenance of any new parks before approving them.
  • Enhanced programming and events such as dances, concerts and competitions at underused parks, particularly in areas with high population densities.
  • Closing of the gender gap in the use of community parks by aligning park design, programs and other elements to better engage and offer services and amenities to girls and to women.
  • Stronger partnerships with the Los Angeles Police Department and community groups to improve public safety and security.
  • Improved water conservation, watershed management and environmental stewardship.
  • Better management of homelessness, with expanded cooperation with other agencies offering homelessness, mental health and other social services to address challenges posed by homeless encampments at the city's parks.

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