Los Angeles is one of the most parks-deficient cities on the West coast. How planners address this shortage will shape the future of the city, writes Christopher Hawthorne.
"An old cliché holds that we don't really need parks in L.A., at least not the way people in other cities do, because we've all got miniature ones in our backyards. That may have been true in 1950 or 1980, when a middle-class family could move here and afford a single-family house on a leafy, spacious lot, but it's not any longer."
"The fact is we've been desperately park-poor in this town for years. According to a 2000 study by the Urban Land Institute, L.A. has less park space per acre than any other city on the West Coast. Other research has shown that parks are scarcest in low-income neighborhoods, where high residential density means they're needed the most. The Trust for Public Land has declared that 'the case for new parks in Los Angeles is perhaps the most compelling of any American metropolitan area.'"
"And it's not just a growing need for open space that makes parks one of the most crucial urban-planning issues Los Angeles will face in coming years. Our parks are the stages on which we are beginning to play out debates about the changing character of the city and how we use it. Any L.A. park therefore acts as a sign of things to come, however paradoxical: a view framed by grass and trees into a denser, more urban future."