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LA Mayor Support More Urban Parks

  • Subject: [cg] LA Mayor Support More Urban Parks
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Thu, 09 Mar 2006 17:04:30 -0500

Hmmmm.... I wonder if the mayor is interested in neighborhood based greening projects too- like community gardens? 
An interesting afternoon for Mayor's methinks. 
Adam Honigman
Mayor Backs More Urban Parks
By Duke Helfand
Times Staff Writer

March 8, 2006
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and environmentalists urged state officials Tuesday to provide hefty funding for urban parks, clean water and other ecological needs in an upcoming state public works bond.

Standing on the banks of the Los Angeles River near downtown, Villaraigosa and leaders from several environmental groups said that green space and safe waterways are as important to the state's future as new roads, adequate housing and secure levees.

"The era of pavement and concrete is an era of the past," Villaraigosa told a news conference along a stretch of the river choked partly by dead brush and trash. "We want to grow smart. We want to grow green and we want to enhance the quality of life for our citizens."

Villaraigosa made his pitch as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrats in the Legislature negotiate the details of a public works proposal that could reach $222 billion. 

The state leaders are trying to meet a Friday deadline to place the measure on the June ballot.

Under Schwarzenegger's plan, about $68 billion in general obligation bonds would go before voters in five elections.

The governor's initial proposal included only scant money for parks and instead focused on highways, schools, roads, levees, jails and other facilities, officials said. 

Some prominent Democrats would like the state to spend more than $1 billion to buy and maintain recreation space, with nearly two-thirds of the money going to urban parks.

The money would build on two state bond issues since 2000 that provided nearly $5 billion to buy and maintain park land and other natural resources.

Villaraigosa, who sponsored one of those state park bond measures while he served in the Legislature, said Los Angeles still suffers from a dearth of recreation space.

He said just 30% of people in Los Angeles live within a quarter of a mile of a park, compared to 80% in Boston and 90% in New York.

Environmental leaders and public health experts said the lack of parks is most severe in the city's poorest areas, where obesity levels also are the highest.

"Children of color have the least access to parks," said Robert Garcia, executive director of the Center for Law in the Public Interest. "These are the children who need the parks the most but have them the least."

Garcia and others said that parks play a central role in the physical and psychic health of a city, and that it would be a mistake to meet other public works needs without also making Los Angeles more livable.

"Do we want a green state or an asphalt state?" asked Mark Gold, executive director of Heal the Bay, a watchdog group that keeps an eye on pollution in Santa Monica Bay and Southern California coastal waters.

The mayor's emphasis on parks offered a window into his priorities.

He already has lobbied state leaders to secure more bond money for affordable housing and mass transit in Los Angeles. 

He said parks are as much a priority as homes for the poor and speedier roads, but it was unclear whether state leaders would grant all of his requests.

Still, he appeared undaunted during his riverside event Wednesday, describing a future Los Angeles that is environmentally friendly and cooled by parks large and small.

"This is about the future," Villaraigosa said. "It's about the kids."
Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
Katie Salay

Project for Public Spaces
700 Broadway New York, NY 10003
T (212) 620-5660 x 313  F (212) 620-3821

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