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Aug. 14 2009 - 1:49 am | 35 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Rio de Los Angeles State Park on the Chopping Block

taylor yards

Image by bpbailey via Flickr

In a sprawling monolith like Los Angeles, a 40-acre park may not seem like much. But the Rio de Los Angeles State Park is far bigger than its footprint.

When the park opened on Earth Day in 2007 on a chunk of the former Taylor Yard, it was arguably the biggest victory for public space Los Angeles had seen in a generation. A former railroad freight switching facility, the area the park now occupies was slated to be developed into 650,000 sq. feet of industrial warehouses until a coalition of neighborhood groups and public space advocates sued the city of Los Angeles, Union Pacific Railroad and the development company Lennar Partners in 2001 to stop the mammoth project from being built near a crowded residential neighborhood.

To say it was an uphill struggle was an understatement. Los Angeles is notorious for its neglect of public space and is arguably the most park poor city in America. On top of that, the City Council had not only already approved the warehouse development, it offered to pony up more than $4 million in public subsidies to help the project along. But after years of fighting, the coalition eventually prevailed, and, with the aid of $45 million in state funds, the site was converted into beautiful park — the only decent sized public space anywhere near the dense residential neighborhoods of Cypress Park, Glassell Park and Mount Washington.

Now, after a decade of intense struggle and only two years after the park’s grand opening, the L.A. Times reports Rio de Los Angeles Park is slated for closure in the face of state’s massive budget deficit.

It doesn’t matter where in the country you live, advocates of urban parks and green space would be hard pressed to find a closure that could sting more. Rio de Los Angeles was the victory that gave Angelenos hope their city could change for the better. It helped launch a public space movement that got people seriously talking about the greening of the L.A. River — an idea that even most environmentalists would have considered laughable 20 years ago.

The construction of the Rio de Los Angeles State Park was American democracy at its best. The park’s closure would show it at its worst.


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  1. collapse expand

    Mr. Fleischer,

    This is indeed very bad news. By way of full disclosure, I grew up not far from Taylor Yards and used to catch tadpoles in the LA River just beneath the roundhouse there. I have been to the Rio de Los Angeles Park, it is indeed a wonderful park. It would be tragedy for this park to close. However the recent budget “compromise” is producing a whole range of other, possibly even worse, tragedies. This is just one of many.

    • collapse expand

      Hi David,

      It’s true, the entire state of California is a complete disaster. In the grand scheme of things, the impact of all the social services that are being sliced in the budget cuts will be far more deleterious than any one park closure. And, of course, any park closure is awful news. Especially in Los Angeles, where we just don’t have that many.

      On a person level though, this park hurts most. It’s more than a park, it’s a symbol of change in Los Angeles. It’s a rallying cry that people can stand up to city hall and shady developers and help make their city beautiful.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    'Nobody walks in Los Angeles' you may have heard or read or said to yourself absentmindedly. This is entirely untrue. Plenty of crackheads walk in Los Angeles. Any number of schizophrenics too. And so do I. I'm a journalist who came up through the alternative weekly world, first as a staff writer with the LA Weekly and then as a senior editor of the LA City Beat. I currently write for the Los Angeles Times Magazine among other publications. When I'm not writing I wander, usually by foot.

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