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University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

South L.A. residents ask for green park space — the city answered with concrete and fencing

Jackson Tammariello
The site of the future Bill Greene Memorial Park at 5800 S Figueroa St., in South L.A. on March 7, 2024.

South Los Angeles residents are calling for a pause on the development of a sought-after park until city planners address their concerns of its concrete design and lack of green space.

The corner of Slauson Avenue and Figueroa Street is poised to be the site of the future Bill Greene Memorial Park, named after the late California State Assembly legislator and civil rights activist. 

Planning for the $3.6 million park began in late 2021, and has been the subject of many meetings between the Department of Recreation and Parks and Voices Neighborhood Council, which represents neighborhoods such as Vermont Square, Harvard Park, and Vermont-Slauson.

The main issues residents have with the park are its heavy use of concrete, which covers about 75% of the 20,000-square-foot area, and an 8 foot tall steel fence and gate that covers the entire perimeter. Other amenities will include a bathroom, exercise equipment, and a collection of trees from non-native species. 

Voices Vice Chair Jason Saunders said opposition to the park is only in regard to its design, saying that residents are “for a park 100%,” but that green and sustainable parks are what is needed in South L.A, not more hardscape and barriers. 

“South LA has a real lack of parks, and any open third spaces that get us out of our home, we’re looking forward to it,” Saunders said. “We want nature.”

Inequities in public parks are prevalent throughout Los Angeles and longstanding due to the historical effects of redlining. According to the nonprofit organization Trust for Public Land, neighborhoods with predominantly people of color have 64% less park space than white neighborhoods, and 13% less than the average L.A. neighborhood. South L.A. is primarily Latino and Black, according to U.S. census data.

The park will be built on the site of an old Los Angeles Department of Water and Power pumping station, which was operational from 1908 until it was demolished in 1959. For 65 years the plot has been vacant, and soil testing in 2004 found concentrations of lead and petroleum that needed to be excavated. While not all of the contaminants were removed, Recreation and Parks determined the site suitable for a park in March 2021. 

Meetings between Recreation and Parks and Voices began in 2021, when representatives listened to resident feedback about what they wanted to see for the development. Some residents asked for an open green space, rainwater capture, and no barriers around the perimeter. Tables to eat and a community garden were also suggested.

For months, residents heard nothing about the park. Recreation and Parks representatives stopped attending community meetings, and emails to Recreation and Parks and Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price’s office went unanswered. The park is in Price’s district. In September 2023, an article on Urbanize LA unveiled the city’s plan for the space, with almost none of the community’s suggestions.

A staff report from the department of Recreation and Parks says that “the design for the park was done with input from the surrounding community, including the local neighborhood council,” but Saunders said the neighborhood never saw a final design until the Urbanize LA article was published. 

An posted sign at the future Bill Greene Memorial Park.

Residents gathered at the Vermont Square Library on Feb. 13 to discuss the city’s plans. Some residents said the steel fence was prison-like. Others exclaimed that the city did not care about their community. 

Tamiko Nakamoto, a resident that attended the meeting, said that South L.A. is in need of more greenery, an “oasis amidst the traffic and the madness of the city.” 

“To have a place to go and just be at peace and be calm, I think is what people need,” Nakamoto said. She added that the proposal does not provide the serenity that residents desperately need.

Voices has sent numerous emails and letters to the departments and Mayor Karen Bass’s office, but have yet to receive word back. 

“Why do they seek our feedback, community input, if they’re not even going to listen?” Saunders asked. “It’s just an exercise in bureaucracy of going through the steps, and they go ahead and do whatever they want to do.”

Representatives from Recreation and Parks and Price’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The park’s construction is set for Spring 2024, according to the staff report, but Saunders hopes that the city will respond to residents’ concerns before time runs out.

“We believe that we can come up with a design relatively quickly, and it will only delay it a few months, and what is a few months after 65 years of this being a toxic brownfield?” Saunders said. “A few months to create a space for generations to come to have a sustainable jewel, something that we can be proud of.” 


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