On Tuesday March 5, 2019, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved funding guidelines for Measure A, the Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks and Beaches Measure. Their vote will provide $22 million per year in funding to eliminate park inequities in park-poor, low-income Latino and Black neighborhoods. Like the vote in favor of Measure A in November 2016, the board’s recent action is a historic victory for parks, health, and equity in the LA region. Although $22 million per year—or 23% of Measure A’s $92 million annual revenue stream—will not completely eliminate park deficits in LA County, this amount represents a monumental step in the right direction.
The Park Equity Alliance—made up of a small but highly effective group of community organizations and leaders from across the county—worked diligently to ensure that the board of supervisors supported key equity provisions including: a minimum of 30% of competitive grant funds prioritized for projects in high-need areas; a technical assistance program to ensure that smaller jurisdictions representing high-need communities get the support they need to submit competitive project proposals; and, a cutting-edge displacement avoidance policy to minimize potential displacement inducing effects of new or improved park infrastructure.
Through a set of amendments introduced by Supervisor Hilda Solis and seconded by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, other key grant administration provisions were modified to ensure equitable outcomes: designating the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) as the lead agency in the management and update of the countywide parks needs assessment with support by RPOSD; requiring a single, unified parks needs assessment that cover all types of park facilities throughout the county following a supplemental assessment of open space, beaches, and rural areas in 2020; restricting the competitive funds targeted for high-need communities to projects located in these areas; and requiring quarterly reports from the RPOSD on its outreach and technical assistance activities.
The work of the Park Equity Alliance cannot be overstated. Its members include the Advancement Project California, Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement, Communities for a Better Environment, From Lot to Spot, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, National Health Foundation, Pacoima Beautiful, Prevention Institute, Promesa Boyle Heights, Sandra McNeill, Southeast Asian Community Alliance, Trust for Public Land, and The Wilderness Society. A number of these groups took part in the community engagement initiative conducted in advance of the countywide park needs assessment as well as the successful campaign for Measure A that garnered support from 76% of voters in November 2016.
The need for the Alliance emerged during the Measure A Implementation Steering Committee process. Its membership encompasses a diverse range of skills and expertise, from policy analysis and advocacy, to park development, community organizing, and grassroots power building. Throughout this process, the Alliance built consensus around the key opportunities and advocated for intentionally integrating equity into the procedural, distributional, and structural elements of the Measure A funding guidelines.
The organizing groups of the Alliance mobilized the support of residents in park-poor communities and collected and delivered over a thousand park equity petitions to the board of supervisors. In the week leading up to the hearing, members of the Alliance met with the Los Angeles Times editorial board, which resulted in the publication of an influential editorial that crystallized the importance of equity-driven investments in the region. The dedication and strength of the Alliance was demonstrated on the day of the hearing as it held a successful rally and press event. More than 300 people attended the hearing with testimony by 110 organizational representatives and residents representing all corners of the county, voicing their appreciation for and support of these equity provisions. A single individual testified in opposition to the equity provisions.
Even more than the attention, resources, and funding that were ultimately bent toward the communities that need them most, the hearing and its outcomes demonstrated the power of strategic, community-driven action in service of broader community values such as fairness and justice. In the months and weeks leading up to the vote, Alliance partners worked to secure the necessary improvements to the funding guidelines and overcome the forces that sought to maintain the status quo and disregard the growing body of evidence about the regional benefits of closing equity gaps instead of widening them.
While we are gratified by the unanimous vote in favor of the equity provisions in the Measure A funding guidelines and will celebrate this victory, much additional work needs to be done to reverse the policies, practices, and norms that gave rise to park inequities in the first place. The Park Equity Alliance intends to monitor the implementation of the grant-making process to ensure it lives up to Measure A’s equity promise. We see an important opportunity to continue and intensify our advocacy for robust, independent evaluation of Measure A park investments; high-quality technical assistance that results in more quality projects in the pipeline in high-need areas; and the development of a sound methodology for the next needs assessment. We are also eager to broaden and strengthen our alliances to prevent and mitigate disparities that may emerge alongside new infrastructure investments.
We close this blog by acknowledging and thanking the numerous individuals and organizations who signed on to our advocacy letters to the board of supervisors and/or supported the Alliance’s efforts. While too many to name here, their support was instrumental in this victory. The sign-on letters can be found here.
We also extend our deepest gratitude to the board of supervisors, especially our champions Supervisor Hilda Solis and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Please take a moment to send the supervisors, their staff members and the Department of Parks and Recreation a note of thanks (contact information listed below) for a strong set of funding guidelines and their determination to secure park equity now through Measure A! Thank you.
Manal J. Aboelata, Prevention Institute
Anisha Hingorani, Advancement Project California
Yvette Lopez-Ledesma, The Wilderness Society
Francisco Romero, Promesa Boyle Heights
Elva Yañez, Prevention Institute
Supervisorial District 1 Contact Information:
Supervisor Hilda L. Solis: firstname.lastname@example.org
Waqas Rehman, Planning Director: WRehman@bos.lacounty.gov
Guadalupe Duran-Media, Park Deputy: GDuran-Medina@bos.lacounty.gov
Supervisorial District 2 Contact Information:
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas: email@example.com
Karly Katona, Associate Chief Deputy: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lacey Johnson, Deputy for Community Development: LJohnson@bos.lacounty.gov
Supervisorial District 3 Contact Information:
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl: email@example.com
Torie Osborn, Senior Strategist: firstname.lastname@example.org
Maria Chong-Castillo, Deputy for Public Works: email@example.com
Virdiana Velez, Environment and Arts Special Projects Assistant: VVelez@bos.lacounty.gov
Supervisorial District 4 Contact Information:
Supervisor Janice Hahn: firstname.lastname@example.org
Louisa Ollague, Assistant Chief of Staff: LOllague@bos.lacounty.gov
Mark Baucum, Arts, Library and Budget Deputy: email@example.com
Supervisorial District 5 Contact Information:
Supervisor Kathryn Barger: Kathryn@bos.lacounty.gov
Sussy Nemer, Field Deputy, San Gabriel Valley: SNemer@bos.lacounty.gov
Department of Parks and Recreation Contact Information:
John Wicker, Director, Department of Parks and Recreation: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alina Bokde, Deputy Director, Planning and Development Agency, Department of Parks and Recreation: email@example.com