The Social Enviornment
The City Project: Building a New Green Urban Movement
Selected case study from Why Place and Race Matter
Nearly two-thirds of the children who live in Los Angeles County have no park or playground nearby. Latino, Asian, and African American youth suffer most because existing parks are concentrated in predominantly white neighborhoods. Structural racism as a result of flawed land use policy—whether intentionally discriminatory or not—and blatant environmental injustice, combined with high rates of obesity for Latinos and African Americans, point to an unhealthy future for low-income families and people of color in the county.
The City Project is striving to reverse those negative projections and expand open space. It is identifying the affected communities and using mapping to indicate where large numbers of people of color live and then noting the absence of parks in those areas contrasted with predominantly white areas. The City Project uses these data as a core advocacy tool to support the equitable distribution of parks and recreation facilities in Los Angeles County and around the state.
For example, consider the City Project’s focus on the massive effort to renovate the Los Angeles River, where the development of 80 new parks to create a continuous 51-mile recreational greenway has been proposed. As a result of the organization’s work, the city council has adopted a resolution that addresses how river revitalization can and must meet the needs of low-income people and people of color living along the river.
To expand resources for park development, a wide-ranging group of advocates has pushed for passage of five local and statewide bond measures, including Prop 84, which calls for $400 million for parks throughout California.
The City Project helped define corresponding legislative criteria to ensure that funds will go to communities that are park poor97 and income poor. These criteria serve as a mechanism to hold elected officials accountable for equitable investment.
Approaching health equity from another front—schools and the lack of physical education—the City Project joined with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), parents, health advocates, and youth groups to launch a five-part campaign demanding that LAUSD enforce physical education standards. In December 2009 the board of education unanimously voted to enforce the standards. The campaign, entitled “For the Health of It,” calls for enforcing physical education minutes requirements; providing qualified physical education teachers; limiting physical education class sizes; and joint use of schools, pools, and parks.
All parties are working together to implement the plan.
The LAUSD—with a student population that is 92 percent children of color, with 74 percent of students eligible for free or reduced lunch, in a city where many communities typically have no or limited access to safe space for physical activity—is the second-largest school district in the United States. The coalition’s next step is to use this victory to persuade other districts to enforce the physical education standards.
Ascot Hills Park – over five years in the making and still not finished