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Economic Stimulus, Green Space, and Equal Justice

The City Project releases the Policy Report Economic Stimulus, Green Space, and Equal Justice with diverse allies including Anahuak Youth Sports Association; Dr. Robert Bullard of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University; Robert Bracamontes of the Acjachemen Nation, Juaneno Tribe; California Center for Public Health Advocacy; Caminando con Fe/Walking with Faith; PolicyLink and SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center).

Even in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, people across the United States voted to tax themselves to provide billions of dollars to create green space in November 2008, when they also elected Barack Obama as the first black President of the United States in a wave of hope and change. In the first hundred days, the Obama administration has launched a $787 billion economic stimulus package to get the nation back to work, and additional megafunds have become available for green space from other federal, state and local sources.

The massive amounts of funding available for public infrastructure projects including green space offers an exceptional opportunity to promote economic vitality, environmental quality and equal justice for all, including low income communities and communities of color. These communities disproportionately suffer from disparities in access to green space, including parks and school fields, and related human health problems that stem in part from the lack of places for physical activity and recreation. People of color and low income communities must receive their fair share of public investments in infrastructure projects including green space. Solutions to many social problems – unemployment, environmental degradation, no place to play, little hope for disadvantaged youth, obesity, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure for generations to come – must be tied to a vision for a new America that includes stimulus projects to improve the lives of all residents.

Green infrastructure projects including green space in parks and schools can help get the nation back to work building healthy, livable communities for all. Drawing on New Deal lessons, green infrastructure projects can provide multiple benefits including places for physical activity in parks and school fields; local green jobs for youth and small and disadvantaged business enterprises; Conservation Corps type programs to open job and career paths and to permanently improve national, state and local parks; public art in public parks; and public transit to parks and trails.

The California experience offers valuable lessons for hope and change. In 2008, the California legislature enacted legislative criteria to invest park funds in communities that are park poor and income poor. Park poor is defined as three acres or less of parks per thousand residents. Income poor is defined as $47,959 median household income or less. This legislation is a best practice example to establish standards to measure progress and equity, and to hold public officials accountable for infrastructure investments in multi-benefit green spaces, including federal, state, regional, county, and local park and school funds.

This Report details resources available for green space, the economic stimulus and other benefits provided by green space projects, and current disparities in access to green space and other safe places for physical activity for low income communities and communities of color. The Report describes the consequences of such disparities, the benefits that could be reaped if resources were allocated fairly, and laws and policies justifying change, including civil rights and environmental justice laws. Much of the Report is based specifically on the urban park movement in California, including information on best practices currently in place in the state, that can be applied across the country. The Report ends with recommendations for equitable investments in green space throughout California and the country.

Download the full Policy Report on Economic Stimulus, Green Space, and Equal Justice.

Healthy Parks, Schools and Communities for All:
Park Development and Community RevitalizationA diverse and growing alliance supports the distribution of park funds to achieve healthy, livable communties for all the people of California. We look forward to working with the California Department of Parks and Recreation to ensure that park funds reach the most park poor and economically poor communities through the proposed guidelines, the implementation of AB 31, and compliance with equal justice laws. This will fulfill the intent of the legislation and meet the needs of the voters who have passed park resource bonds for the past ten years.Park funds should be allocated based on need not greed. Under a standard that targets communities with the greatest need first, park projects should receive top priority based on park poverty and economic poverty combined. Park poverty is less than three acres of parks per thousand residents, under the draft guidelines. Economic poverty is under $47,959 median household income. Prioritizing park poverty and economic poverty combined will help achieve equal justice in access to public resources for the most underserved communities, based on race, ethnicity, and income under civil rights and environmental justice laws. People of color and low income people throughout California disproportionately suffer from unfair disparities in access to park, school, and health resources, and suffer disproportionately from child obesity and other diseases related to the lack of places for physical activity and healthy eating. Investments in parks and schools in the most underserved communities are an important part of any green economic stimulus, public works and infrastructure program. Map 2001 shows the communities that are park poor and economically poor, and are disproportionately populated by people of color, in the hatched red hot spots. Using park poverty alone without economic poverty will not accomplish these important public policy goals of improving the quality of life, health, and environment for the most underserved communities.The guidelines should provide as follows: (1) Projects in communities that are both park poor and economically poor should receive top priority over other projects. (2) Human health including obesity and diabetes levels should be a significant factor in determining “Community Challenges and Project Benefits,” “Challenges,” and “Youth at High Risk,” and projects addressing health should receive significant priority. (3) Projects should receive significant priority for joint use of park and school facilities. (4) The guidelines should explicitly call for compliance with state and federal civil rights laws guaranteeing equal access to public resources, not just the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). See Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its regulations, the President’s Order on Environmental Justice, California Government Code 11135 and its regulations, and the California statutory definition of environmental justice, Government Code 65040.12. (5) The guidelines should implement principles of equitable development: invest in people, invest in stronger communities, invest in the open, invest in justice.We have an important opportunity to define and implement standards for equity to measure progress and hold officials accountable and to transform California into a more livable, democratic, and just place to live and raise children. We look forward to working with the Department of Parks and Recreation to meet these goals.California Center for Public Health Advocacy • California Pan Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) • César E. Chávez Institute, San Francisco State University • The City Project • Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles • Mujeres de la Tierra • PolicyLink • Prevention Institute • SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center)Download the Public Comments and Policy Brief.
Download the full Policy Report on Healthy Parks, Schools and Communities for All: Park Development and Community Revitalization.
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park

The City Project is proud to present the Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park Photo Book to celebrate the Park and the people who have made it a success. We salute Allensworth as a best practice example to celebrate diversity, democracy and freedom.

The Park commemorates Colonel Allen Allensworth and the only California town to be founded, financed and governed by African Americans. Colonel Allensworth, born a slave, served in the Army and Navy and retired as a lieutenant colonel, the highest ranking black in the armed forces. The Colonel founded Allensworth in 1908 as a way for blacks to become self-sufficient.

The Park is a best practice example of a public monument celebrating diversity, democracy and freedom. Only 76 out of 900 official cultural and historical monuments pertain to women, people of color, or Native Americans in the City of Los Angeles, for example. The California Department of Parks and Recreation has published a study addressing the public’s need to become more aware of California’s cultural diversity and its tangible manifestations on the land. See Five Views: An Ethnic Sites Survey for California (1988). The National Park Service has undertaken a Cultural Heritage Needs Assessment to gain a better understanding of minority cultures and what the federal government could do to address this heritage. Ned Kaufman, Cultural Heritage Needs Assessment: Phase I (April 8, 2004). We hope Colonel Allensworth Park and Photo Book will engage readers on the need for public monuments that reflect diversity, democracy and freedom.

The book is available on the web under a Creative Commons royalty-free license for non-commercial purposes.

The Policy Report Healthy Parks, Schools, and Communities: Mapping Green Access and Equity for the Los Angeles Region is a guide for creating healthy, livable communities for all. The Report provides a positive vision to:

  • Revitalize the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers
  • Create healthy parks and schools in every community
  • Improve health and reduce diabetes
  • Invest billions of dollars in infrastructure bonds
  • Promote economic vitality, local jobs, and affordable housing
  • Engage, educate, and empower communities.

Many parts of Los Angeles are park poor, and there are unfair park, school, and health disparities. Children of color disproportionately live in communities of concentrated poverty without places to play in parks and schools, with neither cars or transit to reach places for physical activity. These children disproportionately suffer from obesity and diabetes. Los Angeles has the chance to create healthy, livable communities for all.

The Policy Report provides GIS mapping, demographic and historical analyses, and policy and legal justifications for healthy parks, schools, and communities. The Report is a multimedia publication that is available in text only with no maps in a PDF file online, and with maps in hard copy and on compact disc below.

See a complete set of maps analyzing green access and equity for the Los Angeles region on flickr.

The Policy Report is available in hard copy in an abridged edition with the core maps and in unabridged edition with a complete set of maps, and on compact disc with a complete set of maps.

Please contact The City Project at with any questions.

Download Text only edition

The Quest for Environmental Justice

The new book The Quest for Environmental Justice captures the voices of frontline warriors who are battling environmental injustice and human rights abuses at the grassroots level around the world, and challenging government and industry policies and globalization trends that place people of color and the poor at special risk. The City Project contributed the chapter “Anatomy of the Urban Park Movement: Equal Justice, Democracy and Livability in Los Angeles” in the book edited by Dr. Robert Bullard. The chapter analyzes our efforts to diversify democracy from the ground up through parks, schools, healthy communities, transit, and sustainable regional planning.

You can order the book on

The Quest for Environmental Justice
“Flow of History” Policy Report Celebrates
the Culture and History of the Cornfield
The Policy Report “The
Cornfield and the Flow of History: People, Place, and Culture
” (2.2
MB [PDF]) has helped guide the general plan process for
the new state park at the Cornfield. The Report amplifies
the Cornfield State Park Advisory Committee recommendations
that “a park at the Cornfield should be connected
to the struggles, the histories, and the cultures of the
rich and diverse communities that have surrounded it since
the site was settled.”Read more about the Cornfield.
The Cornfield Report Cover
Public Art in the Public Park

Public art in the new Los Angeles State Historic Park
at the Cornfield site should reflect the struggles, hopes,
and triumphs of the generations who have entered Los Angeles
through El Pueblo and the Cornfield to reflect the dreams
of the community, the purpose of the park, and the vision
of the Cornfield Advisory Committee. “Public
Art in the Public Park: People, Place, Power in the Los Angeles
State Historic Park
” sets forth the vision for the
park as expressed by the communities that struggled to create

Public Art in the Public Park Report Cover
“Dreams of Fields: Soccer, Community, and
Equal Justice” Policy Report influences planning for
State Parks in Los Angeles
Children and their families who dream of soccer fields
are entitled to equal access to playing fields in the parks
they struggled to create. This Policy
(572 KB [PDF]) led State Parks and Recreation
to create balanced parks in the Cornfield and Taylor Yard
with opportunities for active and passive recreation.Read more about the Cornfield.
Read more about Taylor Yard.
Report Cover
Heritage Parkscape Guides Vision for a Greener
Los Angeles
The Heritage Parkscape guides the vision of a greener Los
Angeles for all. The Heritage Parkscape works to unite rich
cultural, historical, recreational, and environmental resources
in the heart of Los Angeles. The Heritage Parkscape links
Taylor Yard, the Cornfield, the Los Angeles River Parkway,
the Zanja Madre, El Pueblo Historic Park and Olvera Street,
old and new Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Elysian Park, Chavez
Ravine, Confluence Park, the Arroyo Seco Parkway, Debs Park,
and Biddy Mason Park, along with 100 other sites. Download
the Heritage Parkscape
Policy Brief
, (436 KB [PDF]).
Report Cover
Connecting the Dots for Environmental Justice

Stanford Law School’s environmental newsletter “The
Natural Resource” features an article highlighting The City Project’s environmental justice work under the leadership
of Stanford graduate and Center Executive Director Robert
García. Read
the article
(84 KB [PDF]).

Report Cover
Los Angeles’ Five Urban Parks

Los Angeles is a severely park-poor city, with fewer acres
of parks per resident than any major city in the country.
The city also has vast disparities in access to parks and
recreation. In the inner city, which is dominated by low-income
communities of color, there are .3 acres of parks per thousand
residents, compared to 1.7 acres in disproportionately white
and relatively wealthy parts of Los Angeles. Read more about
Los Angeles’ Urban Parks in Growth:
The California Story
(252 KB [WORD]).

Report Cover
National Park Service: Olmsted For a New Century

The summer issue of the National Park Service’s magazine Common Ground (776KB PDF) focuses on the influence of landscape
architect Frederick Law Olmsted across the country.

Sliced, diced, and in one case censured, the handiwork of Frederick Law Olmsted
and his firm has survived and thrived in different mixes of geography, climate,
politics, and history. Here, directors of three groups discuss why: Susan Rademacher
of the Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Deborah Trimble of the Buffalo
Parks Conservancy, and Robert García of the Los Angeles Center for Law
in the Public Interest, who takes inspiration from an Olmsted plan that never
was, but might be one day. As budgets shrink for urban parks, these organizations
have been critical to carrying on the Olmsted legacy.

The Olmsted Vision - Click on Image to Enlarge
Urban Parks in Infrastructure Bonds

Our Policy Paper, “Urban Parks in Infrastructure Bonds” (101 KB, PDF) details the need for significant funding for urban parks in any infrastructure bond this year as part of a comprehensive plan to promote economic, environmental, and equitable development for all, and making sure that underserved communities receive their fair share of those public benefits.

Download the Policy Brief in español.

Urban Parks in Infrastructure Bonds
1980 General Plan for El Pueblo de Los Angeles
State Historic Park
The General Plan for El Pueblo was originally adopted in
1980 as a joint project by the California Department of Parks
and Recreation, the City of Los Angeles, and the County of
Los Angeles. The City Project presents this edition of the Plan
to guide the collective vision for a comprehensive and coherent
web of parks, playgrounds, schools, beaches, and transportation
that serves the needs of diverse users and reflects the cultural
urban landscape.Download the General Plan in eight parts:
Part 1 – Plan Summary and Introduction,
11.5 MB [PDF]
Part 2 – Plan Resource Element, 8.2
Part 3 – Plan Land Use Element, 13.3
Part 4 – Plan Land Use Element 2,
16.2 MB [PDF]
Part 5 – Plan Operations and Enviro Impact,
9.8 MB [PDF]
Part 6 – Plan Appendices A and B,
3.5 MB [PDF]
Part 7 – Plan Appendix C, 10.5 MB
Part 8 – Plan Appendix C2 and Credits,
3.8 MB [PDF]Developing an Ethic for Environmental Quality and
Professor Craig Arnold has published an article discussing
the need for an environmental ethic that highlights the psychology
and ecology of place, public education and participation,
politics, and problem solving, as well as the utility and
limits of litigation. “The creative and interdisciplinary
work of The City Project of Los Angeles’ Center for Law in
the Public Interest and its lawyer director Robert García
can serve as one such example of environmental lawyering
that encompasses more than environmental law.” Craig
Arnold, Working Out an Environmental Ethic: Anniversary
Lessons from Mono Lake
, 4 Wyo. L. Rev. 1, 50-51 (2004).
Report Cover

Read more about the Urban Parks Movement.