L.A. Controller Issues Report Cards for City Parks, Along With Results of Public Survey of Park Users

LOS ANGELES – Community parks in the City earned generally solid grades for facilities such as playgrounds, trails and gyms — but maintenance and cleanliness of restrooms scored largely C and below in new first-of-their kind report cards issued by L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin. Park users meanwhile reported general satisfaction with their local parks, but many said cleanliness and safety concerns deter them from using their community parks more.

The Controller’s report urged the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks (RAP) to systematically grade L.A.’s parks to push for improvements to safety, sanitary conditions, environmental sustainability, and programs and services, while being transparent with Angelenos about the results. Galperin launched Park Grade, an interactive map of City parks to display the grades, a community survey, in-depth environmental case studies and social media snapshots of how Angelenos use their local parks.

The Controller’s grades was based on site visits of 40 of Los Angeles’ 95 specifically designated community parks ranging in size from less than an acre to 77.6 acres. Professional reviewers including KH Consulting Group, USC faculty and the RAND Corporation assessed the condition of various amenities and facilities.

“Our parks are so important to our quality of life, providing recreational outlets for all ages, much-needed green space, and venues for community-building,” Controller Galperin said. “I hope City leaders will use my report card to drive improvements at City parks to better serve all Angelenos.”

Controller Galperin noted the challenges faced by RAP in having added 37 parks — for a current total of 444 — in the past nine years. All the while, funding for maintenance of parks has shrunk to about $81 million and staffing was cut by 33 percent from 2,117 employees to 1,421 employees over the same period. The rise in homelessness, he said, has added to the challenge of maintenance.

The Controller advised exploring funding sources for maintenance and upgrades — such as special City funds that typically have been used for new parks.

A survey of more than 3,700 park users offered similar assessments of the community parks as the consultants. Safety concerns were cited by 46 percent of respondents as deterrents to using parks more; 37 percent cited maintenance as their largest concern. Generally community parks in the Westside of the City and West San Fernando Valley fared best, while those in the East Valley and downtown, south of downtown and Eastside areas received lower grades.

“It is the Department’s goal to ensure that the City has a clean, safe, innovative and accessible park system that serves the entire Los Angeles community,” said Michael Shull, General Manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks. “We are proud of the work our staff performs daily but also acknowledge the need to continuously innovate and improve.  We appreciate the collaboration with the L.A. Controller’s Office and look forward to staying closely engaged with the public to share our progress and hear ideas and feedback as we move forward.”

The report recommended:

  • Expanding and regularizing the report card model –To include more parks and annual or semi-annual assessments. Such a project could be undertaken by RAP — or, possibly, by a non-profit partner — as is done in New York City.
  • Stepped-up and proactive maintenance –The City and RAP must invest more resources in cleaning and ongoing and preventive maintenance. RAP would further benefit from using a Citywide asset inventory and asset management system, which Galperin recommended last October.
  • Have a clear plan for maintenance of any new parks before approving them.
  • Enhanced programming and events such as dances, concerts and competitions at underused parks — particularly in areas with high population densities.
  • Closing of the gender gap in the use of community parks by aligning park design, programs and other elements to better engage and offer services and amenities to girls and to women.
  • Stronger partnerships with the Los Angeles Police Department and community groups to improve public safety and security.
  • Improved water conservation, watershed management and environmental stewardship.
  • Better management of homelessness — with expanded cooperation with other agencies offering homelessness, mental health and other social services to address challenges posed by homeless encampments at City parks.

Follow L.A. Controller Ron Galperin at @LAController on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.