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Phantom Market Contributes to High Price of Library's Maguire Gardens

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The park maintenance problems are piling up for the city of LA, especially in a part of town infamous for a dearth of usable public space: Downtown. Blogdowntown recently detailed the efforts of the Downtown Neighborhood Council to maintain the grounds surrounding the new LAPD Headquarters across from City Hall in Downtown. According to Thom Brennan of the LAPD Facilities Management Division, quoted in the Blogdowntown article: "All of those facilities that were added, none of them were budgeted for landscape services." Now it looks like another park in Downtown will be without funding for maintenance: Maguire Gardens, which welcomes the public to the Central Library (7,000 visitors a day visit the park, according to the city's Library Department). Last month, the City Council rejected a contract with MPG Office Trust, which maintains the 2.3 acre park. The Library Department had approved the contract but the City Council's Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee waived the item to the full Council, which promptly rejected the contract on August 19. Maintenance has been handled on a month-to-month basis since then.

According to the Downtown News, City Councilmember Jan Perry helped kill the contract out of concern for a rising pricetag on an already expensive park (which is at least partly caused by several water features on the grounds): "In 2010, the city paid Maguire $246,737 for maintaining the park. That's nearly $100,000 more than it costs to maintain the 2.5-acre Grand Hope Park in South Park, and about $50,000 more than the annual maintenance budget for the 10.5-acre Vista Hermosa Park in City West." The new contract would raise the cost of maintenance even more: "the Maguire Gardens maintenance budget would rise 2% a year, reaching $256,706 by 2013. Over three years, the agreement would cost the city $755,117."

In the DN article, MPG Spokesperson Peggy Morretti cites a long-defunct farmers market as one cause of the high cost of maintaining the park: "There is absolutely more foot traffic in the area given the location, and the fact that we have a farmer's market going down Fifth Street increases our janitorial costs." Oops. There is a farmer's market at Pershing Square, and there was another at the former dungeon formerly known as Fig+7 (now called FIGat7th), but it's been over a year since a market occupied Fifth Street in front of the library. (Just for giggles, here is what currently occupies the curb at the former home of the Fifth Street Farmer's Market.)
· While City Looks to Figure Out Landscaping Budget, Neighbors Pull Weeds at LAPD [Blogdowntown]
· City Pays Premium for Maguire Gardens [Downtown News]

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