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Trash is Piling Up on the Future Site of an El Sereno Park

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Residents are still waiting for a long-promised park on Elephant Hill

In 2009, when the community members of El Sereno fought to protect Elephant Hill from development, one resident told the LA Times, "The Westside has the Pacific Ocean. We've got this hill, a place of nature and solitude -- and we'd like to keep it that way." Neighborhood activists were successful in lobbying the LA City Council to commit to preserving the area as a public park. But LAist reports that after several years, the park has yet to appear and the experience of nature and solitude on the hillside is threatened by illegal dumping and a lack of maintenance.

The fight against against Elephant Hill development began in 1984 and continued until 2009, when the city agreed to settle a lawsuit and buy 20 acres of land on the hill to be turned into a park. Five acres of that land were then sold to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in a deal that was finalized in 2013. But residents of El Sereno, a neighborhood sorely lacking in park space, have been frustrated by the apparent lack of progress by the city or MRCA since then.

Most of the holdup seems to be bureaucratic; MRCA hopes to purchase more land to develop trails, and there's been some back and forth with the council about whether these trails could extend onto land owned by the city. But in the meantime, litter and bulky items have piled up along the hillside and neighbors say that squatters have moved in. "Elephant Hill wasn't like this before," El Sereno resident Liseli Walan tells LAist. "To me, it's gotten worse."

Local officials seem confident that people will stop dumping items in the area once MRCA establishes formal trails and park boundaries. Still, some members of the community feel that the city is simply neglecting one of its less affluent neighborhoods. A recent report by the LA Times found that LA sanitation workers were far more likely to address complaints when they came from wealthy neighborhoods, and far less likely to address those submitted by residents of low income areas.

Some El Sereno residents suggest it's trends like these that have allowed trash to pile up on Elephant Hill. Activist Hugo Garcia told LAist that "The fact that communities of color seem to always have to organize to defend their interests with less resources makes it very difficult... we tend to live in communities that are park-poor and where infrastructure has been ignored by institutions that could be doing better jobs to represent us, and El Sereno is no exception."