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LA gaining parks, but nearly half of residents don’t have easy access

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The city is spending more on creating new park space

Park benches are on both sides of a wide path in Los Angeles State Historic Park. In the distance is a city skyline with tall buildings.
More LA residents live near parks, according to a new report.
Photo by Alissa Walker

Los Angeles has more park space than it did a year ago, and more residents live close enough to a park that they can walk there, according to a new report from the Trust for Public Land.

Each year the nonprofit ranks the 100 largest U.S. cities using its ParkScore metric, which measures how many parks a city has, as well as how accessible they are to residents. Last year, Los Angeles fell from 65th to 74th on the list, but the city is now back to 66th place, with a score of 42.8 out of 100.

LA still lags behind other Southern California cities, including Irvine (73.4), San Diego (67) and Long Beach (64.1) in its park rating, but the report shows progress has been made since last year.

The number of parks within city limits has grown to 661, up from the 604 counted in last year’s report, which released just after the reopening of the 34-acre Los Angeles State Historic Park.

The amount of land covered by parks has also gone up more than 2,000 acres, making open space accessible to roughly 250,000 additional residents. The report includes some data that was not available last year, so not all that park space is new, but even small increases in open space make a difference.

According to the report, 56 percent of Angelenos now live with a half-mile of a park; that’s slightly higher than the national average of 54 percent.

Parks are more accessible in some areas than others. A map of neighborhoods best-served by parks shows that residents of communities near mountains and hills are best served by the local park system, while fewer options exist in flatter parts of the city.

More park space may be on the way, as efforts ramp up to revitalize the Los Angeles River and money trickles into Los Angeles County coffers from a 2016 ballot measure funding development and maintenance of parks. The city of Los Angeles also has a bit more cash to spend on green space after upping park fees charged to developers.

The increase in funding is reflected in this year’s numbers. In 2017, park spending per capita was around $78 in Los Angeles. This year, it’s up to nearly $103.

Alexandra Hiple, a researcher with the trust, tells Curbed that this year's report takes private donations into account when calculating spending numbers, boosting those figures slightly; but spending would be up in Los Angeles without those numbers.

Even more financial commitment will likely be necessary for LA to achieve a goal set by Mayor Eric Garcetti and 133 other mayors last year to ensure residents of major American cities live within a 10-minute walk of a public park.