A bench in South Pasadena's Garfield Park was dedicated to the memory of Aramazd "Piqui" Andressian Jr. on January 22, 2017. Photo of a similar bench from Pixabay.
Park bench. Photo from Pixabay.

Mayor Eric Garcetti Monday signed an executive directive, titled “Achieving Park Equity,” aimed at improving access to parks for neighborhoods that lack open public spaces.

Garcetti signed the executive directive, his 31st since taking office in 2013, on a Zoom joined by officials in the Department of Recreation and Parks, commissioners from the Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners, as well as Councilman and Chair of the City Council’s Arts, Parks, Health, Education and Neighborhood Committee John Lee.

“We know that recreational opportunities define people’s lives. They’re essential to the quality of our life, whether it’s the number of years that we live, whether it’s the enjoyment of life itself, and no matter what neighborhood somebody lives in, he or she deserves equal access to both health and opportunity,” Garcetti said.

The directive orders the development of an independent analysis into the city’s parks and a plan to improve equitable access. The recommendations will be created by a group consisting of city department leadership, local park experts and community members.

The directive also mandates increased spending on efforts to build and restore parkland and improve park access in areas assessed as having the highest need. The directive also states that employment opportunities associated with the increased park access initiatives must prioritize youth, seniors and vulnerable residents through programs like Hire LA’s Youth and LA Rise.

“We know that communities that have less park space per capita also experience greater economic hardships. They have lower health outcomes, and in park-deprived communities, we see rates of premature mortality from cardiovascular disease and diabetes, we see higher prevalence of obesity, as well as other chronic illnesses like diabetes among children and residents,” Garcetti said.

“And of course, we know that green space, park space, provides critical environmental benefits: removing pollution, serving as wildlife habitats, cooling our communities as we face increasing temperatures. And we filter stormwater, replenish groundwater in these places.”

The mayor added that the city has increased the percent of residents who live within walking distance from parks by 52.5% in 2013 to 64% Monday. The city aims to reach 75% by 2035, as part of its Green New Deal. Thirty-seven Los Angeles parks have opened since 2013, with over 164 new acres of parkland acquired.

Department of Recreation and Parks General Manager Mike Shull celebrated the executive directive’s signing.

“There’s no doubt that when we invest in our parks, in programs, it yields healthier communities and a thriving city,” Shull said. He added that the directive “strengthens (the department’s) existing programs and empowers growth of new initiatives and brings the entire city to the table for this most important work.”

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