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Group Gets $495,000 From City to Launch Drive for More Parks

The land trust plans to replace blighted houses or empty lots with green space.

August 08, 2003|Kathleen Flynn | Times Staff Writer

A city-sponsored nonprofit group that hopes to create more neighborhood parks in Los Angeles' most densely populated areas is closer to success after receiving nearly $500,000 in start-up financing from the city.

Formation of the trust began in 2001, at a time when reports listed Los Angeles as having less green space per capita than most major American cities, and with most of the city's parks in affluent areas.

The task force -- known as a Neighborhood Oasis Land Trust -- plans to replace blighted houses or empty lots in dense areas with small gardens and green space.

"A lot of times neighbors see crack houses or empty lots and need someone to call," said Misty Sanford, a land trust board member.

"This way, they can call the city and be referred to the land trust and get help," Sanford said.

Although the Board of Parks and Recreation will be responsible for the large open areas, the nonprofit will be in charge of maintaining the small parks.

Two years of negotiations involving the city, community groups and environmental organizations led to the $495,000 grant, which came from the city's $10-million sale of the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Mart.

"A lot of us were worried that there would be all this great work and consensus built around democratizing parks -- and that the budget wouldn't be able to fund it," said Councilman Eric Garcetti.

He said that because laws make it hard for the city to buy or lease land, a nonprofit would be better able to create and maintain "pocket parks."

The 15 board members, representing various professions and city neighborhoods, will begin hiring staff and establishing goals for the next five years, Sanford said.

First in line to receive help from the trust are five community parks that need to buy land or extend leases, Sanford said.

"Too many times we look at land for what it could do commercially or for people who don't live in the area," said board member David McNiell.

"This land trust and funding will set up an institution for communities to get a say in what their neighborhoods look like," McNiell said.

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