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Climate and Environment

LA Takes A Steep Drop In Report Ranking Park Systems. Equity Is A Major Factor

A field full of tumbleweeds sits in front of a path with a fence marking a mobile home park. In the top right corner is a map showing the location in South Gate
Planned location for the Urban Orchard park in South Gate, which would help close some of the equity gaps in local access to park space.
(Courtesy City of South Gate)
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Los Angeles dropped down the list in a new reportranking park systems in the 100 most populous cities in the U.S, falling from 49th place last year to number 71 this year.

The San Francisco nonprofit Trust for Public Land compiles the annual ParkScore index, ranking cities on factors like the percentage of people who live within a 10-minute walk to a park, and how much cities invest in parks per resident.

This year, for the first time in its 10-year history, the index also considered park equity — looking at acreage and access based on residents' income, race and ethnicity. The addition of park equity as a rating factor affected the rankings of many cities — in the case of L.A., negatively.

"There's an inequitable distribution of parks within the city of L.A. and this isn't news for our parks department partners," said Robin Mark, the L.A. program director for the Trust for Public Land. "This is something that we've been working on with them over a decade to try to close the equity gap in access to open space."

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L.A. did score well on:

  • Park investment ($121 per resident compared with the national median of $96)
  • Percent of city space used for parkland (12.6% compared with the national median of 9%)

Other Southern California cities on the list:

  • Irvine (7)
  • Long Beach (31)
  • Anaheim (58)
  • Riverside (69)
  • Santa Ana (88)

The top three cities on the index were Washington D.C. and Minnesota's Twin Cities, Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Other cities also were affected by the equity factor. Baltimore rose 28 places on the ParkScore index, from 58th in 2020 to 30th this year. Toledo, Ohio, rose 27 places, from 77th in 2020 to 50th this year. Newark, N.J., also jumped 27 spots, to 42nd.

Southern California's shortfalls in equitable access have been acknowledged by parks officials, who note the issues are most acute in areas where high percentages of Black or Latino residents live.

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