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Climate and Environment

Low-Income Communities Have Less Park Space Than More Affluent Neighborhoods. That's Starting To Change

A view over a park's greenscape toward a distant downtown skyline.
Looking out from Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area towards Downtown Los Angeles. Aside from these views of the skyline most of the hike through the park feels isolated from the outside world.
(Chava Sanchez
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The 51st Street Greenbelt Park project in North Long Beach has secured $2 million in funding to transform from a dirt lot near the Los Angeles River into a green space with trees, fitness equipment and plants that naturally remove pollutants from rainwater runoff.

Why it matters

Congressmember Nanette Barragán, who represents a large part of North Long Beach, helped secure the federal funding. She says half of L.A.'s population lives in neighborhoods without access to parks and open spaces.

"[Low-income and communities of color] have less than 10% of park acreage per resident than, say, more affluent areas in East Long Beach," she said. Last year, a report from the non-profit Trust for Public Land revealed that communities of color have 43% less park space than white neighborhoods.

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About the 51st Street Greenbelt project

The park will have fitness equipment, a play area for kids, a natural walking trail and more. Barragán says it's important for "these neighborhoods to have green spaces for their kids, for [wellness], and for mental health reasons. She says "It's good for getting to know your neighbors."

How parks help with the climate crisis

Barragán noted that parks provide a cooling effect that help combat the urban heat island effect — when pavement, buildings and other surfaces absorb and retain heat.

"Having more tree canopy and shade — it's going to help reduce air pollution by sequestering carbon and other toxins and improve water quality by removing contaminants from stormwater runoff," she said. "So this is really a greater effort to [help] these communities combat the climate injustice that they have and the lack of green space."

What's next

Barragán's spokesperson Kevin McGuire says there's no timeline on the project, but it could be completed in five years. But Barragán expects an additional $15 million and a new round of community-funded projects for more urban parks later this year.

Go deeper: Parks Are Important For Health And Climate, But Cities Aren't Spending Enough On Them, A New Report Says

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