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Poorly Maintained Restrooms Lower Overall Grades For L.A. Parks

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(Photo by Chew Boy via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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City Controller Ron Galperin released a report Wednesday that gives an in-depth look into the quality of L.A. parks. The study, conducted by an independent firm, evaluated 40 of the city’s 95 community parks, giving them marks on a slate of criteria that included “athletic fields,” “park cleanliness,” and “drinking fountains.”

Overall, the resulting grades were more than respectable, averaging out to As and Bs for the 40 parks as a whole. Among the categories with the highest marks were “indoor gyms” and “customer friendly,” which both received an A.

One area that didn’t do too hot? Restrooms, which averaged a C in the report’s overall ratings. The study said that it looked at 67 restrooms across 39 parks, and while they found that "indoor" restrooms were usually “relatively clean” and functioning, they often encountered a “poorly maintained and foul-smelling exterior or field restrooms.”

Looking at the report cards for the individual parks, we see that the recurring theme is that restroom cleanliness often marred an otherwise positive review. For instance, the North Hollywood park (which received an overall B grade) scored in the 90s for “children’s play areas” and “drinking fountains,” but hit a low of 65 for restroom cleanliness. This was the same story for Wilmington, MacArthur, and Delano parks, among others.

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The highest scoring parks in the report were mostly located in the Westside. Culver Slauson, Jim Gilliam, and Westwood parks all received an A rating overall, and they all scored 85 or above for restroom cleanliness.

Galperin said in the report that a lack of staffing may hinder attempts to clean up the restrooms at L.A.’s parks. He noted that, in the past nine years, funding for maintenance of parks has shrunk about $81 million, and staffing was cut from 2,117 employees to 1,421 employees. KPCC attributes that trend partly to the 2008 recession.

As indicated in the report, there are no fast and easy solutions to the problems with funding and staffing. Ultimately, the report recommends Recreation and Parks to revise its regional organizational structure to more effectively coordinate facility maintenance.” It recommends the city to move RAP from an ethos of “do the best you can with the resources you have” to a professional organization that uses technology, data analyses, and best practices in its maintenance functions.” It also recommends turning the report card into a regular thing (this report is a first of its kind in terms of scope, say the authors). “Our parks are so important to our quality of life, providing recreational outlets for all ages, much-needed green space, and venues for community-building,” said Galperin. “I hope City leaders will use my report card to drive improvements at City parks to better serve all Angelenos.”

The write-up also includes a community survey in which residents were asked about their attitudes towards the parks. Among the more revealing findings was that 46 percent of participants said that the topic of safety (or perceived lack thereof) prevents them from using the park more.

Correction: A previous version of this article said that the exteriors of some of the restrooms are poorly-maintained. It's more accurate to say that some exterior restrooms (or standalone restrooms) are poorly-maintained.