In a sprawling urban metropolis like Los Angeles, clean and safe recreational public spaces are essential to the well-being and togetherness of their communities.
At noon Feb. 22, the iconic MacArthur Park Lakeside reopened its gates.
Led by the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks and made possible by District 1’s Councilmember Gil Cedillo, the $1.5 million rehabilitation saw the installation of a new irrigation system, trash receptacles, asphalt walkways, hydration station, lighting and artwork.
The city also planted 60 new trees, 125 plants and shrubs, 276,000 square feet of sod, and removed nine dead trees to improve the park’s landscape.
“This will be returned to a park for the entire community,” Cedillo said. “The most important thing is that it’ll be activated by families, by people who live here, people who come here to work and are committed and invested stakeholders in this community.”
The park will feature new daily activities to bring the community to the new rec spot. The activities will be conducted by the department of recreation and parks and nonprofit partners such as El Centro Del Pueblo, Volunteers of America and Korean Youth and Community Center, and will include walk clubs, arts and crafts, sports and workshops.
Though MacArthur Park’s history has been marked by violence, poverty and homelessness, Cedillo and his partners are optimistic about the park’s future.
“We’re the only district that’s reduced homelessness and increased affordable housing at the same time,” Cedillo explained. “We provide services to the homeless community, providing showers seven days a week with the Shower of Hope, laundry services and restrooms.”
The park will also host the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and People Assisting the Homeless outreach teams, who will walk both sides of the park to engage the homeless to offer them services and connect them to available resources.
“Those services are good services in and of themselves, but they’re part of our strategic response in that they have helped us build a bridge of trust,” Cedillo said. “We’re not doing something for somebody; we’re working with people to help them do something for themselves.”
Cedillo has deep family ties to the community surrounding MacArthur Park. His father, who moved to the area in 1941, helped inform his strategies as a leader.
“We have a lot of faith in the community for them to manage themselves,” Cedillo said. They tell us that we need a playground across the street, and we do it. They tell us we need to upgrade our soccer field, and so we do it. We’re doing things that are responsive to them and moving us forward as a community.”
Regarding public safety and security, the park has an upgraded CCTV network spanning 18 new locations along with the park rangers and LAPD officers who will protect the park. Recreation and parks will also have new uniformed security officers at the park daily during the late afternoon to early morning.
“Whether it’s Brentwood, Westwood or the Palisades, everybody in this city, including my district, deserves to have park where they can go,” Cedillo said. “Public space in a democratic society is where we should all be equal. And in this democratic society, this is our park. This is our public space, so we want it to be a clean, safe and secure place for recreation. This is where we should be equal to anyone else in the city, regardless of our immigration status, our gender, our LGBTQ status or our income.”