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Two Skid Row Parks at Risk of Closing - Los Angeles Downtown News - For Everything Downtown L.A.!: News

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Two Skid Row Parks at Risk of Closing

Money Crunch Could Shut Heavily Used Facilities This Week

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Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013 4:11 pm

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - In Los Angeles, there may be no community that relies more on its public recreational space than Skid Row. Every day the two local parks are crowded with people playing chess, shooting hoops and resting.

But unless the city can find some money, the poverty-laden community’s parks will close on Friday, Feb. 1.

Gladys Park and San Julian Park have long been operated and maintained by the nonprofit SRO Housing Corp., which owns apartment complexes adjacent to both parks. SRO received annual payments from the now defunct Community Redevelopment Agency to maintain the parks.

That funding dried up in June, however, after the CRA was dissolved by state legislation supported by Gov. Jerry Brown. That’s when Ninth District Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district included San Julian Park before redistricting took effect, secured $175,000 from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority that allowed operations at both parks to continue for six months.

Now, those six months have passed and the dollars are gone. SRO has been paying to operate the parks since June 15, but the cash-strapped organization will have to close the sites on Feb. 1, said its CEO, Anita Nelson.

“We’ve managed those parks since 1988 so it’s heartbreaking for us because we know how vital they are,” Nelson said. “We don’t have a lot of time.”

Nelson estimates the annual cost of operating both parks at about $350,000.

Every day in Skid Row, hundreds of people must choose how to bide their time during the day, and it’s no simple matter.

Those who sleep in emergency shelter are essentially kicked out of the facilities in the morning, but if they stray too far they might miss the chance of a free hot meal. Worse, they could miss out on a bed for the night.

Thus, many pass the time in the parks, where they are joined by some of the thousands of people who live in the single-room occupancy apartments that pepper the area.

Then there are the approximately 1,500 people who lack housing and never make it into a shelter. All three groups rely on the parks, said “General” Jeff Page, who represents Skid Row on the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council and has been lobbying city officials since September to find a way to keep the parks open.

“You wind up with thousands of people on sidewalks,” Page said. “The parks are the valves that release that pressure. They’re also a safe zone or somewhere to go where they’re not on a sidewalk to be accused of loitering.”

Winding Through Bureaucracy

Redistricting moved much of Skid Row from Perry’s Ninth District to José Huizar’s 14th. Huizar is working on a solution to keep the parks open, said his spokesman Rick Coca.

“It’s a high priority for our office,” Coca said.

In the case of Gladys Park, which is owned by the city Department of Recreation and Parks, continuing operations is essentially a matter of funding. If the city can locate the money, the park known in part as the site of the Skid Row 3 on 3 Streetball League and other community weekend events would remain open. It’s unclear whether SRO would continue to manage the facility.

San Julian Park is more complicated. The park is owned by the now defunct CRA. For the city, keeping the park open means not only identifying funding, but also navigating a daunting bureaucracy to secure access to the site from the agency.

The successor entity overseeing the CRA is charged with disposing of its excess property, per the state law that dissolved redevelopment activities. The law allows for the successor agency to hold on to properties such as parks for “government use” and eventually transfer ownership to the city.

Such a designation, however, requires approval from the state Department of Finance. San Julian Park is on a draft list of CRA properties recommended for that designation, but the state is not slated to consider the proposal until April 1 at the soonest, said Ackley Padilla, a spokesman for the successor agency.

Padilla said the city could also opt to pursue a permit that would let it maintain and operate the park until a proposed transfer is completed. The CRA oversight board in December approved two similar permits for the city, one for the Watts Tower Cultural Crescent Park.

Absent the permit, the city could not take over San Julian Park on Feb. 1 even if it had the money, Padilla said.

With the threat of the closures looming, Page and other community stakeholders are getting anxious.

“We need answers,” Page said.

Huizar spokesman Coca said his office expects to have more information shortly.

Contact Ryan Vaillancourt at ryan@downtownnews.com.

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7 comments:

  • Manuel Compito posted at 1:44 pm on Tue, Jan 29, 2013.

    Manuel Compito OG Man Posts: 1

    First, there is only "ONE " park in Skid Row that is owned and " suppose to be " ran by the City Rec & Parks and that is GLADYS PARK. Which unlike Pershing Square, receives NO FUNDING for activities and programs....so, what exactly has the funds been going to?

    The green space called San Julian park is a " play with words " which has allowed " real funding for GLADYS PARK programs and activities such as Skidrow 3on3 Streetball League, Skid Row Artists Collective (SRAC), Art-N- Da Park, Jazz-N-The Park and many other activities to GO WITHOUT.

    While the excuse has been, " WE Have NO Funding "! While again, Pershing Square under Rec & Parks has thousands of dollar...an ice skating program that cost $ 90,000.00

    The activities in Gladys Park ( and even the green space called San Julian Park) such as dominoes, chess, cards, etc. are " provided by the community residents themselves ". The lack of funding limits the community from having Chess Tournaments, Card Tournament, Dominoes Tournaments which has trophies.

    The Lack of funding for Gladys Park prevents " The Award Winning Skidrow 3on3 Streetball League from being provided with uniforms, basketballs, score boards and all the other amenities that should be provided.

    Bottom line. SRO Corporation should not be " burdened with doing the job of Rec & Parks when it comes to GLADYS PARK. And NO FUNDS should be given that " does not include funding for activities and programs,.

    As for the " green space called San Julian Park ", another solution has to be designed. Not taking programs funding away from GLADYS PARK just to go to San Julian to " sweep and clean " it. As far as that goes, the community itself can " clean both venues " for far less than $ 300,000.00

    I love San Julian Park, it is the home of OG'S N SERVICE ASSOCIATION " FATHERS DAY AFFAIR ", nevertheless, that does not make it a park!

    I remember when CRA gave SRO Corporation 1.5 milllion and again, 3 million for " both venues " but was instructed to " seek future funding elsewhere "! Everyone knew " years ago " that funding would dry up. So, now it has....it's time for the City to be " accountable " and quit passing their responsibility on to SRO Corporation which IS NOT in the business of programming and activities for GLADYS PARK.

    It is my opinion that funding to GLADYS PARK should come from Pershing Square which has gotten more than it's share of funding.

     
  • Hal McMath posted at 6:20 am on Sun, Jan 27, 2013.

    Hal McMath Posts: 3

    As percent of the total operating budget for Parks and Rec, $350K a year must be a rounding error. This situation again speaks to the long standing municipal neglect of Skid Row. No voices, no votes here. Given the sheer number of people on the streets and the dire lack of street facilities and services, these parks represent a critical piece of the physical and social infrastructure of the community. Their closure would likely further result in negative and costly spillover effects that will end up costing the city more in the long run. Hopefully Huizar's office will come up with a lasting solution that can ensure these parks remain open in perpetuity. It would be a welcome change to see a city councilor take an interest in street level issues here which previous pols have largely ignored and allowed to fester.

     
  • Charles Porter posted at 5:15 pm on Fri, Jan 25, 2013.

    Charles Posts: 1

    For many years we (UCEPP) have used these parks to host community events centered on culture, wellness, and empowerment. In addition to being places to hang out during the day, these are two of the few community spaces with the potential of enhancing community health. We must make a commitment to support these parks and partner together to fill them with positive activities (in addition to the chess, dominoes, basketball games, and recovery meetings) focused on political action, cultural awareness, showcasing talent, and sharing information and resources. We cannot allow these parks to close and must also fight to enhance the parks so that they can be enjoyed by all community members!

     
  • General Jeff posted at 2:04 am on Fri, Jan 25, 2013.

    General Jeff Posts: 40

    In speaking about this situation to my constituents in Skid Row last night, it was brought to my attention that also with the parks closing, there won't be any access to the port-a-potty's in both parks which help to provide additional restroom options for an area that is already severely lacking in adequate accommodations for one to properly relieve themselves......Wow!!!!!

     
  • Don Garza posted at 1:14 am on Fri, Jan 25, 2013.

    Don Garza Posts: 7

    Ok ,, way to go.. I have been doing all I can sending emails personally speaking with people.etc We need to remember that there must be a way to generate the funds privately to keep the parks open after we get funding from the tax payers. It is time to look at a different way to provide funding for the parks in skid row. For too long everyone thought that the CRA would be in existence in perpetuity. I knew this was coming. There is a way and I am gonna find it and do it. Others can continue to beg and blame. Good Job Ryan and Katherine and General Jeff.. Let's make sure the park employees hired from the homeless pool don't lose those resume building jobs...

     
  • Katherine McNenny posted at 11:39 pm on Thu, Jan 24, 2013.

    Katherine Posts: 32

    Even if these parks close for just a few days, this is going to be a serious problem as there is NO PLACE FOR PEOPLE TO SIT DOWN save for about 3 benches total in Skid Row's whole 50 odd blocks- a couple on Central and one @ 7th at bus stops near where very, very few people actually live.

    There are many mothers with small children I see here receiving services and also a large elderly and disabled population. These people in particular will need outdoor seating, water and shade as it starts to heat up.

    The parks are for everyone's well being and provide much needed green and open space which is so lacking in these parts. Save the Skid Row parks!

     
  • General Jeff posted at 4:42 pm on Thu, Jan 24, 2013.

    General Jeff Posts: 40

    Another key factor that wasn't addressed in this article, is the Skid Row community resident's concerns regarding how LAPD's tactics will be affected if and when our parks close....In other words, will they accuse EVERYONE that is now forced to remain on the sidewalks all day, of loitering and thus guilty of "probable cause" and subsequently subjected to unlawful searches, seizures and harassment???

    As I was quoted in the article, "We need answers", but we truly need them PRIOR to February 1st so that we can prepare our new daily routines accordingly!!!!

    Some of our community members are already planning to migrate to other areas in Downtown LA, such as Pershing Square, LA Live, MacArthur Park, Olvera Street, the Arts District and other places.....Others are now eagerly waiting for Spring Street Park to open saying that they don't have a problem making THAT park the "new Skid Row park"!!...And I think they're serious!