Today, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, and co-authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, that ensured funding guidelines for Measure A dollars would guarantee equitable funding for neighborhood parks in communities categorized as having a very high and high park need.
“When I led the effort to conduct a Countywide Parks Needs Assessment, and authored Measure A, LA County park’s ballot initiative, it was done with the understanding that all of our efforts would be conducted through a lens of equity and fairness,” said Supervisor Solis. “Dedicating only 24% of Measure A’s funding to the 45% of the County’s neighborhoods that have been identified as both high-need and park poor is insufficient to reverse historic inequities in low-income communities of color throughout LA County. Everyone has a human right to a well-maintained, easily-accessible, high-quality neighborhood park, as well as the key health, social, and economic benefits that result from access to green space in your own community.”
Today’s vote was a critical step of ensuring that every community has equal access to a safe, fun, and welcoming neighborhood park. In 2014, Supervisor Solis spearheaded the Parks Needs Assessment, an unprecedented effort that comprehensively quantified the need for parks and recreation resources in cities and unincorporated communities throughout LA County. Completed in 2016, the Parks Needs Assessment, which was grounded in a needs-based equity framework, represented a 14-monthlong process of engagement with LA County’s 88 cities and stakeholders from unincorporated areas, and laid the groundwork for the drafting, and then the successful passage, of Measure A. Supervisor Solis authored Measure A and led the campaign effort that led to nearly 75% of LA County voters approving this measure in November 2016.
“Measure A passed because we know that every community, every neighborhood, and every family regardless of income level or where they lived, is entitled to an easily accessible and well-maintained park. This is about leveling the playing field, and ensuring that every County resident matters. We know neighborhoods parks and green spaces provide local residents vital health benefits. We have an opportunity to change the reality for many thousands of children and families living in some of our most underserved communities,” continued Supervisor Solis. “Measure A was infused with the promise of equity. This promise was foundational to all the Parks Needs Assessment community meetings, all the communications to voters during the Measure A campaign, and sustained today’s efforts here. Thank you to the community advocates who supported this important defense of equity.”
Today’s motion set a minimum floor of 30% of funding for projects in High and/or Very High Need Study Areas, and establishes the County’s Department of Parks and Recreation as the lead agency in the oversight, management, and updates of the Countywide Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment. The motion also requests that the Regional Parks and Open Space District (RPOSD) report back to the Board on a quarterly basis on their outreach and technical assistance efforts.
“The board is finally putting into action the desire of voters to dramatically expand our open space footprint across the region, especially in communities that need parks the most,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We hope Measure A will become a critical strategy in ensuring that all families are able to easily and safely access quality parks in their communities and beyond.”
In 2014, a study by the UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability found that funding programs must have clear and specific criteria to ensure that funding reaches park-poor areas. Ambiguous and confusing language and policies far too often means that funds fail to reach park-poor neighborhoods. Today’s motion by Supervisor Solis amended language in an earlier draft of the Policies and Grants Administration Manual to provide clarifying language that strengthened the fundamental promise of equity of Measure A.
Measure A, a parcel tax, collects approximately $91.8 million dollars annually. Following today’s vote at the Board of Supervisors, the RPOSD can move forward with non-competitive grants, which represent 63% or $57.8 million of the total Measure A funds, to cities and Study Areas. Competitive grant funding distributions from Measure A are currently on hold pending the conclusion of ongoing litigation. Currently, there is a tentative court decision that is in favor of the RPOSD; when litigation is completed, the RPOSD will come back to the Board of Supervisors to vote on releasing the competitive grant funds.