When the Los Angeles City Council voted to change how it collects fees from developers for parks for the first time in 30 years on September 7, it was a huge victory for urban parks advocates – with funders playing a critical behind-the-scenes role in the “Parks for All” campaign.
Los Angeles has had a chronic shortfall of funding to create urban parks, especially in low-income communities, for decades. Though the state’s 1975 Quimby Act authorizes cities and counties to pass ordinances requiring that developers set aside land or pay fees in lieu of a set-aside for parks or recreational facilities, Los Angeles’ ordinances were written in a way that constrained Quimby’s potential to bring parks to where they are needed the most. An excellent editorial by the LA Times details these limitations. And the statistics are sobering: 41 percent of lower-income households in Los Angeles do not have immediate access to a park (versus 2 percent in New York). Los Angeles is ranked 65 out of 100 of the nation’s largest cities in terms of how well the city is meeting the need for parks.
Several funders who are part of the Los Angeles’ Funders Collaborative, an initiative of Smart Growth California, were frustrated by the situation – especially since parks are such an essential piece of creating healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities. A member of the Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative steering committee, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, stepped up to bring together four funders who wanted to collaborate in moving the needle on Quimby reform.
This evolved into an effort that showcases what funders working together do so well and the critical role they can play. Funders supported research that produced evidence supporting the Quimby reforms, ensured that the LA Department of City Planning convened diverse organizations to talk about potential solutions, and facilitated connections between advocates who hadn’t historically worked together. Together, these supportive efforts added key momentum to Quimby reform.
It is ultimately the incredible work of the 68 “Parks for All” coalition partners – including the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Community Health Councils, Prevention Institute, TRUST South LA and Pacoima Beautiful – who brought the changes to the Los Angeles’ Quimby Act ordinances to life through a multi-year campaign. These changes mean that funding for creating parks should double from around $20 million per year to nearly $50 million, and ensure that moving forward, new development pays for new parks.
The impact this will have on the livability of Los Angeles cannot be underestimated, especially for low-income communities and communities of color. Many thanks to everyone who was part of the Parks for All campaign and to the funders who took philanthropic leadership to exciting new places.
Are you a funder who wants to create healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities in Los Angeles County? Learn more about the Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative.
Many thanks to the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust for sharing the photos included with this blog.