Famous for its gang wars, Los Angeles also has seen its share of "park wars," writes Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, chair of urban planning at UCLA. As the pace of new park development in the city has fallen far behind the population, fights over new space pits "developers against park advocates, environmentalists against soccer enthusiasts, and inner-city park users against suburban patrons," she writes.
Now L.A. is turning the economic crisis into a boom for residents stranded in its sprawling metropolis. Under its 50 Parks Initiative, L.A. is converting 50 foreclosed homes—often with bulldozers—into small pocket-sized parks in neighborhoods most in need. The 50 Parks Initiative, , is using key demographics such as population density, median household income, number and percentage of residents in poverty, and the number of existing parks in a half-mile radius to pick the sites.
The tiny parks are usually less than 20,000 square feet—some less then 5,000, (just twice the size the of average American home)—but provide crucial relief for those who want to escape the urban crush.
At the moment, L.A. devotes just 10% of its land to parks. A survey of West Coast cities in 2000 found that L.A. spent only $35 per resident on green space compared to $153 in Seattle or $85 in neighboring San Diego. But L.A. is devoting $80.9 million in new funding, some of it federal money such as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), to place parks back into the inner city left behind in the rush to build out the suburbs, which (by law) have far more open space.