A parking lot in a park draws criticism in Lincoln Heights

The site of the new parking lot has been fenced off in preparation for construction

The site of the new parking lot has been fenced off in preparation for construction


LINCOLN HEIGHTS — For many years a section of dirt and grass in front of the Plaza de la Raza Cultural Center in Lincoln Park has served as a parking area for staff and patrons. That’s going to change after $833,000 in public funds have been allocated to build a paved and landscaped lot in approximately the same spot. But a Lincoln Heights resident says the city should not be spending money to turn part of the park into a permanent parking lot.

Josef Bray-Ali, a cycling advocate, has waged a long campaign against the parking of vehicles outside the cultural center on park land. The decision to turn the parking area outside the center, which is located in the north end of the park between the lake and Mission Road, into a permanent parking lot was the latest insult, said Bray-Ali, a vocal critic of the city policies he views as favoring the automobile.

“I was so emotionally upset, because this is my neighborhood,” says Bray-Ali, “Why is it that we can make sure the most entitled people are able to drive up their SUVs to the park?”

The approximately half-acre paved lot with 30 spaces will occupy what is now the dirt parking area and a section of grass in front of the center. A small parking area on the east side of center next to Lincoln Park Lake will be restored as parkland. City officials claim that the paved lot will hold fewer vehicles than can currently park next to the center.

The staff at Plaza de la Raza, which holds ongoing classes as well as public performances, say the lot is needed given the shortage of available street parking. The parking lot has been in the making for about 15 years and is being paid for with a combination of city and county park funds.

“We completely understand about the ‘paving-paradise-with-a-parking-lot’ backlash,” said Rebecca Nevarez, Grants Manager at Plaza de la Raza. “But Plaza de la Raza is a paradise and safe haven for the local kids who participate in our after school arts programs,”

Conrado Terrazas, a representative for Councilman Gil Cedillo, says the project will add green space and reduce the number of parking spots within the park. Other additions include drought tolerant landscaping, granite pathways, trench drains, new smart irrigation system, bicycles racks, security lighting, benches and accessible ADA compliant ramps.

Bray-Ali says that the money being spent to build the new lot could have been spent on other park improvements, including making the park paths safer for pedestrians.

“It’s totally irrational to take away park land for parking spaces.”

Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis’ stories, reviews and photos at Avenue Meander.

The new parking lot would take up a portion of the existing lot

The new parking lot would take up a portion of the existing lot


  1. “Shortage of on street parking”?!

    What on earth is this person talking about? The LADOT removed peak hour parking restrictions on Mission Drive specifically so that Plaza patrons can park their cars on the street and walk 100 yards to the Plaza. On most normal days, Plaza patrons skip ample public, free, all day parking and opt instead to be lazy, inconsiderate, jerks and illegally drive and park in the middle of the park!

    • Thanks for raising awareness about this, Josef.

      Employee parking is a perk, its not a right. If street parking around your workplace is tough, pay for an off-street space out of your own parking or don’t drive.

      Most people who work downtown pay for their own parking. These are benefitted, pensioned city workers making good wages. If ever there were a group of people who could afford to pay, its these folks.

  2. Hey, that’s only $28,000 per parking spot to create a parking area that “will hold fewer vehicles than can currently park next to the center”. And it will replace open ground with “drought tolerant landscaping”!

    So nearly a $million to reduce the amount of parking and put some plants in pots. Good plan.

  3. Nearly a million in park funds wasted on a parking lot… this city’s crazy!

  4. It really is baffling how the city can spend nearly a million to pave dirt. Surreal…

  5. More incompetence from Gil Cedillo.

  6. What a waste of land use. There is a parking lot for the park located on the north of the park by the skatepark. Money can be saved by improving lighting in that area and the direct path to center. Leave the cultural center to hire security for lot if needed when they have an event.

    • Actually there are 2 parking lots – one in the SE corner too. This park has a surplus of parking, especially when you consider the street parking.

      If having parking next PDLR is necessary at night for safety, why not make a deal to use the DMV lot after hours, right across the street?

  7. Do any of you take your kids to classes at LA Plaza? Have you been to any performances there? Do you have any idea what they do? It’s so easy to be hardcore when you don’t know the other side, or dont care about it. I DO bike around NELA with my kids, I get screamed at and threatened and buzzed with them in the trailer behind me, It aint easy! but we do it. I never see people commuting with kids in our neighborhood and drivers are a**holes… I get it and we put our lives on the line to do things right! And i SUPPORT La Plaza getting a decent parking area even though we ourselves bike there. This is an institution that should have your support and taking pot shots at them because it is the standard line just gives more of a bad reputation to bicyclists. Parking is NOT easy at La Plaza, There is often NO space on the street and the way people park in the park ends up being dangerous for the little kids getting out of the cars. Half the area they are taking is dirt anyway and dangerous as-is and the other half cant be used much because it is surrounded by driveway or ends up getting used by parking anyway. So street parking is not practical or dependable and the current situation is both dangerous and damaging. A (well landscaped) parking area will make it SO MUCH safer for the little kids who go to classes here. Its not for the employees as the place is run by a very few dedicated people who don’t need much space. And the people served in general CANNOT and COULD NOT get there on bikes, Most people cannot tow little kids around in bike trailers. Really I cant believe you people. This is the type of fight that makes it easier to get written off and lose the more important fights, like more extensive and cared for bike lanes, La Plaza is an important arts institution. It provides a valuable service to the community and it is forced to operate like someone’s poor cousin in part because the parking area is such a wreck and cannot support its population. Go attack the DMV for using up all the street parking, but don’t attack one of the really great places in LA that serves underprivileged AND promotes arts and Latino cultural heritage. I hate to make assumptions and probably am wrong but this all ends up sounding like one of those “privileged white person” complaints that makes me cringe to be a privileged white person.

    • So, how many folklorico classes do I have to attend before I get the Plaza Parking Pass and get to drive in the middle of the park?

      The community center at Lincoln Park also hosts dance, music, sewing, sports, and academic programs. The patrons there somehow manage not to drive in the middle of the park.

      Why is the Plaza wrapped in this privileged, entitled, attitude? You guys are paving the interior of a public park in an area already over run with car-only designed streets and air pollution. This community needs places to escape pavement. Your rent is being paid by the public, on public land, and plenty of free parking is already provided. Teaching art classes is not an excuse to ruin a historic park’s landscaping.

  8. So where will people park now that the area is fenced off?

  9. RoadKill Gil. He’s still from that generation of the 1950’s movin on up to the dream of the car.

  10. ubrayj: Article states: “A small parking area on the east side of center next to Lincoln Park Lake will be restored as parkland.” Have you checked the square footage? Sounds like there is an exchange going on as well. Parking is not in the “middle of the park”, its right next to the Center… …. Classes at La Plaza benefit the Public as much as a small spread of grass. These children get access to arts education that they are NOT getting in public schools because of budget cuts and general disregard for the arts. People with means can go to fancy private institutions. Privilege is the Colburn… The rest of the PUBLIC luckily has places like La Plaza. . But to you it seems water-sucking grass is more important than increasing access to this. -> Grass is more important than Arts, Improving the Plaza does not ruin, it enhances, for all of the families that attend and the public as a whole.. Your comment about folklorico is both dismissive and sadly typical.,. Just cause it doesn’t interest YOU to have or support a decent cultural center for the population focusing mostly on ‘Latino’ arts does not make it worthless, just reveals you as blindly militant and perhaps bigoted? And Typical NIMBY, Your choice of battles really baffles me. You defeat yourself in your rigidity and blindness.

    • Wow! Today I learned that a parking lot is the equivalent to art. I guess you have a point.

      I can’t think of a single thing better to spend $833,425 on to support access to Lincoln Park or support the arts more than a 1+ acre parking lot in the middle of a historic park in a polluted, car over-run, park-poor community with epidemic levels of obesity, growing rates of depression, and other diseases of a sedentary lifestyle as well as a healthy share of violence and homelessness. Nope, nothing springs to mind.

      Pave away!

      • pointlessarguement

        Sounds like you hate the community you live in and want to change it to your liking, which makes no sense to me, or in this case many people who actually grew up in the area, try Alhambra, Pasadena or elsewhere where your crys to try and change a community you moved in to fail.

    • I feel so “enhanced” when people in luxury SUVs break the law and drive in a park illegally and rev their engine at me and my kid as we walk and ride our bikes in our local park.


  11. Well what with the drought, let’s just get rid of that pesky grass and pave the whole thing. (well not the duck pond)
    Then we kill two birds with one stone, took care of drought stuff and got all those people the parking they desperately need at just 18,000$ per spot.

  12. Nancy De Los Santos

    Dara said it right and I’ll say it again. Plaza de la Raza is a safe haven for youngsters in Lincoln Park to learn and enjoy the arts. Parking is a necessary element of their parents to get these young folks to the Center. I’m betting not one of the naysayers on this response link have ever been to Plaza or have witnessed the magic that happens there. Getting down to the core of this…. Plaza de la Raza is a city treasure. I applaud our Councilmember Gil Cedillo with assisting in securing the funds to build this much-needed parking lot. The plans look beautiful and the result will be beautiful. And all that ‘stupid math’ about how much a parking space costs – Really? Did any one you factor in the cost of a children’s life being improved? Did you factor in that that space would be used more than one time?! Did you factor in that the youngsters who attend Plaza are learning skills that will assist them in becoming our City’s leaders in the very near future? And I hope when they do, that they have more heart and vision than any of you. Shame on on you all! Go to a Plaza de la Raza event. Sign up for a class. See the people who value Plaza and what it has done for over 20,000 children since its inception. Get off your high horse and open your eyes… hopefully that will lead to your heart.

    • We all understand the value of a community center. But maybe $800k of taxpayer dollars would be better spent on actual services and programs in the community, instead of paving over what little green space we have left in Los Angeles.

      How about simply putting in some parking meters along the street, so parking turns over quicker? That might also help the city actually pay for nice things like parks and arts programs. Have you even considered why these things get cut from the budget every few years? Maybe it has something to do with throwing revenue away on wasteful projects like this?

      Further, even if you agree the 30 subsidized parking spots are needed, why do we need to spend close to a million dollars on it? Couldn’t the park just put up some cones around the de-facto lot and let people park in the dirt for free?

      • Nancy De Los Santos

        I suggest you go to the dirt lot and try to park there yourself. Especially in the rain.

        • Why would we bother when there are TWO PERFECTLY FINE PAVED LOTS ALREADY IN THE PARK!

        • Yes, the dirt lot that was a restored lawn with smart irrigation systems installed in 2011 until the Plaza patrons broke the law again and again and parked on the lawn, converting it into a dirt lot.

          When can I drive on your front lawn? You see, I don’t have one, I live in a multifamily complex up the street and this is the only place we can run around on the grass nearby that isn’t a thorn and glass covered hillside.

  13. I feel a parking area is needed. there, especially for people attending night events at La Plaza.

  14. My goodness, a 30 lot parking lot that will provide safe areas for parking, safe areas for dropping off and picking up of the children, lighting for public safety, protection for the lake, sustainable landscaping and permeable paving. Much ado about nada. Thank you to Gil Cedillo’s office and his staff for seeing this project through. It has been planned for a long time.
    And as for all of you anonymous posters, grow some and put your names on your posts.

    • What about a safe place for local people to lay on the grass under a tree, or for a child to ride a bike in the park with their mom or dad? Or a safe place to kick a soccer ball?

      There are HUNDREDS of free parking spaces already available nearby. There are lots of people doing good things in Lincoln Park – none of them gets to destroy the grounds with impunity except for the Plaza patrons. There is no good wheelchair access to the park but we can spend $833,425 solving a “problem” that doesn’t exist?

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