Do you want a park or parking lot?

That was the question raised last night during a meeting about 18 new acres of parkland planned for the north end of Elysian Heights. A few residents were surprised to hear that the hillside park, which would stretch from Landa Street on the south to Riverside Drive on the north, would contain only 13 off-street parking spaces in its first phase of development. About half of the spaces would be restricted to drivers with a disabled parking placard. When one elderly man was advised he could walk to the park instead of drive, he responded by saying: “Not everyone feels like walking two or three miles to a park.”

The city does not impose a parking requirement on parks like they do on most new development – such as housing or sports arenas – that generate traffic, said Recreation & Parks official Paul Davis, who handled the environmental review of the project. Parks do attract visitors and generate traffic – ask anyone who lives near Echo Park Lake or travels through Elysian Park on a weekend. But imposing parking requirements similar to those on other types of development would leave little room left for green space, Davis told the audience. “You wouldn’t have any park. You would have a parking lot.”

Davis and other residents noted that drivers could park their cars on the street, which includes Riverside Drive at the base of the new park and at Landa near the top. Elysian Heights resident Marcus Marren, who biked to last night’s meeting, said he saw no need to include more off-street parking spaces. “Take the Dash,” he advised one resident.

But other residents remained worried about a lack of parking and mass transit. The nearest Dash bus stops blocks away from the park. Meanwhile, the MTA bus that runs on Riverside Drive does not run very frequently on weekends, when most people, and their cars, would be expected to head for the park. Visitors who would drive to the park to use the basketball courts and playing fields planned near Riverside Drive might quickly fill up nearby street spaces, forcing many to dart across speeding traffic on the busy street. Meanwhile, at the top of the park, plans for scenic overlooks will attract more visitors and their cars to narrow streets barely wide enough for two vehicles.

“People are going to take their cars up there,” said Elysian Heights resident Cheryl Dudley Roberts. “It’s going to be a nightmare.”

Photo by Jeff Cushner/Flickr

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