East Los Angeles – A large chunk of Belvedere Park was lost and the park cut in two when the 60 (Pomona) Freeway was built more than 50 years ago. Echo Park was also chopped in two by a freeway, the 101, and the 5 Freeway looms over a section of Hollenbeck Park Lake. How to undo this damage? In the case of Belvedere Park, the idea of building a “freeway cap” to reconnect the northern and southern portions of the park has been floated in a county planning document called the East L.A. 3rd Street Specific Plan.
Belvedere is the largest park in unincorporated East Los Angeles, with its nearly 31 acres filled with playing fields, an Olympic-sized pool, skate board park and small lake and a lakeside amphitheater. The southern section of the park is part of the East L.A. Civic Center and sits next to the Gold Line Station.
The planning document, which is devoted to guiding development in the Metro Gold Line corridor, suggest that an approximately three-block section above the 60 Freeway at Mednick Avenue could be capped with an elevated platform to support playing fields and ball courts. The freeway cap, according to the planners, would create new public open space in East Los Angeles and improve pedestrian and bike access between the northern and southern sections of Belvedere:
Today, the park functions as virtually two different parks. Nonetheless, there is an opportunity to reconnect the park land and create additional open space. Here, a freeway cap park would create more park space and provide improved nonmotorized connections between the neighborhoods to the north and south of the freeway.
The freeway cap idea is just that – there’s no budget or money behind it. But the plan’s authors mention that Seattle built a park above a freeway and the cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica are also considering similar ideas.