By NATHAN SOLIS
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.