By Luis López
Few civic endeavors in Los Angeles over the past century have captivated our collective imagination like plans to revitalize the L.A. River. They promise to transform this legendary waterway, from which our city actually takes its name, into a grand centerpiece and ecosystem for all Angelenos to enjoy. But accomplishing this feat does not happen without real and sustained investment.
That’s where Proposition P comes in.
On the November 4th ballot, Proposition P brings the vision of the L.A. River to life along with new parks, open space, and bikeways throughout L.A. County, many in extremely park-poor communities. It generates $54 million a year for 30 years through an annual $23 per-parcel tax, replacing Proposition A, the Safe Neighborhood Parks Measure passed in 1992, which is set to expire in June. Without it, $54 million per year for parks goes away. Gone with it would be the funding to protect green space, build new recreation projects, and improve existing neighborhood and regional parks where people realize the many health benefits of exercise near home.
Since 1992, this funding stream has delivered nearly 1,500 projects for L.A. County residents. Among them are improvements to Echo Park Lake and surrounding park grounds and new hiking trails and children’s play areas in Elysian Park. The L.A. River has also benefited with the acquisition of nearby lands for the restoration of natural river resources and bikeway improvements including new benches, fencing, and planting of native plants.
Proposition P enjoys the support of a broad coalition of environmental and business organizations, including the L.A. County Bike Coalition and L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, and a wide array community-based organizations focused on land-use and parks. The opposition predictably includes those concerned about excessive taxes, like Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. But opponents also include those who point to the lack of public input or discussion on the design of the measure as a reason to oppose it. One of L.A.’s major papers also declared its opposition to Prop P on similar grounds.
Why not, they argue, spend two years on hearings and consultation to determine the precise needs of the county’s parks as took place with Prop A? And why does Prop P not include an itemized list of projects to be improved? Is there a better way to allocate dollars than dividing a portion of the funds equally among the five supervisors?
There are endless ways to tinker with Proposition P to make it better. But when a voter-approved funding stream this important is about to expire, throwing out the baby with the bath water is imprudent. The investments of Proposition A over the last two decades have been significant, but we are nowhere near done. The inadequacy of parks in our county–and our responsibility to maintain them–warrant continued investment. To let go of 30 years of critical funding now would be irresponsible, a squandered opportunity.
Concerns over process or lack of input in the measure’s design should not blur what is clearly a wise and necessary investment of tax dollars. This Election Day, our capacity to create and sustain such special public places, like the gorgeously transformed Marsh Park on the L.A. River and hundreds of others, is on the ballot. Join me in voting Yes to fulfill the full potential of a thriving L.A. river that can be enjoyed by thousands of Angelenos for generations to come.
Luis López is a nonprofit healthcare director and former president of the City of Los Angeles’ East Area Planning Commission.
Viewpoints & Ideas is where Eastsider readers can express their opinions, start a conversation and share ideas on neighborhood issues, problems and potential.