by S Pincetl
Social Science Quarterly 84(4) 979-10012003
The author uses Los Angeles as a case study in parks and park planning to understand how environmental nonprofits have effectively become partners in the local urban regime and in local governance arrangements.
The history of public parks in Los Angles is traced, starting back in 1854. In the late 1800s/early 1900s, wealthy businessmen donated land (and money) for parks; and the first half of the 20th century was marked by land acquisitions for recreation. Despite increased importance on green spaces, more federal funding, and the start of the environmental movement, by the 1970s the LA region had fewer parks than other metropolitan areas in the US. Funding for parks and recreation continued to decline, and supporters needed a new way to acquire and fund local parks. In the late 1980s/early 1990s the environmental nonprofit sector tried a new approach, using the ballot box to raise the needed funding. In partnership with other groups (including state and local government, politicians, other non-profits, and the private sector) broad bond measures were drafted that included funding for all participant groups.
In conclusion, the author finds that environmental groups’ concerns about urban sprawl and its effects on biodiversity habitat were the main driver of the establishment of public parks in the Los Angeles area. Declining money from the federal and state governments forced them to get creative in their approaches. But the benefits were limited by traditional notions of urban park use and facilities needed. Going forward it is advised that non-profits take local interests and needs into account when proposing funding.