2022 Grants Challenge

Let's Create Western Gage Median Park!

Western Gage Park transforms two vacant lots in a disadvantaged neighborhood with little green space; thanks to community efforts since 2007, the Tot Lot opened in 2020, and the Median Park will break ground in 2023. LANI will facilitate a community-led design process so that Median Park meets residents' needs and reflects the neighborhood. We will work with a local Steering Committee and solicit ideas from everyone in the community, at in-person events and online, and the chosen park design will be presented at a groundbreaking celebration!


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Green Space, Park Access, and Trees

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South LA

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Los Angeles County’s urban park system is scarred with the historic impacts of inequitable investment and racialized land-use decisions. 82% of LA County's “park poor” neighborhoods are in communities of color; 96% of residents within a 1/2-mile of Western Gage Park are Black or Latino. Low-income residents and people of color are more likely to live in hotter neighborhoods and be exposed to higher levels of air pollution, in part because they have fewer parks. They are also more likely to suffer the health impacts of heat waves than residents of richer, greener neighborhoods. Lack of parks also impacts youth development. Youth justice reformers agree that proactive, neighborhood-level youth and whole-community development -- including investment in safe, community-designed green spaces for exercise, recreation and nature access -- is essential to prevent youth system-involvement and promote physical and mental health. Urban parks uplift and enrich disadvantaged communities.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Building on our years of prior community engagement about the Western Gage Park, LANI will review and expand our list of local stakeholders and form a Median Park Steering Committee with broad representation. The Committee's role is to select a park designer, take part in the design process, advise on the best tools and places to engage the community, and share progress and information with their neighbors. With the Committee's input, we will craft a community engagement strategy tailored to the local people who will ultimately use the park. The Committee will meet many times over the grant period, and stay in touch via e-mail in between meetings for updates, questions and discussion. Our community engagement model favors "taking it to the streets," tabling at local events or even at the future park site, meeting with community groups, and/or hosting workshops to share information and solicit community input. We will have at least 4, and as many as 8, community engagement events. Online surveys will invite residents to share specific park amenities and design concepts they would like to see. Once the community has given their input and the design is made, LANI will host a street fair-style groundbreaking celebration on the site. The event will be an opportunity to showcase the park's final designs, but also to celebrate this hard-fought, transformative success resulting in the building of Western Gage Park after 25 years of sustained community advocacy.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Proximity to a park significantly increases how frequently residents exercise and reduces cardiovascular disease and childhood obesity rates; this impact is even greater in low-income areas. Green space can help make low-income neighborhoods less vulnerable to climate and health risks by lowering temperatures and improving air quality. Access to parks encourages community building and family bonding by providing an attractive, natural space for fun activities and social connections. 55% of children in LA County foster care are Latino and 27% are Black. The Western Gage neighborhood is among the highest in LA County for justice-involved youth. While we do not have illusions that one neighborhood park can fix systemic problems, this park could make life healthier and more active for the people who fought to build it. This park could be a respite and a place of joy for the community's youth. This park could transform lives the same way it's transforming two once blighted lots.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

The evidence that we have that the Western Gage Park is working to address a problem is the park itself. This project, and LANI's involvement, began in 2007, and it is due to the persistence of the community that it is being fulfilled now. Originally funded through the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) of the City of Los Angeles, the project was in jeopardy when the CRA was dissolved in 2012. But the community persisted, and with LANI's help, received State Parks grant funding to start the project, resulting in the building of the Tot Lot on the smaller parcel. Residents in block clubs, churches and neighborhood groups were steadfast advocates for years to ensure that their representatives did not forget this project. Their commitment, even when the way forward was unclear, is evidence that the LANI Model of substantive community engagement does empower residents to be effective proponents of their needs and interests, and results in neighborhood goals being accomplished.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 250

Indirect Impact: 9,700