Ascot Hills Park Set
The City Project is counting how many days in the life of a child it takes the city of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department to open a natural park in a natural green open space setting.

In response to community demands led by The City Project, Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles, California Pan Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), and PolicyLink, as well as hard hitting coverage in the Los Angeles Times, the city of Los Angeles held a ground breaking – again – for the Ascot Hills Park in East Los Angeles on June 14, 2010 – four years after the city held the ground breaking for the same Ascot Hills Park in East L.A. in November 2005, but failed to open the park.

“[I]n East L.A. itself, the largest open space is Evergreen Cemetery, which basically sends a message to kids: ‘If you want open space, you have to die first,’ The City Project’s Robert García told the Los Angeles Times in 2004, when the community proposed the park. Miguel Bustillo, Former Foes Unite Behind a Proposal to Turn Old Reservoir Site into a Park, L.A. Times, Jan. 15, 2004.

According to a Los Angeles Times Editorial in November 2005, “downtown and Eastside residents could be hiking and watching the setting sun backlight downtown’s skyscrapers from Ascot Hills by the end of next year” — that is to say, by the end of 2005. L.A. Times Editorial, A Diamond in the Rough, Jan. 17, 2004.

Why the four year delay in opening Ascot Hills Park?

No good reason.

The City Project recently asked the city why Ascot Hills Park is still not open after four years, and received the following responses under the Public Records Act on April 23, 2010:

11. Any reason why open, green space in Ascot Hills is gated and locked to the public with No Trespassing signs posted.

CITY RESPONSE: “After a thorough search of the Department’s files, it has been determined that the Department does not have any records responsive to this request.”

12. Any reason why the public cannot use the open, green space in Ascot Hills that is gated and locked.

CITY RESPONSE: “After a thorough search of the Department’s files, it has been determined that the Department does not have any records responsive to this request.”

13. Any comments from the public or public officials regarding the operation of Ascot Hills park as a passive park, which would require little maintenance.

CITY RESPONSE: “After a thorough search of the Department’s files, it has been determined that the Department does not have any records responsive to this request.”

14. Any reason why Ascot Hills, or parts of Ascot Hills, cannot operate as a passive park now?

CITY RESPONSE: “After a thorough search of the Department’s files, it has been determined that the Department does not have any records responsive to this request.”

The City Project and Mountains Conservation and Recreation (MRCA) have offered to take over the project and open the park faster than the city will.

Now the city claims that the park will celebrate its “grand opening early next year.” The City Project working with the community will serve as a watch dog to make sure the city this time keeps its promises to the children of East L.A. and their families and friends.

Louis Sahagun reported in the Los Angeles Times as follows:

Against a backdrop of smiling children, cheering officials and rolling grasslands, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa savored a groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 1, 2005, for a nature preserve just northeast of downtown, declaring it “a historic moment for this community.”

“The effort was a great example of what can be accomplished when the community and elected officials work toward a common goal — in this case, preserving green, open space for the public to enjoy,” said Villaraigosa, wearing a white hard hat and clutching a shovel to turn the first spadeful of dirt at Ascot Hills Park.

Today, the property tucked in the working-class communities of Lincoln Heights and Hillside Village stands as an emblem of what has not been accomplished. Scant areas of the 140-acre park are open to the public. Its most panoramic hilltops and largest patches of remnant native plants remain locked up behind “no trespassing” signs.

The park was scheduled to be completed by June 2007, according to an analysis of park documents conducted by the City Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating more public open space.

“Instead, we have padlocks, no trespassing signs and broken promises — and no good explanation for it,” said attorney Robert Garcia, executive director of the City Project, which has begun the process to file a suit against the city.

Surveying the land recently from a road blocked by a locked gate, he shook his head and said, “These locks and signs are symbols of bureaucratic incompetence and political indifference toward our rights to open space.”

Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, a joint powers authority under contract to design and manage the park, would not go that far. But he was only half-kidding when he said in an interview, “I hope Mayor Villaraigosa’s New Year’s resolution is to finish Ascot Hills Park in 2010.”

Read the rest of the article by Louis Sahagun, City Years Behind Finishing Ascot Hills Park in East L.A., in the Los Angeles Times, Jan. 2, 2010, here: www.cityprojectca.org/blog/archives/3146.

Visit The City Project's blog about Ascot Hills Park here: www.cityprojectca.org/blog/archives/5318
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