By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
As we talk, a young mother holding her infant son glides by behind us.
“When’s the park going to open up?” she asks Thomas.
“Not sure yet,” Thomas replies. “Kids were complaining about the smell.”
“There’s a big, exposed sewer pipe in the back of the park,” Thomas explains. “No one wanted to pay to have it dealt with, so it’s still there.”
For all Villaraigosa’s media play, as it turns out, the city’s main contribution to this new park was to donate an acre of blighted land with an exposed sewer line.
A Murky Green Future
Today, the Park Mesa Heights playground is open, and the sewage smell isn’t too bad, insists Marta Segura, who’s managing the playground for the L.A. Neighborhood Land Trust. (The city is no longer involved.) And if it becomes a problem, she says, “we’ll find a way to deal with it.”
If and when that need arises, however, it remains to be seen exactly how Segura’s going to pay for the job. “The city didn’t put us into the budget this year,” she admits.
Segura remains upbeat that the park will be a success. Of course she has no choice but to stay positive — she’s doing the best she can with what the city has given her. But the people of L.A. deserve better than a sewage-scented acre.
The Olmsted brothers gave us a heroic vision for what this city can become. People like Lewis MacAdams and Mia Lehrer do what they can to keep that dream alive. But such a monumental task requires the will to act upon inspiration. The mistakes of the 1930s are once again upon us.
For decades, scholars from Mike Davis to Norman Klein have posited Los Angeles a city of fiction — caught between opposing narratives of dystopian noir and booster-backed land of sunshine. Parks and public space offer a third way — a collective lens we can use to view our city, and a gauge to see how far we’ve progressed.
The answer: not very far at all. Los Angeles is still searching for its Robert Moses — someone capable of turning Emerald City fiction into tree-lined reality.
Reach the writer at email@example.com.
* Editor's note, July 29, 2008: In this story, reporter Matthew Fleischer stated that City Council President Eric Garcetti had ordered park rangers to ticket people fishing or feeding ducks in the L.A. River. Garcetti’s office points out that the ban on fishing and duck feeding stems from L.A. County municipal code 41.22 and that the extent of the Council President’s involvement is a plan to put up signs reinforcing the code.
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