The Dry Garden: Park plans for LA

Posted on | June 10, 2011 | 2 Comments

We were warned. In 1930, in “Parks, Playgrounds and Beaches for the Los Angeles Region,” the Olmsted brothers and Harland Bartholomew urged the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to set aside land and funds to create 70,000 acres of parkland running from the mountains to the Pacific. Considerable lengths of the “pleasureways” would trace natural rivers where parkland could double as flood control boundaries.

“Study has unearthed no factor which indicates that the people of this Region will be permanently satisfied with lower standards than those of other great communities,” they wrote, “and many that point toward the expediency of higher standards. The big question is whether the people are socially and politically so slow, in comparison with the amazing rapidity of urban growth here, that they will dumbly let the procession go by and pay a heavy penalty in later years for their slowness and timidity.”

Unafraid to appear socially and politically slow, never mind dumb, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce ignored the fathers of landscape architecture and urban planning. Preserving open space didn’t compute in a region whose business model was growth.

Eight decades later, at 6.2 acres of park per thousand residents, the city of Los Angeles ranked in the bottom third for urban park capacity among densely populated cities in a 2010 Trust for Public Land survey.

Still, Angelenos dream green. The exhibit “New Park Design in Los Angeles,” which opened last week at the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, is the work of landscape architect Stephen Billings.

To keep reading this week’s Dry Garden column on new park design in Los Angeles, click here.


2 Responses to “The Dry Garden: Park plans for LA”

  1. Breathing Treatment (Brent)
    June 14th, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

    Sometimes you turn a phrase that has me chuckling aloud.

    “Some of the parks featured are on the drawing board, some are under construction, and one is built. Finding out which is which while studying the drawings can inspire the kind of sudden feeling of being gypped after being lured by images of idyllic-looking farms on bottles of processed salad dressing. “

  2. EmilyGreen
    June 14th, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

    Thanks Brent. I admire the show and hope the projects get built (at least some of them) but when watching TV, I was suddenly struck by how similar idealized renderings of construction plans are to the labels on Hidden Valley Salad Dressing. They look so good in the drawings, but…

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