City looks to acquire more open space for public parks along LA River, groups push city to acquire Pacific Place Project

This illustration depicts the Wrigley park that the Riverpark Coalition envisions as a new green space in West Long Beach. (Courtesy Riverpark Coalition)

The City of Long Beach is looking to purchase land along the LA River in an attempt to increase parks in areas of Long Beach where open space has historically been in short supply. 

At their Tuesday meeting, the Long Beach City Council directed staff to look into both public and private lands that could potentially be developed into parks and open space. 

“I don’t think we should limit our potential. We should be aspirational,” Councilmember Al Austin said. “I think private properties, if they’re willing sellers, should be certainly included.”

The move comes amid ongoing contention about Pacific Place Project, a former toxic dumping site in West Long Beach that some residents believe should be turned into a park. 

The site is currently on track to become a three-story 152,745-square-foot self-storage building.

Those residents, who formed the RiverPark Coalition, encouraged the council to take action against the development

“The LA River Masterplan identifies the […] former golf driving range as the crown jewel of the lower LA River, over 70 acres of land, which should be at the top of any list,” former District 8 council candidate Juan Ovalle said during public comment. 

Developing park space around the LA River has long been a priority

Long Beach made clear its intentions to develop space along the LA River in 2007. That year, the City created the RiverLink plan, which identifies areas along the LA River that could serve as future parks. 

At the time, the city had an average of 5.4 acres of open space per 1,000 residents.

Most of this open space was concentrated in East Long Beach, where residents could enjoy 16.7 acres of open space per 1,000 residents.

In comparison, South Long Beach had only 2.7 acres of open space per 1,000 residents. West and North Long Beach had just one acre of open space per 1,000 residents. 

The 2007 plan states that it “is essential that the City continue to concentrate its park development efforts in underserved areas” like West Long Beach. 

Additional open space could serve residents on the Westside who live not only with less park space, but in more densely populated neighborhoods. 

East Long Beach has substantially lower population density according to a U.S. Census Bureau study from 2010 to 2014. Coupled with more open space, North and West Long Beach have become main priority areas for the development of open space. (Image Courtesy City of Long Beach)

A 2014 Census study shows that populations in North and West Long Beach are substantially more dense than East Long Beach. Some areas near the LA River have up to quadruple the density of East Long Beach.

“This is very important to many in the community, as there’s been a new, reinvigorated interest in the lower LA River in our city,” Austin said.

The City has moved towards its goals of developing more open space

One main goal of the RiverLink Plan was to bring the average open space up to eight acres per 1,000 residents. Over the past decade, they’ve moved steadily towards that goal. 

In 2008, Los Angeles County opened more than 35 acres of the Dominguez Gap Wetlands. In 2018, the City established 32 acres of DeForest Wetlands and 3.5 acres at Molina Park, both in North Long Beach .

Long Beach has multiple projects under design or development along the river, including the Drake-Chavez Greenbelt, the Hamilton Loop, the Wrigley Greenbelt, LB-MUST and the 51st Street Greenbelt. 

A 2008 report on open space in the City of Long Beach shows that most open spaces are located in East Long Beach. This is an outdated map that does not include recent open space developments in North and West Long Beach. Nonetheless, residents in North and West Long Beach continue to have substantially less open space compared to residents in East Long Beach. (Courtesy City of Long Beach)

“Even with the parks mentioned by the councilmembers, we are still woefully short,” resident Carlos Ovalle said, continuing to encourage the council to do an Environmental Impact Report on the Pacific Place Project. 

Staff are expected to return to the council with a feasibility study on potential spaces within 60 days. 

“We’re looking at a plan, a vision that has been in place for many years, we are looking at the complicated parcels,” Austin said. “I heard some comments that all it requires is political will. It requires a lot of money, too.” 

The next Long Beach City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. via teleconference. 

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  1. Hello Signal! Thank you for the coverage of this important issue addressing park inequities. While the current focus is the parcels of public and private land identified in the graphic, the Riverpark Coalition’s mission and vision encompass much more than that (https://www.riverparkcoalition.org/about-us/).

    The issues of park inequities, as a component of environmental racism, itself a component of structural racism, took on renewed importance after the George Floyd protests and the city’s Framework for Reconciliation. It’s not just an issue of parks as a place to play. While that is important, in Western Long Beach we have the highest levels of pollution in the nation, the most overcrowded conditions, a higher incidence of asthma and other respiratory diseases, higher incidence of cancer, higher rate of COVID, and even pre-COVID a shorter life span than the eastern side of Long Beach.

    A contributing factor to all of this is the lack of parks and open space. We’re glad council took a step in the right direction by looking at the feasibility of acquiring land along the LA River. For us who live a stone’s throw from the river, we’re reminded daily of the fact that the roar we hear on quiet evenings is not the river but the freeway carrying trucks… spewing diesel fumes… along the Diesel Death Corridor.

    Compliance with an accelerated Clean Air Action Plan along with the building parks all along this corridor to serve as our lungs will go a long way towards addressing environmental racism. We look forward to working with public agencies to find funding and form partnerships to acquire and develop parkland for our community, beginning with Wrigley North and Wrigley South.

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