This is a map of the area around UCLA: [maps.google.com]
If you have trouble distinguishing between light and dark green, then I hate to be the one to break this to you, but over 95% of the green space in the UCLA map is … dark green.
I calculated this percentage using ImageJ, a free image analysis tool. I divided the area of the dark green locations (highlighted in red above) by the area of all the green locations excluding the Veterans cemetery and national park and school playgrounds.
“What’s the big deal?” you ask. Great question! Well, you can think of the dark green spots as abscesses–in the sense that they are private country club/golf courses. On the other hand, the light greek spots are public parks, also known as Mother Earth’s erogenous zones.
Let me be clear, this post isn’t me protesting about the city not spending money growing grass in drought-ridden Southern California. It definitely should not do that. Nor is this post a vilification of country clubs for wasting heaps of water growing acres of grass in the very same drought-ridden California so that people can play golf or lawn bowling (I think this point has been made sufficiently well by others). Rather, this post is a result of my frustration. California is such a big and potentially beautiful place with amazing weather year-round. We’ve got great beaches, fresh farmers markets, and loads to do. What we don’t have very much of is convenient public parks.
I knew before moving to LA that I was going to be surrounded by car-filled streets (don’t get me started on bike lanes), but I never expected to be excluded from almost all of the green areas around me because I don’t have $12,000 in disposable annual income or a quarter of a million dollars just to cover initiation fees hidden under my bed. It may very well be the case though that if these private clubs weren’t there, the land wouldn’t be lush to begin with. But that’s not my point. In my opinion, if someone wants to play a ridiculously water-intensive sport, then he should have to pay for it himself. However, for the city to let us get to this point, where in an approximately 18 sq. mile area, over 1.25 sq. miles are private golf courses and less than 0.05 sq. miles are public parks is a tragedy given there’s an abundance of research showing how important parks are for the community, especially in terms of public health. This issue only gets worse as one digs into the demographics of golf courses, which aren’t too different from what you’d expect given the high costs and an ongoing history of discrimination.
Ultimately, too many people, especially those with limited transportation options, don’t have easy access to local parks. Unfortunately, I don’t have much by way of solutions to fix what I hope you’ll agree is a serious problem. I can’t really imagine the city buying back some of the golf course land, but that’d certainly help distribute some parks throughout the region. A more reasonable thing to try might be reducing rather than increasing the size of roads and thus freeing up some room. In the same vein, many parking lots can be transformed into multi-story parking garages thus freeing up some space to become lively social spots. Things certainly aren’t hopeless, Los Angeles is constantly transforming–I just hope it’s going in the right direction.