Community School Parks Program - Los Angeles, California

The Community School Parks program is a partnership service agreement and shared use policy that enables community members in under-resourced neighborhoods to access school parks and playgrounds during off-school hours when they would normally be closed to the public. People for Parks, now a program of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT), opened the first Community School Parks in 2012 and has expanded the program since with the partnership with LANLT and the development of the shared use policy with the LA Unified School District that enables expanded access to school parks. These Community School Parks (CSPs) provide opportunities for youth, families, and neighbors within the community to connect, recreate, and enjoy green and open space in a safe environment. The program targets dense neighborhoods, typically low-income and communities of color, that are park-scarce and would not otherwise have access to open space within walking distance. In addition to Community School Parks, LANLT works to create new green space in communities of color, engaging community members from concept development through to implementation and park stewardship. 

There is a significant lack of green and recreational spaces in Los Angeles, with the city currently ranking 55th out of 100 large cities for the number of people living within ½ mile of a park. This issue primarily impacts low-income communities of color: a 2016 countywide analysis of green space in the city found that 90% of the communities with high park needs were predominately communities of color. Shared use of school playgrounds is a simple and effective solution to such park scarcity. By working with Community Based Organizations to enable the access of school parks and playgrounds during off-school hours, People for Parks provides densely populated, under-resourced areas with safe green spaces for community members to relax, play, and form connections with each other. To encourage community involvement, Los Angeles’ Department of Recreation and Parks and the LA Unified School District collaborate in hosting free intergenerational, family-friendly arts and activity classes at select CSPs. People for Parks has opened up 12 CSPs across Los Angeles, providing thousands of residents in Koreatown, Pico Union, West Lake, Central Alameda, South LA, and East Hollywood with safe spaces to connect. 

People for Parks has harnessed the relationships it has made with community stakeholders to form the Community School Park Champions Movement (COMPAS). COMPAS is made up of school staff, parents, neighbors, and others who are passionate about creating safe green spaces in LA. These members work to create neighborhood hubs at CSPs, promote the benefits of CSPs, and advocate for the shared use policy. Their aim is to open CSPs at every school in Los Angeles.

Publication Date: 2012

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