Overall Feature Grades

Grade Breakdown

Below are overall feature grades for the 40 community parks reviewed within the report. The grades are an aggregate of the 40 parks’ services, recreational activities and physical attributes.

Children’s play areas were consistently in good condition at the visited community parks. 38/40 L.A. Parks had children’s play areas. Many of the children’s play areas were new, clean, and creative. Many included accessibility for the handicapped.

Image: Patton Street Park

35/40 L.A. Parks had outdoor courts with hard surfaces for basketball, handball, tennis, and other sports. 3 L.A. Parks received C grades because of cracks in the asphalt; problems with hoops, backboards, or nets; or wear and tear.

Image: Leland Recreation Center

36/40 L.A. Parks had athletic fields. The final score was sometimes an average of an outstanding turf field and a grass field that might have been suffering from the drought and had many bare spots. Some athletic fields had problems with irrigation, standing water, and mud in places. The bare portions of playing fields is a combination of poorly functioning irrigation systems and soil compaction. Even in years with average rainfall, these factors would result in denuded surfaces. Natural turf fields need resting, fertilization, and reseeding. The fields do not receive the level of maintenance they need, given the wear and tear they receive.

Image: Valley Plaza Recreation Center

All 40 L.A. Parks had landscaping; 8/40 parks had natural areas to assess, discussed further in Volume II. Drought, pests (particularly the Shot Hole Borer), and lack of urban forest diversity led RAP to estimate that 30% of the parks’ 325,000 trees will die in the next 3 to 5 years. The 4 parks that received C or D grades were David M Gonzales, Winnetka, MacArthur, and Tarzana, dragging down the overall score. Effects of the drought were prominent in the parks: trees suffered from insufficient water and parched fields were largely dirt. Similar to the athletic fields, natural areas need resting, fertilization, and reseeding.

Image: Sun Valley Park 

30/40 L.A. Parks had exercise areas or trails. Many of the outdoor fitness stations were new. Several of the fitness stations were old although usable. South Park received a F grade because the fitness area had been dismantled and was in unacceptable condition.

Image: El Sereno Recreation Center

3/40 L.A. Parks had no park recreation centers, senior centers, or other types of facilities: Lemon Grove, Patton Street, and West Hills. Of the remaining 37 L.A. Parks, indoor facilities were consistently in good condition, particularly the gyms, classrooms, and childcare centers. Up to 7 interior areas were scored and averaged at each L.A. Park. The two parks that received C grades were Robertson and Valley Plaza. Robertson turned a multi-purpose room into a storage space for broken equipment. Valley Plaza’s indoor facility was aging and in need of renovation.

Image: Northridge Park

Exteriors of buildings were in good condition with only isolated problems visible in 95% of the park facilities. Many of the facilities were older and require additional care. 2 L.A. Parks had more extensive exterior infrastructure problems: Lou Costello and David M Gonzales. Both had exteriors with stained and dirty walls. Lou Costello had many areas where graffiti was painted over.

Image: August F. Hawkins Nature Center

The indoor gyms that were open were clean and maintained with polished floors and functional basketball hoops. Some were used for basketball and indoor recreation by outside groups. Others were used for holding community meetings and events. 7/19/2017 13 Challenges Many of the gyms are older and lack natural light; have outdated HVAC and lighting systems, which increase operating costs; and lack adequate space for spectators.

Gyms represent a substantial investment of several million dollars and all efforts should be made to maximize their use. Gyms typically host sports and activities that help people engage in vigorous activity, which is necessary for conditioning and fitness.

Image: North Hollywood Park

38/40 L.A. Parks had picnic and sitting areas. Picnic and sitting areas are important to encourage more park use. While parks are great for exercise, seating areas provide a place to picnic and rest after exercise, particularly for seniors and adults with disabilities or health issues. The 2 L.A. Parks that received C grades were Lou Costello and David M Gonzales. They had aging or broken tables or benches. The 2 L.A. Parks with no picnic areas are 109th Street and Leland Park.

Image: Lafayette Community Center

We assessed 128 drinking fountains. Most drinking fountains were in working condition; 13 were not functioning (10%). Moreover, 107 drinking fountains (84%) leaked or had peeling paint, rust, dirt in the basin, or insufficient water pressure.

Panorama City received a D grade because not a single drinking fountain was operational on the day of the visit.

Image: Culver-Slauson Park

Culver Slauson and Wilmington, both of which had lower use rates, had the cleanest parks. Litter was the primary reason for L.A. Parks to receive B grades. Park cleanliness was a challenge, particularly in high use parks or parks with individuals who had taken up temporary residency in the parks. 14/40 parks had no evidence of bulk items or makeshift housing. There were tents or bulk items in at least 15 parks. In most cases, these were isolated and in remote edges of the parks. The L.A. Parks with the greatest visibility of bulk items were Algin Sutton Park, Hollenbeck Park, Lafayette, MacArthur, Sun Valley, Valley Plaza, and Van Nuys-Sherman Oaks. The lowest grades were D grades (Lafayette, Hollenbeck, and Sun Valley) or a F grade (MacArthur), primarily for bulk items.

Image: Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center

The presence of graffiti may make some park users feel less safe. The L.A. Parks that received A grades had none or minimal isolated graffiti. The L.A. Parks that received B grades had a greater prevalence of graffiti, but in isolated areas. In 12 L.A. Parks, graffiti was more pervasive or extensive.

Image: Westwood Recreation Center

A common finding in the parks was relatively clean, functioning indoor restrooms, and poorly maintained and foul-smelling exterior or field restrooms.A total of 67 restrooms in 39 L.A. Parks were assessed. (Note: Patton Street has no restrooms.)

An effort was made to rate at least 1 representative restroom per park. In some cases, only 1 restroom was accessible. For purposes of this report card, the lowest restroom score was used for a given community park, since stakeholders reported clean restrooms were one of their priorities. Popular parks, such as Pan Pacific, were downgraded because of their restrooms.

Image: Chevy Chase Park

38/40 L.A. Parks had at last one staff present during the site visits (West Hills and Patton Street were the exceptions). A consistent finding in L.A. Parks was the helpful, courteous, knowledgeable, and friendly RAP staff members. They were able to explain the available programs and resources. The number of staff members in the parks or the hours that park gyms and classrooms were open were not formally assessed; however, both the hours of service and the number of staff members were limited on Saturdays. In many cases, there was only a single staff person available in the office, leaving no personnel outside monitoring the park or proactively assisting park users. Some parks closed their gyms early on Saturdays. All the gyms were closed on Sundays.

Image: Oakwood Recreation Center

There was a large variation in the number of available activities across the parks. The number of activities that RAP offered ranged from 3 to 29 at the L.A. Parks. The average number of activities offered at L.A. Parks was 12. Consideration should be given to making more activities and events available. Any new activities offered should be accompanied by a marketing and outreach effort to raise community awareness of these opportunities.

Image: Victory-Vineland Recreation Center

The L.A. Parks visited offer a wealth of facilities, gyms, classrooms, courts, athletic fields, pools, and children’s play areas. 38 of the 40 L.A. Parks had facilities and activity areas. RAP has invested in swimming and aquatic facilities: Westwood, VanNuys-Sherman Oaks, North Hollywood, and Pan Pacific Parks to name a few. Most of the pools are outdoor and are only open between July 4th and Labor Day. Only 2 pools were open on a Saturday in Fall 2016 and appeared in good condition. A number of the parks in the study have pool and bathhouse renovation projects in progress, including Van Ness, Algin Sutton, and South Park. The number of unique areas can increase park use of a wider and diverse range of people, especially if the parks are well-maintained, clean, and offering programmed activities. Similarly, when more unique areas are available, accompanied by increased park use, RAP maintenance and operations have greater workload demands.

Image: Montecito Heights Recreation Center

Park use is the degree to which the park attracts park users. Higher use parks have greater challenges in maintaining park cleanliness. Park use was scored, based on the number of park areas that had at least one person using them; an extra point was awarded for any facilities that were heavily used.

Image: Patton Street Park