What's one way a city can fight blight, add green space, and increase property values at the same time? Build parks.
Los Angeles is embracing the idea and turning foreclosure sites and vacant properties into pocket parks. As part of a new initiative announced by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the city will create 50 new pocket parks, 10 from foreclosure sites.
The city began acquiring vacant homes through the 2009 Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a federal initiative that encouraged cities to buy up their foreclosed homes. But when fixing up homes proved costly, the city had another idea, LA Daily News reports:
[Douglas Guthrie, general manager of Los Angeles Housing Department] knew the parks department was searching for sites, so he identified 17 properties, primarily in South L.A., to give to the department. Following meetings with neighbors, nine were finalized as park sites. A bank donated the 10th site.
"It was a perfect overlay of what (the Department of Recreation and Parks') needs were and what we had," said Guthrie.
Excluding site acquisitions, the 10 parks will cost $250,000 to $700,000 to develop. The money will come from developer-paid funds, the Proposition 84 state water bond, and funding from numerous nonprofits.
While creating more green space, the new parks could have a positive economic impact on neighborhoods struggling with foreclosures and vacant properties, Richard Green, president of the University of Southern California Lusk Center for Real Estate, told LA Daily News. "If the city can make an amenity out of a foreclosed house, they can raise the value of the surrounding houses and neighborhood," he said.
It's all part of a larger plan to make Los Angeles a more livable city. In a recent speech to the Los Angeles Business Council on improving the livability of the city, Mayor Villaraigosa laid out a number of significant priorities. Along with adding more publicly-accessible green space, the mayor is working toward improving public transportation and walk/bikeability and linking transit planning with housing development to make the system more efficient.