It was standing room only inside 5010 York Blvd. on Thursday evening as community members participated in the early stages of planning for the possible construction of a public park at the vacant lot at the corner of York and Ave. 50.
The meeting was sponsored by Councilman Jose Huizar's office, a first step in the lengthy process of receiving public funds to revitalize and eventually build on the land.
“Two important steps to receiving the grant is brainstorming what you want in the park and then actually proposing what your priorities are,“ said Steve Rasmussen-Cancian. “We want to do both of those things tonight and then next Monday (June 27), we’re actually going to create and design the park together.”
The next planning meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 27 at 6 p.m. at 5010 York Blvd.
Rasmussen-Cancian, of Shared Spaces Landscape Architecture and Living Streets L.A., has been for the last six months coordinating a series of public meetings as part of , a project aimed at catalyzing the ongoing business boom on York Boulevard.
According to Rasmussen-Cancian, the total cost of constructing the park will be in the area of $3.5 million.
About $5 million in California Proposition 84 Grant dollars are up for grabs to help pay for the construction of the park, but the application for funding is due by Friday, July 1.
“We’ll do an actual cost estimate of what will be required to build what the community wants and that’s the amount we will ask for,” Rasmussen said. “If it turns out to be five million dollars that’s what it is, but I expect it will be somewhat less and in fact, it’s more competitive the smaller it is."
Approximately 50 people showed up for the meeting, who shared a flurry of suggestions for what should be built in the proposed park.
Among the suggestions to receive the most votes were a playground, public bathrooms, trees, native landscaping, seating, basketball courts and exercise equipment.
“I got an e-mail from a friend saying they were planning on building a park and pretty much, I just wanted to get involved in the community and see how this project unravels,” said Hector Nava, a Highland Park resident who participated in the planning workshop.
Rasmussen-Cancian said the owner of the lot has agreed to sign a willing seller and lessor letter, and is willing to ground lease the land if the state approves the grant.
However, if the owner of the property receives another offer in the meantime, he is entitled to sell it if he so chooses.
If the grant is approved and the project moves forward, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks would own the land, according to Rasmussen-Cancian, but the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative (LANI) would oversee the project from conception to the ribbon cutting.
“We’ll do project management throughout the construction portion of the project to make sure the community has input and oversight throughout the entire the design and implementation phases,” said LANI Director of Development Sian Liang.
“We work with community members to make sure the final product is reflective of what the community really needs,” she added.
Rasmussen-Cancian also added that the property still has significant environmental hazards and that his organization was currently in the data collection phase of an environmental study.
Janet Dodson of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council said the severely polluted lot, formerly home to Steve's Gas Station, has been remediated twice over the last decade or so and that each time the pollution has seeped back in.
She also said that she was surprised to hear that Rasmussen-Cancian was able to reach the owner of the property, as he has been elusive over the years.
Dodson said, “Planning the kinds of picnic tables you’re going to sit on the park seems to me to be a little early, but I think these two meetings are part of the grant process, they must do this in order to fulfill the grant, nothing would delight everybody more than to see that lot beautiful and useful in this city.”