On December 6, 2022, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the 2022 Parks Needs Assessment Plus (PNA+) Final Report as the county’s 30x30 plan. 30x30 refers to the goal of conserving 30 percent of lands and coastal waters by 2030 to address climate change and protect biodiversity. The federal government and various states, including California, have committed to achieving this goal.
Prepared by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), the PNA+ Final Report focuses on environmental conservation and restoration, regional recreation, and rural Recreation. It builds upon and supplements the 2016 Parks Needs Assessment (PNA) with data and mapping to guide future environmental conservation and restoration efforts across the county as well as information about regional and rural recreation needs. Like the 2016 PNA, the PNA+ involved extensive data collection and analysis, mapping using geographic information system (GIS), coordination with park and trail managing agencies, and public outreach and engagement in partnership with community-based organizations (CBOs).
The PNA+ focuses on the most vulnerable residents living in park-poor, tree-poor urban and rural areas with limited access to local and regional parks and recreational facilities. Vulnerable communities are identified and mapped using data from the Healthy Places Index (HPI), including indicators that address four dimensions: 1) social barriers like poverty and unemployment; 2) transportation barriers like limited access to public transit or automobile; 3) health vulnerability like reduced life expectancy at birth; and 4) environmental vulnerability like a high number of excessive heat days and limited tree canopy or lack of “shade equity.”
“Black and brown communities often have the highest environmental burdens, with people of color accounting for 84% of the residents living in areas prioritized for restoration. The traditional conservation framework has left these communities out of the policy and funding equation which makes the stakes higher for advancing climate resiliency in these communities,” said Norma Edith García-Gonzalez, Director of DPR and the Los Angeles County Regional Parks and Open Space District (RPOSD). “DPR is committed to walking hand in hand with our community-based organizations and the Board of Supervisors to advance the PNA+ priorities. The PNA+ is a critical step towards environmental justice.”
Environment Conservation and Restoration
The PNA+ identifies priority areas for environmental conservation and restoration which forms the basis for a 30x30 strategy for Los Angeles County. This strategy reimagines conservation through an equity lens to include both traditional efforts that involve the protection of natural lands and the restoration of degraded lands, especially in lower-income communities of color where vulnerable populations and environmental burdens are concentrated.
Priority areas for environmental conservation are those that offer the most environmental benefits as measured by species diversity, significant habitat, habitat connectivity, proximity to a waterbody, and habitat type. Examples of these areas include portions of the Antelope Valley, Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor, San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Monica Mountains, and Santa Clarita Valley which are not currently owned and managed by public agencies and conservancies.
Priority areas for environmental restoration are those that have the most environmental burdens with respect to groundwater threat, hazardous waste, poor air and water quality, and pollution burden. Examples include oil fields (such as the Inglewood Oil Field in Baldwin Hills), brownfields, landfills (such as the Puente Hills Landfill), and other degraded lands which may be converted to parks and open space in the future.
“I want to thank the many residents, community-based organizations, and State Conservancies who provided input to help shape and inform this study, said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, First District. “The PNA+ serves as a national model for park equity and will have a transformative impact in the region. It will help us reimagine and redefine traditional conservation – including the restoration of degraded lands such as the Puente Hills Landfill in my district.”
Regional and Rural Recreation
The PNA+ also identifies priority areas for regional and rural recreation based on population vulnerability, access to and availability of recreational facilities, and the amenities these facilities offer. Los Angeles County has about one million acres of parkland which account for 38% of the county's total land area. There are, however, challenges associated with access to these areas due to their distribution and other factors such as the lack of public transit service. In particular, parklands account for less than 5% of land in the most urban areas of the county. Also, while rural areas have significant acres of parkland, they are lacking in certain amenities needed for public recreation and climate resiliency, especially water-based recreation facilities such as swimming pools and splash pads, as well as shaded seating, play areas, and walking trails.
“The completion of this report is a milestone for our County because it helps us advance our work to promote health, play, and a sense of community,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who co-authored a motion for the Board of Supervisors to approve the PNA+ Final Report. “The report’s needs assessment also highlights that rural communities in particular – like the ones I represent in the Antelope Valley – need access to more waterparks, walking trails and play areas. I intend to use this report’s findings as another tool, as I advocate to bring more of those assets to my Fifth District residents. They deserve to have equal access and enjoy healthy living activities in their communities.”
Community Engagement and Outreach
The PNA+ involved extensive public engagement and outreach done with the support and assistance of over 20 CBO partners. To keep the public engaged and informed, DPR regularly updated the Parks Needs Assessment website, created accounts on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) for the project, and used the latest tools for community engagement to conduct online workshops and surveys, and collaborated with CBOs on outdoor outreach events and distribution of paper surveys.
Thousands of L.A. County residents completed surveys and participated in workshops and other events. Translations of workshop and outreach materials were available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Armenian (in addition to English). These four languages are the most common languages spoken by the linguistically isolated populations within L.A. County. DPR also conducted focused outreach to Native American stakeholders using a tribal needs survey to collect input from native and indigenous peoples in L.A. County.
Based on its key findings, PNA+ offers various recommendations and next steps which are detailed in the report and organized by the following categories: funding priorities; park, trail, and open space provision; collaboration and coordination; access and information; community engagement; and capacity building.
With Board adoption of the PNA+ Final Report, DPR will now work at the federal, state, and local levels to incorporate PNA+ into programs, legislation, policies, and funding opportunities. Board adoption of the PNA+ is a critical first step to help L.A. County to secure funding and other resources to expand environmental conservation and restoration and address regional and rural recreation needs identified in the PNA+. Specifically, the PNA+ aligns L.A. County with federal and state 30x30 efforts and enables DPR and partners to tap into a variety of conservation, infrastructure, environmental remediation, and other funding opportunities offered by federal and state agencies and other grantors.
For more information about the 2016 PNA and the 2022 PNA+, please visit the Los Angeles Countywide Parks Needs Assessment website: https://lacountyparkneeds.org
Special thanks to the many Los Angeles County residents for their input, community-based organizations for their partnership and support with outreach and engagement, the Regional Park and Open Space District for funding the study, and MIG for their work on the project.
Clement Lau, DPPD, FAICP (he/him), is a Departmental Facilities Planner with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.