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connect / 2014

Meet me in MacArthur Park

Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

In 2015, we will work to revitalize MacArthur Park into a vibrant hub for community connection.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA

What is your idea/project in more detail?

The LA Neighborhood Land Trust is working to revitalize MacArthur Park as a thriving community hub that connects Angelenos. This year, we engaged over 1,000 residents, with over 600 community members participating in our park beautification days. We conducted community research through surveys, focus groups, interviews, and mapping exercises, and are documenting resident concerns in a report with recommendations for the improvement of the park. In 2015, we will continue our collaborative efforts to revive the park into a vibrant community space for connection in the center of LA. We’ve heard what community members have to say, and now we’re putting it into action!

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Informed by our 2014 research, we will revive MacArthur Park through outreach, leadership development, events and programming, beautification, and social media messaging.

OUTREACH: Our model of park improvement is based on community outreach and resident engagement. We invite Angelenos to help revive MacArthur Park through door-to-door outreach, presentations at partner schools and organizations, volunteering at community events, and participating in beautification of the park.

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT: In 2015, we will equip MacArthur Park residents with skills and knowledge of the public process so they can advocate for park resources, ensuring that elected officials are more responsive to their concerns. We will continue developing leaders by training them to lead clean up squads, facilitate community meetings, and collect surveys.

EVENTS/PROGRAMS: Park users have asked for more programming and events. In 2015, we will hold 2 community events that celebrate diversity, creativity, and connectivity. These cultural events will highlight the park’s potential to be a hub for community interaction, civic engagement, and healthy living for all Angelenos.

The success and safety of a park is heavily reliant on community-desired programs. We are asking for community input on activities they would like to see at the park. Based on their requests, we will bring year-round programming to supplement existing programs.

BEAUTIFICATION: Our research has shown that beautification is a priority. This year, we focused on addressing litter at the park by supporting Councilmember Cedillo’s Keep It Clean campaign. We held clean ups to educate residents about litter and emphasize the importance of caring for the park. We have a solid and enthusiastic group of volunteers, and will continue to engage them around beautification efforts involving landscaping, signage, and maintenance improvements.

SOCIAL MEDIA MESSAGING: Later this year, MacArthur Park will become the first city park equipped with free Wifi! We will capitalize on this opportunity to rebrand the park.

We find that Angelenos are unaware of the resources and programs available at the park, and instead dwell on negative perceptions. We will develop a social media plan to tell a new story. By broadcasting the positive activities in MacArthur Park and highlighting volunteer opportunities, programs, events, and community involvement, a more positive view of the park will unfold.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?

Whoever said Angelenos don’t walk has never visited South Alvarado Street. Every day, this thoroughfare is busy with people on foot passing through, or on the way to the nearby metro stop. Today, pedestrians hurry past MacArthur Park without a second glance toward the lake, the soccer field, or the historic recreation center. We envision reviving the park through programming, events, leadership development and social media branding, so that MacArthur Park is no longer an ignored backdrop and instead, becomes a destination for connecting with nature, connecting with one another, and connecting with history. Local residents will be more aware of park programs where they can interact with their neighbors and build support networks. Local youth will no longer seek out programming at other, farther parks, but will instead attend movie-nights at MacArthur Park and connect to the community resources available at the rec center. We also expect the free wifi (to be installed in 2014) to draw people out of their houses and into the park to stay connected with current events, local news, or social media friends. This is all possible, and we can make it happen together.

Sustainability and longevity of a project are reliant on community involvement. Successful parks have engaged residents. By involving community members and encouraging their leadership in the process to revive this park, we know that it will contribute to a healthier Los Angeles in the year 2050. Perfectly situated in central Los Angeles with easy access to downtown and the west side, “Meet me at MacArthur Park,” will be a trending phrase. In 2050, Angelenos will put the park at the top of their lists for connecting with friends or business partners, catching an outdoor movie, relaxing, getting some exercise, or attending a cultural event. Tourists will make it a must-see destination spot and artists will convene there to display and sell their art. Our project in 2015 will help us get there.

Whom will your project benefit?

This community-driven project will first and foremost directly benefit the residents of Westlake, an underserved neighborhood in central Los Angeles, who currently suffer from a lack of green space, resources, social capital, support networks, and connection to decision-makers and each other.

The park is a historical landmark in the city, used by a wide range of Angelenos across the city. Once revitalized and rebranded, the park will serve an even greater number of people through its compelling and interactive programming and be a vibrant city hub for cultural connection and community activity. With its central location and public transit access, in addition to free WiFi, it will also serve as a green reprieve from the urban bustle. People who come from all over the County to attend the Levitt Pavilion summer concerts at MacArthur Park will benefit from this transformative project. Nearby businesses will thrive with increased patrons and a new point of community pride.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

MacArthur Park represents a prime opportunity for connecting and engaging Angelenos, and investment in the park and its promise is on the rise. Today, more community-based organizations, elected officials, and activist networks are turning their attention to this neglected historic landmark. In 2014, we forged meaningful relationships with other organizations and agencies and we intend to continue working collectively to enact change in this area of Los Angeles. We work closely with the City Department of Recreation and Parks to ensure our work supports the Park Director and his efforts to bring programs to MacArthur Park. Other key partners include Praise Chapel Los Angeles, Heart of Los Angeles, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Esperanza Housing Corporation, Rediscover MacArthur Park Alliance and two neighborhood councils. The collaborative energy and transformative spirit persists, and we need to capitalize on this moment. We believe our project can serve as a catalyst to unite various efforts and turn MacArthur Park into a real resource that spurs local and city-wide opportunities for connection.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?

  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
  • Attendance at cultural events
  • Participation in neighborhood councils
  • Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally (Dream Metric)
  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric)
  • Total number of social media friends (Dream Metric)
  • Attendance at public/open street gatherings (Dream Metric)
  • Access to free wifi (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

We have a proven track record of success turning out residents to volunteer in MacArthur Park on various projects and beautification efforts over the past year, culminating in over 550 people attending our Keep It Clean event in June 2014, and these numbers are on their way up. Residents are eager for change and willing to take on the challenge. By bringing educational and health programs to the park, as well as opportunities for connecting with neighbors, our project will provide emotional and social support for adults. We host cultural events and have high attendance due to the extensive outreach we conduct. Our leadership development work will encourage residents to participate in the civic process and attend neighborhood council meetings to be involved in local decision-making. Meanwhile, our community research from 2014 will result in a report with community recommendations that legitimize resident requests and improve our ability to advocate for resources, improving government responsiveness to residents’ needs.

Our social media plan to rebrand the park and connect residents to park events and programming through Facebook event invites will increase the number of social media friends in Westlake. Our efforts to revitalize the park culture and draw more people to MacArthur Park, will increase the number of Angelenos who will benefit from the free Wifi available there (later in 2014). We will actively promote all events and programs via Facebook and Twitter.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

We will evaluate our project based on attendance at cultural and volunteer events and via community feedback on our process for reviving MacArthur Park.

At our first event in June 2014, 580 adults and children came out to the park to participate in the clean up, watch local musical and dance performances, and get information about community resources. We will continue to measure our success by the number of residents who turnout for these volunteer and cultural events, and get their direct feedback on what works and what can be improved.

We will also catalog participant information so we can track new attendees versus experienced volunteers in order to assess our outreach methods.

We will also measure our success by continuing to collect surveys and assessments from community residents about their needs and vision for the park. This will ensure that they guide the process and are involved from start to finish. They will help us set goals, hold us accountable and ensure we continue to achieve our project objectives.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Our organization has been working to improve low-income communities through the creation of urban parks and gardens for the past 12 years, with 15 completed projects. In that time, we have learned that community involvement is the key to transforming neighborhoods. Our experience has also taught us the importance of having engaged stakeholders at various levels. For this reason, our project at MacArthur Park will be driven by community residents, in partnership with local organizations, with support from elected officials.

Our community research has taught us that safety and litter are the priorities of local residents in MacArthur Park. Learning the specifics of these concerns has informed our plan for reviving MacArthur Park through programming, beautification, community outreach, leadership development and social media.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

We have spent this year laying a valuable foundation for this project. We built our base of residents, joined networks of local organizations, forged strategic partnerships, and tested our ability to engage community members through cultural events. We conducted research to ensure our short-term and long-term strategies for reviving MacArthur Park are supported by the community and we worked with elected officials to align our project with their goals for the area. We have a solid strategy and the tools in place to take MacArthur Park to the next level over the coming year.

We are prepared to mobilize residents, provide programming, plan large-scale events, and advocate for resources in 2015. The goals and strategies we have outlined in this proposal are achievable due to our year of preparation and strong partnerships.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

The current public perception of MacArthur Park safety and cleanliness is a challenge that greatly impacts this project to revive the park. Additionally, there is a mistrust of the public process on the part of the local community due to failed attempts by other organizations in the past. However, the Land Trust has been working in underserved communities that struggle with similar issues for over 12 years. Our strategy to engage communities and cultivate leaders is a proven model for success. Our commitment to building partnerships with various government agencies, local nonprofits, and community groups serve as the cornerstone of successful implementation of the project, despite these challenges.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach