Cover: City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Parks

City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Parks

Research Findings and Policy Implications (2003–2015)

Published Nov 1, 2016

by Deborah A. Cohen, Kathryn Pitkin Derose, Bing Han, Stephanie Williamson, Terry Marsh, Laura Raaen

Download eBook for Free

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 1.1 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

Research Question

  1. How well do neighborhood parks in the city of Los Angeles support physical activity?

This report summarizes more than a decade of research on how well neighborhood parks in Los Angeles support physical activity. Between 2003 and 2015, researchers at the RAND Corporation studied 83 parks in the city of Los Angeles, conducting thousands of observations and fielding nearly 28,000 surveys of park users and local residents. About half of all residents said that they used their neighborhood parks, most of them routinely. Parks are also the top venue that people choose for engaging in routine exercise. The majority of residents, including residents of low-income, high-crime neighborhoods, consider their neighborhood parks safe or very safe. We also found that parks get more use when they are larger, when they have more facilities, when they offer more planned activities and events, and when their services and activities are marketed to the public. While there is frequent activity in city parks, there is room for improvement. Parks are underutilized by girls and teenage girls, and they are especially underutilized by seniors. Overall, nearly half of all Los Angeles city residents living within 1 mile of a park did not use that park. Most did not know about the activities that were offered, and the majority of residents and more than a third of park users did not know the park's staff. Recommendations include devoting more resources to outreach and marketing. Los Angeles should also devote a larger proportion of its budget to city parks: Park spending per capita in Los Angeles is currently less than half of the per capita amounts that are spent by New York, Seattle, and San Francisco.

Key Findings

There Is Frequent Activity in Los Angeles City Parks

  • Compared with many cities across the country, Los Angeles city parks are used more frequently, and they have more facilities, amenities, and organized activities.
  • About half of all residents said that they used their neighborhood parks, most of them routinely. When they visited a park, they reported staying for one or two hours.
  • Parks are also the top venue that people choose for engaging in routine exercise.
  • The majority of residents, including residents of low-income, high-crime neighborhoods, consider their neighborhood parks safe or very safe.
  • We also found that parks get more use when they are larger, when they have more facilities, when they offer more planned activities and events, and when their services and activities are marketed to the public.

But There Is Also Room for Improvement

  • Parks are underutilized by girls and teenage girls, and they are especially underutilized by seniors.
  • Overall, nearly half of all Los Angeles city residents living within 1 mile of a park did not use that park.
  • Most did not know about the activities that were offered, and the majority of residents and more than a third of park users did not know the park's staff.

Recommendations

  • The city of Los Angeles should devote a larger proportion of its budget to city parks. Park spending per capita in Los Angeles is currently less than half of the per capita amounts that are spent by New York, Seattle, and San Francisco.
  • More resources should be devoted to outreach and marketing. Many residents and park users do not know park staff and do not find out about park programs and events, so parks are often underutilized, and many programs are undersubscribed.
  • A tracking system should be instituted so that park administrators can assess the impact of their efforts to improve programming outreach and facilities.

This research was conducted in RAND Health, a division of the RAND Corporation.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit www.rand.org/pubs/permissions.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.