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Grand Hope Park: A Primer

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, August 27, 2008, at 10:09PM
Grand Hope Park Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Coyote sculptures decorate the grassy amphitheater that faces FIDM.

While grand plans for South Park's titular park may not have developed, the neighborhood does have a great little pocket of green space in the 2.5 acre Grand Hope Park, located on the block bounded by 9th, Olympic, Hope and Grand.

The park, which shares its block with FIDM and Renaissance Towers, has quite the interesting development history. Though owned and built by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the space is operated by a non-profit and not the city's Department of Recreation and Parks.

Groundbreaking on the site was held in March of 1987, after the CRA spent $15.5 million to buy the land and relocate existing users. The design contract was given to Lawrence Halprin, who at the same time was designing the Bunker Hill Steps next to Library Tower. Grading and tree plantings were completed in 1989.

Seeing as city government moves in fits and starts, another groundbreaking was held in February of 1992. Mayor Tom Bradley and Councilwoman Rita Walters were there to turn the ceremonial shovels. This time work on design implementation began, and the park started to take shape.

$4.8 million dollars was put into the park's construction, with $390,000 of that going to public art pieces throughout the space.

While the plan was for CRA to build the park and then turn it over to Parks & Rec, that wasn't to be. Parks & Rec didn't want it. In an August 15, 1993, Times article, a department representative explained why:

"It's very fancy and the costs to maintain it would be astronomical," said Alonzo Carmichael, the department's planning officer.

City workers use very wide lawn mowers ill-equipped for the meandering walkways and lawns dotted with sculptures, he explained. "You'd have to hand tailor it," Carmichael said.

And so a non-profit, Grand Hope Park, Inc., was set up to maintain and operate the space. The Board of Directors includes representatives from FIDM, Parks & Rec, CRA, and Council District 9, as well as a few surrounding residential buildings. Funding for the park's operation comes partially through an assessment on surrounding property owners, with the balance covered by CRA. In the fiscal year 2006-2007, the park budget was $312,000.

The fence that surrounds the park was a controversial last-minute addition. The park was nearly completed when planners decided to add an eight-foot fence around the space. The decision was made partially out of concern for the public art, and partially due to a general climate of fear that had been heightened by the 1992 riots, where a store in the FIDM building was looted.

Councilwoman Walters, then the representative for CD9, fought hard against the change, saying that "putting the fence around the park would close off the open-space feel that was originally planned." In the end she was outvoted, with Council approving the changes 12-2.

The park's hours -- 7am - 8pm during Daylight Savings time, 7am - 6pm other times -- have not changed since the park opened, and are actually terms of its lease.

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