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City agrees to manage dogged LAPD lawn after nature burns it

By Hayley Fox
Published: Thursday, December 29, 2011, at 03:03PM
Tony Pierce/KPCC

The lawn at the LAPD headquarters Downtown in 2010.

For more than a year, volunteers have helped maintain and beautify the lawn outside the shiny new LAPD headquarters.

The grassy area outside the reflective building has become a beloved neighborhood dog park and social gathering spot, but is struggling under the lack of attention from the city.

"This multimillion dollar building was built without any funds for maintenance," said Valerie Watson, a board member of the Downtown Neighborhood Council.

Now, after months of collaboration with Councilmember Jan Perry's office and multiple city departments, the LAPD lawn will start to receive some city tending. A temporary arrangement has been made with the Department of Recreation and Parks to work on the lawn twice a month.

"Right now we have to figure out how to keep the lawn going and the lawn growing," Perry said.

Department employees will use overtime hours for the work, cutting costs for the city by eliminating the need to hire additional employees.

This is the plan for the short term.

In the long term, Perry, the LAPD, and multiple city departments must figure out a budget and a game plan for continually maintaining the park. They will address issues including why some of the palm trees got sick and issues with dirt compaction and planting logistics, Perry said.

When the new headquarters was built, William Bratton was the Chief of Police,. He wanted to use the expansive grassy area as a staging era for police horses or other large scale action, Perry said.

But the lawn was always intended to be open to multiple uses, and the original design for the building also envisioned the grassy area as a community park, which it serves as now, she explained.

"You hear people saying on Facebook that they're checking in at the LAPD dog park," Watson noted.

Perry said the building is an "interesting architectural situation." It's not the pedestrian traffic and dog use that's the lawn's biggest issue; it's the building itself that is causing many of the problems, the councilwoman who oversees part of Downtown said.

The grass has been scorched by the intense reflection off the glass of the building, Perry said. There are currently no plans to alter the actual structure, but the city will have to address the problem at the ground level, so to speak.

Even though official scheduled maintenance is now planned for the headquarters by the city, Watson said many volunteers will probably continue to help out. The project became a "labor of love," Watson said.

Cheryl McDonald has become a volunteer caretaker for the space. She lives across the street from the police headquarters and said that although she protested the initial construction of the building, she ended up being "quite delighted" with the design of the park and the use of the native plants.

"God knows Downtown needed park space," she said.

McDonald started cleaning up the area after a tent set up on the lawn for a 2010 police gala damaged the plants and sprinkler system. She started small, taking a bag on her morning walks to yank overgrown grass stalks. From there, she helped organize the monthly meet-ups with the neighborhood council to keep her beloved park groomed.

Over the upcoming months, parks should be popping up all over Downtown, with several new plans for parklets taking advantage of available urban spaces and the larger-scale Civic Park that's expected to be completed in June.

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