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Officials call new City Hall Park a 'bargain'

By Omar Shamout
Published: Friday, July 20, 2012, at 03:47PM

City Hall Park reopened this week at a cost of $1 million.

One of City Hall Park’s designers called the newly reopened four-acre space a “bargain” when compared to the cost of parks in other local cities.

Thomas Gibson, a landscape architect for the Department of Recreation and Parks who designed the South Garden, said the new park cost $1 million to build. That number includes the cost of new lighting, a $40,000 rebate from the Department of Water and Power for reducing water use by 40 percent, and thousands of dollars of supplies donated by Home Depot, Target and Scott’s Fertilizer, according to department officials.

“When you look at what other cities are spending on their civic centers … We’re doing a pretty good job budget wise,” Gibson said. “Santa Monica is putting in a new park that is about $45 million.”

$47 million to be exact, the Santa Monica Daily Press reported in June of the new Palisades Garden Walk. That hefty price tag even includes over $440,000 for a piece of art designers claim will control the weather.

Ramon Barajas, Superintendent of Maintenance Operations for the Department of Recreation and Parks, said City Hall Park was meant to be an example for private citizens on how to plan their landscaping in a more cost-effective way without sacrificing beauty.

“Homeowners can go out and landscape and it doesn’t have to be all turf,” Barajas said. “There can be beautiful plants … eventually you will get your savings.”

Barajas said the park will cost $75,000 to $100,000 annually to maintain, but the city will also save money long term thanks to new drought-resistant trees and shrubbery that use less water, as well as more efficient irrigation systems.

Richard Fisher, an architect with the Bureau of Engineering, designed the North Park, which now features no grass at all. He said a wide variety of opinions existed on what to do with the entire area after preliminary meetings with community and City Council members.

“Some people wanted it to look exactly like it did before, while others wanted no lawn area at all,” Fisher said. “What we have here now is a compromise.”

But Fisher said he and Gibson were meticulous about figuring out how to reduce the amount of turf in areas where it wouldn’t be missed. Gibson’s team also flattened out grassy areas that were previously on sloped ground unsuitable for sitting.

“When I tell people there’s half as much grass, they don’t believe me. Especially if you’re standing on the south side it still looks very green,” Fisher said.

Fences will remain up around the park until at least next month to ensure a "smooth transition," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the park's opening on Thursday. Park gates will be open to allow the public onto the grounds between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.


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