Let’s Build Parks for People in Santa Ana

One of the biggest gripes in the City of Santa Ana has to be the lack of access to parks for the majority of the city’s residents. Park space is scarce in this city. The City boasts a total of 35 parks citywide, although looking at the list, there are a couple of names listed that I would seriously take issue with at whether they should even count as a park. Seriously, a street corner with a large fountain is being counted as a park? While some areas have more parks than others, it is clear the entire city is fairly park starved.

Just ask the residents who live either on the West end of the city or between 17th and Segerstrom and I am sure they will be more than happy to show people just how park starved those residents really are and why those are the areas our Department of Recreation and Parks should be focusing on to improve their access to park space. Instead of pontificating, I decided to actually do some research into the need for park space in Santa Ana and came up with some disturbing details. Let us start with the amount of parkspace. There is approximately 340 acres of park space in Santa Ana, that translates to roughtly 1 acre of park space for every 1,000 people according to 2000 U.S. Census figures. Now imagine just how much the ratio is with the upcoming 2010 census numbers. In the last 10 years, the city has added only 1.2 acres of parkspace, while taking more away to build Godinez High School and expand the Centennial Education Center, making Centennial Park, which should be the jewel of Santa Ana, the Incredible Shrinking Park.

To illustrate just how park starved this city is, you can get even more of a visual here by entering an address in Santa Ana and it will show you just how park decificient this city is, especially in working class Latino areas with a lot of children. Click here to see how Santa Ana compares to other large and dense city’s in the US. Even Manhattan, the very epitome of an urban jungle, puts Santa Ana to shame when it comes to park space and access.

Deciding to do my own research, what I did was divide the city into seven geographic areas, roughly the same area and based on communities of interest. While the inner city has realtively the same areas of interest, I divided that area into four zones. You can see the comparison charts Here. On the side here is the map I created of Santa Ana with the divided areas. I included 33 city parks, excluding the Zoo because it does not have free access and Scasser “Park” and the Herb Garden becaue they really should not be considered city parks.

The methodology I used was rounding the population of each area to the nearest hundred based on 2000 census information. The total park acreage for the city is 336.03 acres.

North Santa Ana

North Santa Ana is the most park rich are of the city. It is also the most affluent. The area has an approximate population of 41,200 people, roughly 12.2% of the population, yet is has 32.1% of the parkspace in the entire city. The total acreage for the north is 107.8 Acres, although it should be noted half of the acreage is in Santiago Park alone. Nonetheless, it still has a total of 8 parks, far more than any other area of the city translating to 1 acre per 382 people, although 6 have playgrounds for children.

West Santa Ana

This covers all of the area west of the Santa Ana River. One of the most park starved areas of the city , the total people to park acreage ration is 1 Acre per 2,004 people, double the city average. There are only 5 parks covering a total of 27 acres serving approximately 55,100 residents. Work is definitely needed to provide more park space to all these residents, many of them Latino and Vietnamese.

South Santa Ana

South Santa Ana also known as South Coast Metro is a newer area of the city that is ethnically mixed and mainly middle class. They have 4 parks serving 34,000 residents, and has a ratio of 1 Acre for every 586 residents, although it should be noted, have the acreage is in Thornton Park alone. The other three are bunched together in the Sandpointe area, leaving the Segerstrom High School area without a park within walking distance.

Inner City Northwest

Now lets get into the heavily Latino areas of the city where 61.4% of the population lives according to the 2000 census. Here is where the tragedy begins. 61.4% of the population lives here, but I have already covered more 57% of the park space in the city in the previous three areas. That leaves less than 43% of the park space in the city to more than 200,000 people. It only goes down hill from here. We shall start in the northwest of the inner city(Artesia Pilar, Windsor Village, Bella Vista, Casa Bonita, Central City). There is 46,300 people here for 37.1 acres of park space at a total of 4 parks. That translates to 1 acre for every 1,248 residents. Already below the city average, but it pales in comparison to the next area.

Inner City Northeast

This is the most densely populated area of the city, covering Downtown, Willard, French Park, Lacy, Eastside, Heninger Park, Saddleback View, Pico Lowell and Logan. The population as of 2000 was an astounding 77,800 people, yet there is a total of 6.6 acres of park space covering 5 parks, only three with playgrounds for children. That translates to 1 acre per 12,424 people. It should be noted the city wants to make this area even more densely populated and yet refuses to force developers to even consider new parks, it took a group like SACRED to get some action. It should also be noted there will be a small new park soon, although it will be privately run by Latino Health Access, who was given nothing but problems from the city to provide more park space to what is likely the most open space deficient area in the nation if not the planet.

Inner City Southwest

The area includes Centennial Park, Shadow Run, Bristol Warner, New Horizon, Rosewood, the western half of Memorial Park, Valley Adams and Mid City. The population is 43,800 people. On the surface, it actually looks like an area of the inner city that is park rich, with a ration of 1 acre per 488 people, the second best ration in the city. Yet there are only four parks and 77% of the park acreage in this area is concentrated in Centennial Park. Much of this area lacks parks that residents can walk to, making this a park poor area and only two of the smaller parks have a playground for children.

Inner City Southeast

The tragedy concludes here. The neighborhoods covering this area are Wilshire Square, Delhi, Madison Park, Cornerstone Village and the eastern half of Memorial Park. The population is 34,600 people. There are only 9.7 acres of park space over three parks translating to 1 acre per 3,567 people. Once again this is inexcuseable. The most needy residents and the youngest residents of our city have been neglected and continue to be neglected by an uncaring city hall, despite these facts.

And I am not the only one to reveal these facts. Latino Health Access has a powerpoint that details some of the finding I have written here. I understand there has been a local resident who wants to take away some of the scarce park space we currently have to make a dog park. A dog park is fine and dandy, but we should not be taking away the park space we already have to do it, a new spot should be found. Even so, with what has just been demonstrated in this post, findings that a Latino advocacy group has made shows beyond any reasonable doubt that before any dog park is built in Santa Ana, the city should be focusing on PEOPLE PARKS.

Of course the usual talking points from the city will begin. “They are out of money, what do you want us to do cut from police and fire, the people in the north vote, they can climb the fence and use the school playgrounds, there is no more room for parks, we are built out.” But we as residents should NOT take NO for an answer. There are ways to build parks and get more parks city wide. There are ways to get grants. Heck when a non-profit, Latino Health Access stepped forward to offer to build and run a park, the city gave them a hard time. There is plenty of room for parks, there are plenty of vacant areas of land in the neediest areas just sitting there blighting the landscape. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see those areas green with well maintenanced trees and children playing either sports or on the playground rather than playing in the dangerous street or stuffing their face with sweets.

There are solutions and ideas out there to create new parks and fix the ones we already have. Focusing on parks for people should be the priority, and I believe groups like SACRED, Latino Health Access and Chicanos Unidos would agree.

  18 comments for “Let’s Build Parks for People in Santa Ana

  1. Cynthia Ward
    March 30, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Claudio, I must say this is one of the best written pieces I have ever seen on any blog! It is concise, it is relevant, and it ought to piss off Art Pedroza, which is kind of a plus for me. Really well done. So here is the question to ask your City Council. How much park space is planned for the empty dirt they keep creating when historic bungalows get torn down block after block? Just wondering. And thanking God for about the 400th time today, that I do not live in Santa Ana.
    Colony Rabble, posting under my given name since my other comments do not seem to go through…

  2. March 30, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Good job Claudio. Santa Ana has a huge deficit in park space. If I had to choose between a dog park and a people park, I would go with the people park.

  3. Scooby Doo
    March 31, 2010 at 6:06 am

    Well if you are not into parks for me and my barking buddies – you can have fun on my website:

    no joke, my Captcha word “dogmata”

  4. Cynthia Ward
    March 31, 2010 at 8:40 am

    By the way, I hope you don’t mind if I swipe your idea and try that with Anaheim. We are scheduled to LOSE park space if High Speed Rail remains where the Alternative Analysis placed it.

  5. jose s.
    March 31, 2010 at 9:06 am

    in one of pedrozas posts he shows a picture of a car with a sticker that says fountain valley on it as if people from fountain valley arent welcome in santa ana. well i live on the west most side of santa ana but i go to mile suare park pretty often as a matter of fact i get a park pass every year. by pedrozas way of thinking i shouldnt go to mile square park because i live in santa ana. another thing that is disturbing is that he points out that most of the lawn bowlers are white. i think pedroza might have a problem with white folk. i think it’s great that we have a lawn bowling center in santa ana it looks like the people who go there are having a great time. no need to trash it for a dog park. i wonder where pedroza was when they shut down the best raquetbal/handball courts in the county at santa ana college. plenty of latinos there on a regular basis.

    • Robert Henson, Sr.
      April 1, 2010 at 3:16 am

      Santa Ana residents generally go to Mile Square Park out of necessity, because it is a great place to hold social outings. Many in Santa Ana’s West Side relate more with Fountain Valley than Santa Ana, because it provides the goods and services for the West Side. Didn’t the city make a 1/8th acre park on McFadden near the Santa Ana River? That was suppose to be some kind of a big deal, because the area was a real eye sore. So, does that count as a real Park?

  6. Thomas Anthony Gordon
    March 31, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Well said Claudio.

    Santa Ana City Council proclaims itself as champions of parks and kids, but it spends less on Parks & Rec than every similar city our size ( Riverside, Oakland, Anaheim)- The Santa Ana City Council only put $44 per resident in the current budget, whereas most of the other spend double or more.

    The current Santa Ana City Council also closed down and sent away the bookmobile, which I fought to get up into the area around kidworks while on the anti gang committee.

    The current Santa Ana City Council spent more than 6 million on light rail studies,tens of millions on buying homes to clear land in the Historic Lacy neighborhood and has spent hundreds of millions widening Bristol. Yet they can find either the space or money to create much needed new acreage of new park in Santa Ana.

    The people have spoken and they want new parks now. A bookmobile or two wouldnt be bad either….

  7. Mike Tardif
    March 31, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Does Santa Ana require developers to support parks? Or are they into giving City property away to developers in return for nothing for residents?

    Of course the city council will accept campaign contributions from those same developers.

  8. Andree Weger
    March 31, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    GREAT post Claudio,we really need to band together to force the city to address the issue. There are two lots on Birch street that have been empty way over ten years. Several of us tried to propose a park and/or community garden for the lots and all I received was a run around and I was told it would increase crime. If the theroy is correct that parks increase crime why isn’t Irvine the most dangerous place to live in OC instead of one of the safest. We live in Inner City NW I wonder what they consider a “park” in this area.

    Andree Weger

  9. SA Girl
    March 31, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Great Article
    It’s about time someone wrote a decent piece on the lack of parks in SA.
    Pedroza is a joke, he has to make everything about race, he should be fighting for the \Human race\.
    I like dogs but really taking precious park land for dogs from our kids.
    Thanks again Claudio for doing your research and speaking the truth.
    I live in SA and am proud, this city has a lot of potential.

    • Sean H. Mill
      March 31, 2010 at 4:51 pm

      “taking precious park land for dogs from our kids”

      Unfortunately our kids don’t have access to the park land in question now. The land that the proposed dog park would go on is currently only allowed to be accessed by “members” of the lawn bowling club, most of whom are not Santa Ana residents.

      • Repulsed
        March 31, 2010 at 9:30 pm

        Nothing holding back any of Santa Ana’s residents from joining the lawn bowling club. It’s a great low impact, relaxing, outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by anyone with a pulse. No expensive equipment or painful strenuous activity and played in a beautiful park setting. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

  10. March 31, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    I’m blessed with lots of park space in Irvine. It would be great for Santa Ana to green up empty lots for parks too.

  11. Jeff Dickman
    March 31, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Excellent Claudio,

    Revealing. What is disturbing is that the City has not adopted the Quimby Act allowing it to exact land and/or funds from a developer to develop parks or purchase land for parks.

    Over the past 20 years the City of Santa Ana missed numerous opportunities to obtain these benefits from new construction. Instead we receive un-usable landscaped medians with no growth in park acreage. City’s, like Santa Ana, without sufficient park land are seldom good places for new business or families wanting a higher quality of life.

    You simply can’t explaing your way out of a lack of park land. And this City really has done little to nothing to address the matter.

    Again great work Claudio.

  12. dog lover
    March 31, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Well, it’s a little ingenious to suggest that dog parks are not also people parks. After all, the dogs don’t go the parks themselves, do they? Needing more parks is something that no one in Santa Ana would argue with, there is no need to bring your personal issues with other bloggers into it. It cheapens your argument.

  13. dog lover
    March 31, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    I meant disingenuous, sorry.

  14. SA Girl
    April 1, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Dog Lover
    You are so right, it does cheapen the argument. It just felt good to do to him what he always does to others. And I agree the only way the dogs get to the park is by their owner. However it still doesn’t make sense to take away precious park space that is rare in this city to give it to our furry friends. Find another location, there is a K9 park for SAPD, that should be shared with the community and I know there are many lots that can be converted by the river chanel that is owned by the county. Look for other alternatives, not park land, this city is already park poor.

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