Chapter 6
Open Space and Conservation

The Framework Element contains goals, objectives, and policies for the provision, management, and conservation of Los Angeles' open space resources, addresses the outdoor recreation needs of the City's residents, and are intended to guide the amendment of the General Plan's Open Space and Conservation Element. As established by the State legislature, "open space" is defined at a broader level than the traditional zones that have been used by the City. It encompasses both publicly- and privately-owned properties that are unimproved and used for the preservation of natural resources, managed production of resources, outdoor recreation, and protection of life and property due to natural hazards. The inclusion of policies affecting private open space in this Element should not be interpreted to mean that the City intends to change fair market values or purchase such land.

The Framework Element's Open Space and Conservation policies also examine unconventional, non-statutory ways that the City of Los Angeles may create and utilize open space, particularly in parts of the City where there is a significant deficiency of this resource. These open space policies therefore address matters of land use, urban form, and parks development; subjects that are also addressed in other chapters of this document.

Although Los Angeles has open space resources located throughout its many neighborhoods, the City is properly characterized as an urbanized area framed by open space. The Pacific Ocean, San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Susana Mountains, Baldwin Hills, and the Santa Monica Mountains are examples of natural open space resources that bound the City and help define its geography and influence its development patterns.

Within these open space areas, a wide variety of environmental and recreational activities take place: from bird-watching to horseback riding, making Los Angeles unique among cities of its size.

Economic, social, and ecological imperatives require that Los Angeles take full advantage of all existing open space elements in the City, and create an extensive, highly interconnected Citywide Greenways Network. The economic dimension of this proposition is based on the development of places of pride and amenity that will maintain and augment property values, attract new investment, and establish greater economic stability in the neighborhoods. The social dimension is founded on the availability and distribution of open space resources to all residents of the City, on the way in which open space can instill and/or increase pride of place, and on the ability of open space to connect neighborhoods and people throughout the entire City. The ecological dimension is based on the improvement of water quality and supply, the reduction of flood hazards, improved air quality, and the provision of ecological corridors for birds and wildlife.

The City's open space policies seek to resolve the following issues:


Open space conservation and development are often competing goals.

Conserving ecologically and aesthetically important areas while meeting the needs of the developing community can create some difficult choices. During the 1980s, Los Angeles County created a network of Significant Ecological Areas (SEAs) to save remnants of the State's natural heritage. The status of many of these SEAs is not known to County officials, however, because very few resources were available to monitor and preserve them. Despite this lack of information, it is clear that development such as housing construction, commercial projects, roads and landfills has encroached upon many of the SEAs. Given that the City is largely built out, the pressure for development to intrude into these areas will likely continue.


There is a deficiency of open space in the City.

As the City urbanizes, and the pressures of population growth and encroaching development activity increases, the amount of land available for open space continues to diminish. The difficulty in acquiring large, contiguous tracts of land reduces the likelihood of creating new regional parks the size of Griffith Park or smaller community and neighborhood parks. In addition, there are insufficient local funds to purchase open space land.


The Los Angeles River presents numerous opportunities for enhancing the City's open space network.

Since the Los Angeles River and its tributaries pass through much of the City, they could become the "spine" of the Citywide Greenways Network. Where appropriate, these waterways could be developed as places for outdoor recreation and become amenities in the communities through which they pass.


Park acquisition is limited due to existing patterns of development and lack of funding.

Since the availability of open space acquisition funds is based in part on local development activity, areas of Los Angeles that experience little or no development have more limited resources to acquire open space. Not surprisingly, such communities are often also the areas with the greatest open space need.

The City has traditionally acquired open space through Quimby fees, park dedication requirements, and a dwelling unit construction surcharge. Quimby fees differ from the construction tax in that they are collected from development projects and must be spent in the community in which they are collected. Some areas of the City are recipients of both the Quimby fees and the construction surcharge fee. Older areas of the City in which little new residential development occurs receive considerably lesser levels of funds and are characterized by the highest development densities. Discrepancies in the amount of open space that exists among communities results in the more densely populated areas having insufficient open space to meet the needs of their population.


Park standards do not reflect current conditions and needs.

Standards for various categories of parks, which were created when the availability of open space was not as limited, should be re-examined in view of changing population and urban form dynamics. If the population continues to grow and the amount of open space available remains more or less the same, the discrepancy between what is and what should be will continue to widen.

Existing open space standards (and, more significantly, existing open space acquisition policies) do not sufficiently recognize the full range of potential open space resources at the neighborhood and community levels. As opportunities for traditional open space resources are diminished, it is important to identify areas of open space that have not traditionally been considered as resources. Thus, vacated railroad lines, drainage channels, planned transit routes and utility rights-or-way, or pedestrian-oriented streets and small parks, where feasible, might serve as important resources for serving the open space and recreation needs of City residents in communities where those resources are currently in short supply. Additionally, as resources diminish, the quality, intensity, and maintenance of existing open space (especially in more dense neighborhoods) becomes more important.

The following presents the goals, objectives, and policies related to open space and conservation in the City of Los Angeles. Programs that implement these policies are found in the last chapter of this document. Programs are also referenced after each policy in this document.

An integrated citywide/regional public and private open space system that serves and is accessible by the City's population and is unthreatened by encroachment from other land uses.


Objective 6.1

Protect the City's natural settings from the encroachment of urban development, allowing for the development, use, management, and maintenance of each component of the City's natural resources to contribute to the sustainability of the region.

6.1.1 Consider appropriate methodologies to protect significant remaining open spaces for resource protection and mitigation of environmental hazards, such as flooding, in and on the periphery of the City, such as the use of tax incentives for landowners to preserve their lands, development rights exchanges in the local area, participation in land banking, public acquisition, land exchanges, and Williamson Act contracts. (P2)

Coordinate City operations and development policies for the protection and conservation of open space resources, by:

a. Encouraging City departments to take the lead in utilizing water re-use technology, including graywater and reclaimed water for public landscape maintenance purposes and such other purposes as may be feasible;

b. Preserving habitat linkages, where feasible, to provide wildlife corridors and to protect natural animal ranges; and

c. Preserving natural viewsheds, whenever possible, in hillside and coastal areas.
(P2, P9, P59, P60)

 6.1.3 Reassess the environmental importance of the County of Los Angeles designated Significant Ecological Areas (SEAs) that occur within the City of Los Angeles and evaluate the appropriateness of the inclusion of other areas that may exhibit equivalent environmental value. (P2, P59)
 6.1.4 Conserve, and manage the undeveloped portions of the City's watersheds, where feasible, as open spaces which protect, conserve, and enhance natural resources. (P2, P8)
 6.1.5 Provide for an on-site evaluation of sites located outside of targeted growth areas, as specified in amendments to the community plans, for the identification of sensitive habitats, sensitive species, and an analysis of wildlife movement, with specific emphasis on the evaluation of areas identified on the Biological Resource Maps contained in the Framework Element's Technical Background Report and Environmental Impact Report (Figures BR1A-D). (P2)
6.1.6 Consider preservation of private land open space to the maximum extent feasible. In areas where open space values determine the character of the community, development should occur with special consideration of these characteristics. (P70)
6.1.7 Encourage an increase of open space where opportunities exist throughout the City to protect wild areas such as the Sepulveda Basin and Chatsworth Reservoir. (P1, P2, P59)


Objective 6.2

Maximize the use of the City's existing open space network and recreation facilities by enhancing those facilities and providing connections, particularly from targeted growth areas, to the existing regional and community open space system.


Establish, where feasible, the linear open space system represented in the Citywide Greenways Network map, to provide additional open space for active and passive recreational uses and to connect adjoining neighborhoods to one another and to regional open space resources (see Figure 6-1). This Citywide Greenways Network is hierarchical and is composed of three levels: regional, community, and local/ neighborhood. While these levels are of equal importance, they vary in scale and the degree to which they impact the City at large. Additionally, while these levels overlap one another, they can still be differentiated and broken down as follows:

Click Here to View Figure 6-1
Greenways Network Map

a. The regional component of the network is composed of the beaches, the mountains, and the Los Angeles River system - the three most continuous natural features of the urban region and thus the primary elements of the network; river tributaries, arroyos and washes that take storm water to the ocean; rail lines and utility corridors, where feasible without compromising public safety or facility security, that may serve multiple purposes to become connectors to the beaches and the river and link adjacent districts to each other through the network; and all regional parks made accessible from the network. While considering open space improvements of the River and drainages, their primary purpose for flood control shall be considered.

b. The community component is composed of parks and civic open spaces connected to the network, including elements such as community and neighborhood parks, connected by linear, non-motorized transportation linkages such as walking and hiking trails and local bike paths.

c. The local/neighborhood components include pedestrian-supporting streets, open space associated with public facilities such as schools, small parks, and community gardens.


Protect and expand equestrian resources, where feasible, and maintain safe links in major public open space areas such as Hansen Dam, Sepulveda Basin, Griffith Park, and the San Gabriel, Santa Monica, Santa Susanna Mountains and the Simi Hills.

a. Maintain the equestrian facilities on publicly owned lands, such as Hansen Dam and the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

b. Preserve, where feasible, the "Horsekeeping Supplemental Use District" ("K" District), with links to major open areas.

c. Support the policies and objectives of the Rim of the Valley Trail Corridor Master Plan, the Urban Greenways Plan, and the Major Equestrian and Hiking Trails Plan (and all amendments) as a foundation for promoting and maintaining a trail system within the City.
(P1, P58, P59)


Objective 6.3

Ensure that open space is managed to minimize environmental risks to the public.

6.3.1 Preserve flood plains, landslide areas, and steep terrain areas as open space, wherever possible, to minimize the risk to public safety. (P1, P2)
6.3.2 Seek to ensure that the users of the City's open space system are safe and secure. (P2)
6.3.3 Utilize development standards to promote development of public open space that is visible, thereby helping to keep such spaces and facilities as safe as possible. (P18, P24, P25)


Objective 6.4

Ensure that the City's open spaces contribute positively to the stability and identity of the communities and neighborhoods in which they are located or through which they pass.

6.4.1 Encourage and seek to provide for usable open space and recreational facilities that are distributed throughout the City.(P2, P14)
6.4.2 Encourage increases in parks and other open space lands where deficiencies exist, such as South East and South Central Los Angeles and neighborhoods developed prior to the adoption of the State Quimby Act in 1965 (As amended in 1972). (P1, P2, P54)
6.4.2 Encourage increases in parks and other open space lands where deficiencies exist, such as South East and South Central Los Angeles and neighborhoods developed prior to the adoption of the State Quimby Act in 1965 (As amended in 1972). (P1, P2, P54)
6.4.3 Encourage appropriate connections between the City's neighborhoods and elements of the Citywide Greenways Network.(P2, P58, P59)
6.4.4 Consider open space as an integral ingredient of neighborhood character, especially in targeted growth areas, in order that open space resources contribute positively to the City's neighborhoods and urban centers as highly desirable places to live (see Chapter 5: Urban Form and Neighborhood Design). (P1, P2)
6.4.5 Provide public open space in a manner that is responsive to the needs and wishes of the residents of the City's neighborhoods through the involvement of local residents in the selection and design of local parks. In addition to publicly-owned and operated open space, management mechanisms may take the form of locally run private/non-profit management groups, and should allow for the private acquisition of land with a commitment for maintenance and public access. (P2, P58, P59)
6.4.6 Explore ways to connect neighborhoods through open space linkages, including the "healing" of neighborhoods divided by freeways, through the acquisition and development of air rights over freeways (such as locations along the Hollywood Freeway between Cahuenga Pass and Downtown), which could be improved as a neighborhood recreation resource.(P2, P14)
6.4.7 Consider as part of the City's open space inventory of pedestrian streets, community gardens, shared school playfields, and privately-owned commercial open spaces that are accessible to the public, even though such elements fall outside the conventional definitions of "open space." This will help address the open space and outdoor recreation needs of communities that are currently deficient in these resources (see the Recreation and Parks section in Chapter 9: Infrastructure and Public Services). (P2)

Maximize the use of existing public open space resources at the neighborhood scale and seek new opportunities for private development to enhance the open space resources of the neighborhoods.

a. Encourage the development of public plazas, forested streets, farmers markets, residential commons, rooftop spaces, and other places that function like open space in urbanized areas of the City with deficiencies of natural open space, especially in targeted growth areas.

b. Encourage the improvement of open space, both on public and private property, as opportunities arise. Such places may include the dedication of "unbuildable" areas or sites that may serve as green space, or pathways and connections that may be improved to serve as neighborhood landscape and recreation amenities.
(P2, P14, P50)

6.4.9 Encourage the incorporation of small-scaled public open spaces within transit-oriented development, both as plazas and small parks associated with transit stations, and as areas of public access in private joint development at transit station locations. (P2)

Provide for the joint use of open space with existing and future public facilities, where feasible.

a. Give priority to the development of sites as open space for public access that are located with or occupied by other public facilities such as schools, child care facilities, and libraries.

b. Resolve differences of policy and practice between the City's various departments and the Los Angeles Unified School District to ensure the joint use of school sites in whole or in part for neighborhood open space needs. In particular, pursue legislation to address the issue of public liability in situations of joint use or joint development of public properties, so that the liability may be equitably shared by multiple agencies (such as the School District and the Department of Recreation and Parks).
(P2, P14, P16)

6.4.11 Seek opportunities to site open space adjacent to existing public facilities, such as schools, and encourage the establishment of mutually beneficial development agreements that make privately-owned open space accessible to the public. For example, encourage the improvement of scattered small open spaces for public access in private projects with small branch libraries, child care centers, or decentralized schools. (P2, P16)


Objective 6.5

Provide adequate funding for open space resource management and development.

6.5.1 Implementation should be accomplished incrementally. (P2, P14)
6.5.2 Establish programs for financing open space acquisition, development and maintenance. (P2, P14, P66)
6.5.3 Seek linkages with other requirements, such as air quality mandates, flood control requirements, or water reclamation needs, wherever possible. (P8, P54, P65)
6.5.4 Encourage and facilitate assessment districts for street amenity improvements. (P2, P32)
6.5.5 Establish incentives for the provision of publicly accessible open space in conjunction with private development projects. (P2, P14, P19, P66)

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