LA Railyard to Become State Park
LOS ANGELES, 3/15/01 –The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national land conservation organization, announced today its agreement with River Station, LLC (formerly known as Majestic Cornfields, LLC), an affiliate of Majestic Realty Co., to purchase the 32-acre Cornfields property-an abandoned rail yard sandwiched between the Los Angeles River and Chinatown.
TPL will purchase the property, valued at $30 million, from River Station, LLC, the developer, with the exclusive right to purchase the property from the landowner, Union Pacific Railroad Company. River Station, LLC/Majestic had proposed to develop a controversial $80 million industrial park on the Cornfields property. TPL expects to convey the property to the California Department of Parks and Recreation for the creation of what would be the first state park, open space, and recreation complex ever developed in downtown Los Angeles.
Governor Gray Davis, in his January budget, proposed $70 million in funding for significant river parkway projects throughout the state. The Cornfields property is a perfect example of the kind of project that could be funded from the river parkway program. This project along the Los Angeles River will provide recreational opportunities for all of Los Angeles to enjoy. “I am pleased to hear an agreement has been reached to convert this key river property into an urban park,” said Governor Davis.
The state will be correcting inequities in the state park system by creating a new state park in central Los Angeles. For the first time in decades, a new state park will be built where people live and work in Los Angeles. This project will spur urban renewal by turning a brownfield into a greenfield and foster economic growth in the community.
“This exciting opportunity will convert an abandoned rail yard into a public park right in the heart of the city,” said Mary D. Nichols, California’s Secretary for Resources. “This will go a long way to making downtown Los Angeles more livable, and is a wonderful example of the Davis administration’s Urban Parks Strategy – using state funding to help bring parks to where the people are.”
The Cornfields property, so named because corn was cultivated on the site before the Civil War, could become the first and only public park in Los Angeles with a rail transit station at its entry gates. The Chinatown station of the Pasadena light rail line-located at the southern edge of the property-is set to begin construction this year. The rail station would make this proposed park easily accessible to millions of low-income, transit-dependent families, youth, and children from across urban Los Angeles, who will be able to get there via the Metro rail system.
The size of the Cornfields property offers a range of potential uses: passive open space and picnic areas, ball fields and recreational facilities, and a highly visible access point for the Los Angeles River as it skirts downtown Los Angeles. Because the property contains examples of the original zanja madre, the aqueduct supplying water to the Pueblo de Los Angeles, Cornfields presents an opportunity to develop a historical resource that can tie into the nearby Olvera Street State Historic Park, one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions.
The purchase agreement between the Trust for Public Land and River Station, LLC could end the lawsuit by Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) and the Chinatown Yards Alliance against the proposed industrial park. The lawsuit stemmed from FoLAR’s claim that the local regulators had failed to require an environmental impact report. FoLAR and the Chinatown Yards Alliance have been advocating for creation of a major public space, with possible compatible uses, as an alternative.
TPL and River Station, LLC have been in negotiations on a purchase and sale agreement, which they signed today. TPL is now working to the find the public funding necessary for the state’s purchase of the property. “We are very encouraged by the enthusiastic support and serious interest the state has showed in the idea of making this old railroad yard the first major state park in central Los Angeles since Kenneth Hahn Park was created in the Baldwin Hills in 1977,” said Reed Holderman, TPL-California Executive Director. TPL acquired 40 acres for that park-one of its first projects in metro Los Angeles-nearly 25 years ago.
Once TPL conveys the land to the state, a community planning process would be initiated to determine future uses for the parkland and to come up with a design for the property. Additional funding will be required to pay for actual development of the park. This process, including construction, could take an additional two or three years.
TPL recently closed two other acquisitions along the Los Angeles River Greenway at the end of February. TPL conveyed 5.4 acres northeast of downtown Los Angeles to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority for a community park. TPL also conveyed nearly two acres to the City of Maywood as a part of a 7-acre assemblage the city will use to create the Maywood River Park for California’s most densely populated, low-income community. TPL has already conveyed nearly 3 acres to the City of Maywood for the creation of the Maywood River Park.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national, nonprofit land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people as parks, greenways, wilderness areas and natural, historic and cultural resources for future generations. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide. TPL’s Los Angeles River Greenway Program is working to create urban parks along the Los Angeles River. TPL has already completed Elysian Valley Gateway Park, Steelhead Park, Julia Russ Asmus Neighborhood Park, the expansion of Ralph Dills Park, and is currently working on the Maywood Riverfront Park. For more information find TPL on-line at www.tpl.org.