LA Open Acres launched in 2014 to provide a much-needed database of the open, accessible lands in Los Angeles.
As many Angelenos know, the city can be severely impacted by vacant, blighted and otherwise abandoned spaces. But vacant spaces can be healthy places—and we saw an opportunity to transform these lands into vibrant parks and playgrounds and even affordable housing for our much-loved city.
LA Open Acres is a project of Community Health Councils in Los Angeles—a community-based health education and policy organization dedicated to promoting social justice and equity. The site came about through a collaborative effort between Community Health Councils, C-Lab (Columbia Laboratory for Architectural Broadcasting), and 596 Acres with funding from the Goldhirsch Foundation through a grant by LA2050.
The vision for LA Open Acres was on a scale never before seen in LA.
We wanted to enable Los Angeles community members to take advantage of the vacant land in their communities. We would provide not just the location of the land, but resources and know-how on transforming them. We wanted our community to be empowered to change blights to public assets.
By 2050, every resident in Los Angeles will enjoy the myriad benefits of having parks and open space within an easy walking distance from their home.
By 2050, neighbors working together throughout Los Angeles will create hundreds of community forest networks, mini-parks, urban farms, green markets, plazas, playgrounds, and other public spaces. LA Open Acres will serve as the catalyst and the way-finding tool for these realizations of local desires – the key to unlocking the potential of acres of underutilized land.
WHO WE ARE
Since 1992 Community Health Councils (CHC) has led coalitions in South LA and beyond to advocate for healthy communities. CHC utilizes data, experience and the expertise of community stakeholders to shape policy, systems and environmental change. This approach provides an exceptional opportunity for people of different backgrounds to build a shared understanding of the degree of health justice issues, allowing them to examine the root causes of health inequity.
C-LAB, the Columbia Laboratory for Architectural Broadcasting, is an experimental research unit devoted to the development of new forms of communication in architecture, set up as a semi-autonomous think and action tank at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University. C-Lab’s research focuses on techniques for communication about urban environments; their projects use mapping as a means of uncovering hidden potentials in cities. A current project maps new, unacknowledged ‘neighborhoods’ of New York, based on commonalities and underlying networks of support.
596 Acres is a non-profit organization founded in Brooklyn, NY, that builds online organizing platforms for land access advocates and facilitators, all based on the evolving Living Lots framework. In New York City, 596 Acres runs a local Community Land Access Program. In 2013, 596 Acres partnered with the Garden Justice Legal Initiative at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia to launch Grounded in Philly. In November 2013, 596 Acres released a beta version of LivingLotsNOLA in partnership with the New Orleans Food & Farm Network. Living Lots is the basis for LA Open Acres (launched May 2014). In November 2014, the platform is becoming the basis of LivingLotsNYC and improvements the Grounded in Philly site. 596 Acres' tools are building a movement while transforming municipal data into information advocates can use. 596 Acres is a project of the Fund for the City of New York.
The convening of these three organizations catalyzed the creation of LA Open Acres, which engages and greatly informs the work of Community Health Councils. CHC's work in environmental health, highlights the fact that many communities in Los Angeles severely lack access to parks and open space. This directly impacts the quality of the environment through deteriorated air and water quality, noise pollution, reduced tree cover, etc. Studies have also shown that a lack of parks and open space has substantial indirect effects on public health by reducing opportunities for children and adults to participate in outdoor activities.
Our data comes from a number of sources. If you are interested, the code is all in GitHub.
The base data helped us find the vacant lots that appear on our map. We started with the parcels and local roll data available via the LA County Assessor's Tax Parcel Base Map data. We used the local roll's use codes to find parcels that were coded vacant and have an improvement value of zero.
We then whittled away vacant parcels using indicators that the land is either not vacant or is being used in some other way. First, we excluded parcels that overlapped with buildings according to the LA County GIS Data Portal's Countywide Building Outlines. Then, we excluded parcels that overlapped with protected areas according to the California Protected Areas Database.
The boundary data is what backs our map's filtering features. Currently this includes:
- community plan areas via the LA Department of City Planning
- council districts via the LA County GIS Data Portal
- neighborhood councils via the City of LA
We considered but ultimately decided not to include side yards, which are available through the Department of General Services. Side yards are too specific to the property owners adjacent to them to be generally useful.
For media inquiries, please contact
CHC Interim Communications Director Nancy Duan