Not all parks are created equal*

people's eye
people’s eye

UNIDAD Park, is an area with a dimension of about 150 feet by 150 feet, situated at Beverly boulevard at the Historic Filipinotown. Call it a hidden gem, if you will. Because it is likely that you’ll miss the place even if you were driving at a snail’s pace.

But once inside this pocket park, a huge and beautiful mural (titled Gintong Kasaysayan, gintong pamana) is certain to notify a visitor that the place belongs to a rich heritage.

The artist who created the mural, Eliseo Silva, 44, recalled that the area would have been a parking space today had its original owner, Dr. Carmencita Chuateco, agreed to sell it to a commercial entity.

The mural, which depicts Filipino American labor leaders Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, has been there even before the park was established in 2007 and unveiled in September 2009 as Unidad Park.

Silva said Unidad Park sits in probably the most historically significant neighborhood in the City of Los Angeles as far as Filipino Americans are concerned.

“This is where Filipinos of the pre-1965 migration settled,” Silva explained, “nandiyan ang St. Columban Catholic Church, Iglesia ni Cristo and other places where Filipinos used to converge.”

Being managed by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANT), Unidad Park has been enclosed with a fence and gate. It has a compact kids’ playground, concrete benches and a gardening space.

Silva said if there would be any improvement to the park, he would want a restroom to be built in it.

“The park was built on the notion that it would be used by residents who live nearby. But because of its significance to the Filipino American community, it has become a favorite place for gatherings and celebrations. So people from far away places come to the park. Kaya kailangan ang banyo,” Silva added.

Myrla Baldonado, a labor and community organizer who tends a plot in the park’s garden area, said Unidad Park is at the heart of neighborhood that has diverse cultural colors which make it a perfect place to initiate and experience positive and unifying community interactions.

On a personal level, Baldonado said “tending a plot in the park’s garden helps her get in touch of my deeper self.”

Ruth Acosta, apparently of Hispanic ancestry, comes regularly at the park with her seven-year-old daughter. She finds Unidad Park to be sufficiently managed relative to “type of neighborhood where it is situated.”

“I feel safe when we are here. The people are friendly,” Acosta said.

Acosta promptly called our attention to another pocket park about a mile away at the corner of Colton and Welcome streets.

While the said pocket park looked decent from the outset, residents have been reporting about finding empty beer and wine bottles there. Some people have reportedly even found used syringes at the periphery of the said park.

Weekend Balita/US Asian Post, during its own visit to the place immediately noticed that the pocket park did not have fence and gate like the Unidad Park.

Los Angeles County, according to the Countrywide Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment is “park poor compared to other urban areas throughout the United States.”

The same study found out that “low-income communities of color are the worst off in terms of park availability.” It says more than half of LA County residents live in areas classified either “Very High Need,” averaging 0.7 acres per 1,000 residents, or “High Need,” averaging 1.6 acres per 1,000 residents.

Overall, LA County provides an average of 3.3 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents but those parks “are disproportionately distributed.”






* The opinion of this author is his/hers alone. It is not necessarily the views of Beyond Deadlines.

Abner Galino
The author is a poet and a writer. He was a cultural worker before he became a reporter for Tinig ng Masa and Malaya Midday Edition during the Marcos regime. He later became a reporter of People's Tonight shortly after 1986 EDSA Revolution. He went on to become its Chief of Reporters, City Editor and News Editor. He retired after 15 years in the Journal Group of Publications. He now writes for Weekend Balita and the US Asian Post (USAP), weekly Filipino-American newspapers based in Los Angeles, California.

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