New park to be built along the Grand Canal.
By Sam Catanzaro
What is now an empty lot of mud along the Grand Canal will soon be a park complete with a playground, exercise equipment, native landscaping, and bike racks.
On March 23, after a week of heavy rain, City officials and neighborhood leaders put their boots on and got muddy for the groundbreaking of Via Dolce Park along the Grand Canal.
“This is going to be a wonderful addition to our parks system and it is all thanks to the community,” said Ramon Barajas, Assistant General Manager of Planning, Maintenance & Construction for the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.
The lot where Via Dolce Park will be built is located in the California Coastal Zone, which means that there are more regulations that must be accounted for in the planning process. Projects proposed within the Coastal Zone often face appeals and lawsuits. Via Dolce Park faced none of these barriers, and the planning process took only four years, which is quick for a Coastal Zone project.
“Anything in the Coastal Zone takes twice as long,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin. “Here we are four years later doing the groundbreaking. That is a long time but frankly by government’s standard that’s actually light speed.”
The process began when some residents of Marina Peninsula and Silver Strand noticed that there were a bunch of empty lots up for sale. Neighborhood leaders got together and saved three of these lots for community use.
“We had the whole community behind us,” said Sandy West, a member of the Marina Peninsula Community Council. “We saved three lots, and this is one of them and it was always a plan for it to be a park so it is amazing that we are really having a park right now, right here in Venice.”
Originally the City planned to just put simple landscaping in these lots to make them green spaces, but neighborhood leaders pushed for a playground to be added. Without any nearby parks and many families with young children in the community, the City changed their plans to include a play place and other facilities.
“We are going to end up with a park that is not just a pretty little area for people to be in but a place where children can come and play,” said Fred Karlsen, President of the Silver Strand Marina Homeowners Association.
Even though construction has not started yet, City officials are confident that the park will be open by the summer. Even with this quick construction process, the City is also sure that this park will last for many generations.
“Our facilities are planned to last for 50 years at least and many of our facilities are way older than that so when we design them we want to make sure that they actually survive the heavy use that they get,” said Neil Drucker, Program Manager for the Bureau of Engineering.