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Eastside could soon get a new 12-acre park under the Sixth Street Viaduct

The Sixth Street Viaduct near Boyle Heights could soon stretch over a new neighborhood park with sports courts, fields, picnic spots, a children’s play area and a plaza where artists can gather and display their work.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted this week to allocate $2 million to begin construction of the park under the recently opened bridge — a project that aims to increase green spaces in two historically park-poor neighborhoods.

“Park equity is not just a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of social justice,” Councilmember Kevin de León said in a statement. “All communities, regardless of their zip code, deserve access to quality parks and open spaces.

The Sixth Street Parks, Arts, and River Connectivity project is expected to cost more than $20 million, and construction is scheduled to begin in summer. The 12-acre public recreational space is to connect the Arts District and Boyle Heights neighborhoods, spanning both sides of the bridge along the L.A. River.

The Arts District area and Boyle Heights were found to have a need for public recreation areas, according to a 2016 parks assessment study funded by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. The average ratio of parkland in the county was 3.3 acres per 1,000 people, and Boyle Heights had less than a fifth of that.

When the bridge opened in July, people flocked in large numbers for selfies or an early-morning stroll.

“This bridge and park project has really brought us together to try and better our communities,” said Laura Velkei, an advocate for green spaces and a founding member of the Arts District Community Council of L.A. “We’re looking forward to any public space where people can gather and be a part of something bigger.”

Hargreaves Jones, the viaduct project designer, said the area is envisioned as an “urban park” with food trucks, lunch areas and sprawling gathering spots.

The Boyle Heights side will include sports courts and fields, picnic and grilling areas, a splash pad and a children’s play area, according to the city’s plan. The Arts District side will include a plaza where artists can gather and display their work.

“We’ve lost a lot of our local artists because of rapid development downtown, so this gives us an opportunity to program art for the general public and for the community at large. And that’s really exciting,” Velkei said.

The park will largely be funded by the Parks and Water Bond Act of 2018, which De León wrote when he was a state senator.

Velkei said the controversy surrounding racist comments made by city leaders, including De León, may have slowed progress on the viaduct project.

“We connected with Boyle Heights because we cannot lose this public space due to the shenanigans of people that will be gone in a couple of years,” she said.

The park is expected to be completed in 2024.

This story originally appeared on LA Times

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