Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Opening of Vista Hermosa in Downtown is a Beautiful Sight

Photo courtesy of Ed Fuentes/Blogdowntown

As a public official, it’s always a great feeling when you see something you worked so hard on come to fruition. But this last Saturday, with the opening of Vista Hermosa Park in downtown L.A., a project I spearheaded as a member of LAUSD’s school board in 2003, the feelings of joy, relief and pride shivered through my mind constantly.

I’m sure the beauty of the park, with its lush hills, streams and rocks, had a little something to do with it. But seeing the community – particularly the hundreds of kids who showed up just having the time of their lives – that really did it for me.

While I was on the school board, I enlisted the support of community members and elected officials to come up with a plan to redesign the troubled Belmont Learning Center and push for the construction of the 10.5-acre park. Vista Hermosa (Beautiful View) overlooks the downtown skyline and is located next to the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, which will open this fall.

Some people might ask, what’s the big deal about a park? But for the Belmont community, which consists mostly of low-income residents who have embarrassingly little access to green space, this park helps right the wrongs they’ve been dealt. Every kid deserves a place to play. And Vista Hermosa is a great place to play and learn.

The battle in 2003 to approve my plan was simply a matter of doing the right thing.

We built a coalition, including the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, to design the park and help gather political support to get the necessary votes on the board to complete the new plan. It was quite a struggle, but I was fighting to give this community something they could be proud of for years to come. It wasn’t easy, but look at the results.

I want to thank my fellow board members, Marlene Canter, Mike Lansing and Genethia Hudley Hayes for their votes to make this happen. They showed great courage during a tough time and this community greatly appreciates that. I also want to thank Mónica García, my chief of staff at the time and current LAUSD school board president, my former staff member David Cobb, and Councilman Ed Reyes, for their work to bring his plan to fruition.

Vista Hermosa Park is located at 100 N. Toluca Street, at the corner of First Street and Toluca.