Capping Freeways to Make Parks: Who Wants A Billion Dollar Bike Path?

A couple of years ago I was working on a cover story for the LA Weekly about the retched state of L.A.'s park system, when I found about about a plan to cover the 101 Freeway in downtown and put a park on top of it. The idea made perfect sense at the time. This was at the height of the housing boom, when buying new land for parks was wildly expensive. If you can't buy it, build it.

I recently found out that another cap park is in the concept stage for the 101 in Hollywood. An Urban Land Institute story on the proposed Hollywood Cap Park put the price tag for that project at $1.15 billion.

I love the idea of cap parks, but...wow. Phase One of the Expo Line only cost $930 million.

So much for that idea, right?

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Just to be sure, I spoke with Metro's Jose Ubaldo about using Measure R funds towards a cap park over the 101. In this economic climate, it seems like Measure R is the only guaranteed source of funding that could pull off a project of that magnitude. The UI piece argued that cap parks usually lead to transportation infrastructure improvements. So maybe Metro could somehow justify the use of Measure R funds.

"Not unless they build a bike path on top," Ubaldo told me.

That would be one expensive bike path.

"This would have to mainly be a Caltrans project," Ubaldo said.

I called Caltrans, which sounded high on the idea. But can anyone really imagine any governmental organization in America trying to justify a billion dollar park in this economic and political climate?

LA has a desperate lack of public space. One day, hopefully, cap parks can help become a permanent solution to that problem. But, in the meanwhile, it seems to me public space-minded individuals would be better off throwing their support (and money) behind events like CicLAvia. If we can't buy the land, and we can't build new land, let's transform the resources we already have--our roads.

The L.A. Vitamin Report is a column about quality of life issues by Matthew Fleisher. It is brought to KCET's SoCal Focus blog in partnership with Spot.Us, which receives support from the California Endowment.


The photo used on this post is by Flickr user DonnaGrayson. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

About the Author

I'm a veteran LA-based journalist and editor who has been a staff writer with the LA Weekly and senior editor of the LA City Beat. I'm currently a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, editor for Fishbowl LA, and ...

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"Retched"- the past tense of the verb "to retch."
"Wretched"- an adjective meaning dismal, poorly-maintained, awful, etc.

Seriously, journalists?

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The irony here is in framing it as a transportation project (for the bike lane) when it really is a real estate project. Heck, it's not even a parks project! The park and the possible bike lane are only hooks on which to hang it - and with the cap some prospect of revitalizing the larger 101 corridor area and the neighborhoods immediately adjacent. From a park or recreation perspective, the cap is a holy grail for Hollywood quality-of-life. From a planning perspective, though, these neighborhoods are like kindling: they need only a spark and the right conditions to ignite. A cap (however you fund it) would greatly increase property values and thus investment in some of the region's worst housing stock. Ironically, whatever the price tag, the only people who should be wary of the project are the local residents who would likely be displaced over time.