Teamwork Bodes Well for Kids
A lawsuit last month focused overdue attention on the shortage of athletic fields for girls in the west San Fernando Valley. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the federal civil rights lawsuit in April on behalf of the West Valley Girls Softball League, accusing Los Angeles of relegating the league to inferior fields while reserving better diamonds for boys. Despite a number of positive steps by the Los Angeles Unified School District and the City Council, the case remains active--as well it should.
The real problem, though, is not just that girls in the West Valley might get shortchanged. In fact, kids across the city of both genders get ripped off when it comes to usable city parks. Although Los Angeles ranks well among large cities in terms of urban open space, it fares not nearly as well on the amount of land that can be used for organized recreation--particularly in more crowded, poorer parts of the city. While that’s outside the purview of the ACLU lawsuit, it’s at the core of the problem.
Meantime, city officials have responded to the lawsuit with a number of creative--however temporary--solutions. For instance, the city and the school district struck a deal to keep campuses open for sports and public recreation after classes and on weekends. Recreation and Parks Commission President Steven L. Soboroff pointed out that playing fields are not being scheduled as efficiently as possible. Soboroff also proposed working with large public landowners such as the Department of Water and Power and the Army Corps of Engineers to develop fields. At the same time, the Little Leagues in Encino and Granada Hills offered the girls a place to play.
All are steps in the right direction, an encouraging example of cooperation between public agencies and neighbors. Developing new urban parkland demands the marshaling of two scarce resources: land and cash. But the spirit of teamwork emerging in the wake of the ACLU lawsuit offers hope that a city like Los Angeles--where outdoor sports are part of the culture--can do right by its kids.