The passage of Prop 12, the statewide parks bond co-authored by Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa in the spring of 2000 provided the potential means to realize a green vision of Taylor Yard. At The River Project’s urging, in June 2000, the Governor and the State Legislature approved $45 Million to acquire lands at Taylor Yard to create the first new State Park in Los Angeles in a generation, the first major piece of the Los Angeles River Parkway. Nevertheless, the Lennar project was moving forward.
The Coalition developed two powerful visuals to illustrate what we were fighting for. The first showed what the site would have looked like if all the approved plans were allowed to move forward. The second showed our vision for the future: 62 acres of restored habitat along the riverfront; 40 acres of active and passive recreation with soccer, baseball, basketball, tennis, a children's play area, a community building and walking trails; 24 acres of mixed-use development with open space, retail, housing and a light rail station.
Unable to reach any agreement with Lennar, The River Project filed an opposition to the project's MND. In order to further challenge the project, we organized the Coalition for a State Park at Taylor Yard – an alliance of 36 community, business, faith-based, environmental and social justice organizations. We set up a website for outreach, enlisted support through numerous community meetings, held events to bring the issues to the attention of the media and engaged local schools and the public in letter-writing campaigns to both the project’s proponents and our legislators. Supporters blanket the community with Coalition lawn signs.
In January 2001, the Coalition for a State Park at Taylor Yard filed suit against Lennar, the Union Pacific Railroad and the City of LA, to challenge the City’s approval, citing clear violations of CEQA in the areas of air quality, water quality and traffic, among others. The firm Jan Chatten-Brown and Associates, with the NRDC acting as co-counsel represented the Coalition. The suit was heard in Los Angeles Superior Court on July 20, 2001.
In a major victory for the petitioners, the Court ruled in our favor on issues of air quality, water quality and bike paths. The successful suit sent the project back to the City of LA and required Lennar to prepare a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Lennar chose not to develop their project, providing State Parks the opportunity to acquire the property.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation acquired the 40 acres of Parcel D at Taylor Yard in December 2001. After protracted negotiations, the City of Los Angeles agreed to lease half the site for $1 a year and manage the active recreational areas. This established a unique cooperative partnership between the two agencies that allowed the state to create a seamless park that met the community’s needs.
In December 2003, the California Department of Parks and Recreation acquired the 18 riverfront acres of Parcel G1 to add to the overall park.
The first phase of the park envisioned by the Coalition - Rio de Los Angeles State Park - was developed with funding from State park bonds. It opened on Earth Day, 2007.