In spite of the unprecedented downturn in our nation's state and local economies, the Department of Recreation and Parks and its many outstanding employees continue to promote community welfare through programs and services offered at our over 420 parks citywide. My personal commitment and those of our outstanding workforce is to continue to provide these critical and necessary programs to you, our citizens.
Since 2007, the City of Los Angeles, as well as every city across the world, has been forced to reduce its expenditures. These budget reductions have hit every department in the City and have been especially felt by the Department of Recreation and Parks. Although the Department gets a direct appropriation from the City's property tax valuation, citywide services (water and electricity, indirect personnel costs and trash pickup) which had been provided as a centralized cost to all City departments is now being allocated against the Department. These indirect costs now account for over 23% ($43 million) of the entire Department’s budget. The end result is that the Department no longer has this $43 million to spend on discretionary programs and enhanced maintenance of our parks.
This reduction in community/people dollars has required reductions and eliminations of programs and the cleanliness of our park system. We have had to eliminate or greatly reduce our licensed child care programs, close our Recreation Centers to scheduled programs on Sundays and Holidays, eliminate multiple daily cleanings of our facilities, and increased fees to park users. These reductions and eliminations have not been done easily or without my own personal reservations, but have been required in order to keep the quality and quantity of our Core Program mission. None of these reductions were easy.
Our mutual goal is to continue to enhance our recreational and social experiences in our parks. As we go forward, we will continue to have a strong presence of municipal employees providing the majority of park programs. However, to ensure we continue to provide these necessary and critical recreation and social programs, the Department will actively solicit and encourage other non-profits to help minimize the impact of the City budget shortfalls by partnering with us at our recreation facilities.
The Department and the City also need to look at our future. Los Angeles is one of the World's Great Cities and we must continue to assume the leadership role in Urban Planning while we see a strong increase in our population base. Currently, over 80% of all Americans live in Urban Cities. Our youth are spending less than half the time in outdoor activities than once ago, and it is estimated that they spend an average of seven hours a day interfacing with electronic devices.
Los Angeles is also viewed as not having enough “accessible” park space for its citizens. A 2004 study compiled by the Trust for Public Land estimated that over 33% of our children lived within a quarter mile of a park. Our goal should be that every child should have easy access to open space. Over the past six years, we have added 40 parks and 650 acres of park land but that is certainly not enough. We now have plans to add 50 parks over the next three years in our most densely populated and park-poor areas to help remove physical barriers for access to open space.
I am extremely honored to be the General Manager of this extremely important Department during this time of crisis and extremely proud of the many exceptional men and women who work daily in our parks to provide active programmed recreation and the safety and cleanliness of our facilities. Please visit our parks system and take the time to say thank you to those who work to make our lives and our community better.