Photos by Mathew Scott


Proposition 12

In 2000, California residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Safe Neighborhood Parks, Clean Water, Clean Air, and Coastal Protection Bond Act, known as Proposition 12, which allocated $2.1 billion to California State Parks to address hundreds of critical State Park System needs across California, particularly for high-density, park-poor areas. 

As the former Los Angeles Sector Superintendent for California State Parks, Sean Woods understood the detrimental effects of diminished access to public green spaces.

“We have these great resources and assets, but the people who come to our parks don’t represent the diversity of the state. We need to build more parks in urban areas. We need to hire more people who look like California, and we need to have our programs be much more culturally relevant and accessible to all.”

Closer to home, Proposition 12 secured the funds needed for the construction of two future parks, Los Angeles State Historic Park (known as the Cornfield) and Rio de Los Angeles State Historic Park. For many years, grassroots coalitions had lobbied for a State Park in these neighborhoods. The Chinatown Yard Alliance and the Coalition for a State Park at Taylor Yard worked tirelessly to organize, inform, and rally the Northeast LA and Chinatown communities to envision a future State Park. 

Sean remembers how they felt when they heard the news. “People were overjoyed. The phenomenon was so incredible, because here were these park-poor communities that were just like, really so under-resourced, just ignored, with gang problems. 

The people who participated in that coalition couldn’t believe it. They really couldn’t believe it. They were like, ‘we won and we’ve got $27 million to buy this land. How did that happen?’”

Passing Proposition 12 didn’t exactly ensure that these parks would be built. The interests of outside developers and politics got in the way, and again the coalitions had to continue fighting for the green spaces that other neighborhoods already enjoyed. 

“We really had to fight tooth and nail for every dollar we got. The park actually was in trouble during the downturn in the budget. They basically said, ‘we’re gonna stop all funding for all new development.’”

Witnessing the continuous back and forth reminded Sean of the necessity for a complete systems change. 

“It was about making sure that organizations like State Parks, that are supposed to represent all Californians, need to be more responsive to urban communities.”

Sean Woods is Chief of Planning for Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation where he is responsible for the oversight of planning and management issues related to the Department’s 70,000 acres of parkland. He is particularly focused on assisting LA County Parks develop strategies and implement actions that promote equity, sustainability, climate resilience and environmental justice within the countywide park system. Before his current position, he served for 15 years as the Los Angeles Sector Superintendent for California State Parks where he oversaw the development of Los Angeles State Historic Park and Rio de Los Angeles State Park.