The problem and potential of Oakland’s parks
Hey! I wrote something new and it’s out today.
Here’s the scoop. There are many ways to understand a city's legacy of inequity. One is through its parks, which, in Oakland, turn out to be both emblems of inequity & active engines of more of it. I wrote about why this is so—& how things could change.
The view that parks are essential is pretty well established. Among other things, parks promote social cohesion, decrease pollution, and improve life outcomes. But in Oakland, as in many other cities, park access tends to be a luxury.
Oakland residents in low-income neighborhoods have access to 78% less parkspace than those in high-income neighborhoods, and neighborhoods of color enjoy access to 69% less parkland than white neighborhoods.
The divide, unsurprisingly, is geographical. Oakland dedicates only 11% of its built environment to parks and recreation—and almost all of it is in the hills, where residents are wealthy and mostly white. What parks exist elsewhere tend to be small/poorly maintained.
Disparities in park investment have been found to deepen class divides and widen disparities in life outcomes. Oakland neighborhoods with the fewest parks also see higher rates of crime, more pollution, & shorter lifespans.
“Parks are like schools,” Darlene Flynn, executive director of the Oakland Department of Race and Equity, told me. “Neglecting them causes generational harm.” That harm has become more evident over the pandemic.
The story of Oakland’s parks is an important part of Oakland’s story writ large. I’m excited to share this. Thanks to anyone who gives it a read.
Much love! Happy holidays to all :)