Echo Park residents urge city officials to save recreation area for at-risk youth

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Echo Park residents and a community group urged officials not to replace a recreation area with an affordable housing project during a demonstration outside Los Angeles City Hall Wednesday.

The playground was supposed to be replaced by an affordable housing project, but now that plan is coming under fire.

The residents say that the playground for at-risk youth holds greater significance to the community.

"El Centro is not against affordable housing. We just want to make sure we save our playgrounds for our youth," said Fernando Chacon, program director of El Centro Del Pueblo.

The playground is on a city-owned lot operated by El Centro Del Pueblo, which services at-risk youth.

Some of the kids spoke during a Wednesday morning city council meeting.

"This playground is not just benches and grass. It is where I grew up, my second home. If you tear it down, you're tearing down my second home," said one young girl at the meeting.

L.A. school board member Jackie Goldberg was on the city council several years ago when the playground was built and says it should be saved.

She said it has provided safety for young people in the community and has helped people get out of gangs.

Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell, who represents the area, says the lot that serves as a playground is underutilized. He also said the housing project includes recreational space.

"It has the zoning that could accommodate up to 100 units of permanent supportive housing for the homeless and incorporate the uses that El Centro Del Pueblo currently takes advantage of recreationally outdoors," O'Farrell said.

Leaders of El Centro Del Pueblo say the housing project could be built on a city-owned parking lot across the street, but city officials say that's not possible.

O'Farrell said he's open to meeting with officials at El Centro Del Pueblo to discuss their suggestions and concerns.
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