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New grass planted at LAPD headquarters park, but budget woes complicate upkeep

July 16, 2010 | 12:50 pm

Sal Martinez waters the newly planted sod at the LAPD headquarters building in downtown Los Angeles Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles’ new downtown community green is back from the dead.

And now officials are grappling with the challenge of upkeep for the popular open space, located next to LAPD headquarters, in the face of a budget crisis and workforce reductions.

This week, crews replaced nearly an acre of lawn at the resting spot and urban dog walk that became a hit with downtown workers and loft dwellers. 

The first expanse of grass dedicated last year quickly withered away. Officials blamed the demise on trucks and cranes brought in to set up tents for a Los Angeles Police Foundation fundraiser. The green languished for months and turned almost entirely brown as insurance companies haggled over the repair tab.

But last month, after a Times report on the saga of the lawn, the police foundation fronted $13,000 to pay for replanting.

Normally, the city’s Recreation and Parks Department would take over maintenance of the completed space, which includes palm trees, dirt paths and planters filled with native vegetation, according to Thom Brennan, commanding officer of the police department’s facilities division.

But like many city agencies coping with recession-driven furloughs, vacancies and layoffs, the parks department is struggling to keep up with the maintenance tasks it already has, he said. 
“We’re going to do our best to use our own folks, and any assistance we can get from parks and rec,” Brennan said. That will include pulling in LAPD groundskeepers from the police academy.

In time, he said, “my big hope is [the parks department] will at least be able to take over cutting the lawn and trimming the trees.”

The police department also is considering using offenders required to perform court-ordered community service to help with some upkeep, he said.

The new sod, a Bermuda grass that should hold up to heavy use, will go dormant in winter. It will be roped off until September to ensure it takes root, Brennan said.

As part of the do-over, doggie stations, with plastic bags and disposal bins, will be installed, he said. Who ultimately will be servicing those also remains unclear.

“This is kind of uncharted territory,” Brennan said. “The challenge is keeping everything up.”

-- Rich Connell

Photo: Sal Martinez waters the newly planted sod at the LAPD headquarters building in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times