CIVIC CENTER — Santa Monica’s Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square, which opened to the public late last year, have been named “Frontline Parks” by the national urban park advocacy organization City Parks Alliance.

Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.

“We selected Santa Monica’s Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square for recognition because they exemplify the power of urban parks to build community and make our cities sustainable and vibrant,” said Catherine Nagel, executive director, City Parks Alliance. “We hope that, by shining the spotlight on these parks, we can raise awareness about both the necessity and the promise of public open space to spur investment in our nation’s urban parks.”

Tongva dancers during the opening ceremony for the park, held in October, 2013. (File photo)

Built on a site previously occupied by the RAND Corporation’s headquarters and more recently a surface parking lot, Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square encompass 7 acres in Santa Monica’s Civic Center. The completion of these parks, which cost taxpayers roughly $43 million, represents a key step toward completing a plan that re-envisions the 67-acre Civic Center area as a vibrant new neighborhood, city officials said.

The parks provide links between the area and the iconic Santa Monica Pier, Palisades Park, Downtown, and Santa Monica State Beach.

Tongva Park, named for the indigenous people who have lived in the Los Angeles area for thousands of years, boasts hundreds of trees, a playground, public art, water features, and observation decks that offer views of the Pacific Ocean.

Designed by James Corner’s Field Operations landscape architecture firm, known for their work on the elevated High Line in New York City, the design is meant to recall the Southern California arroyo landscape of washes and ravines. With dramatic rising and falling topography, the park is organized into four thematic hills, providing different experiences for visitors.

The arroyo theme continues through the 1-acre Ken Genser Square, located in front of the landmarked City Hall and named in honor of a long-serving City Council member and mayor. Though much smaller and more formal than its neighbor, the new plaza is more than just a space to pass through when going to City Hall for permits and business licenses; seating areas and a water feature make it a place to sit and have lunch or to enjoy the sunshine, representatives with the alliance said.

“We are honored that Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square have received national recognition by the City Parks Alliance as Frontline Parks,” said Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor. “Through creative use of space, the parks have transformed a flat asphalt lot into a magical oasis amid our urban environment. Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square provide welcome respite and enhance the well-being of people of all ages — residents, visitors, and area workers alike.”

Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square are being featured on CPA’s website,, during the month of January.

One of a handful of water features at Tongva Park, which was designed to resemble an arroyo. (File photo)

the Southern California arroyo landscape of washes and ravines

the Southern California arroyo landscape of washes and ravines

City Parks Alliance is the only independent, nationwide membership organization solely dedicated to urban parks. It leads and serves a community of diverse organizations, championing high quality urban parks throughout the nation. CPA’s vision is that everyone in urban America will have access to parks and green spaces that are clean, safe and vibrant.

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