The City of Los Angeles has taken the first steps towards a $20-million improvement project at MacArthur Park, according to a memo from the Housing and Community Investment Department.

HCID is pursuing nearly $1.3 million in federal funding that would allow the park to install new features to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including pathways, parking stalls, a preschool area and restroom improvements.  Additionally, the funds would allow for preliminary architecture and engineering for a new boathouse with restrooms and concession facilities.

Spanning 32 acres across opposite sides of Wilshire Boulevard, MacArthur Park dates back to the late 19th century, and once served as the outdoor living room for the once-posh Westlake neighborhood.  However, its reputation soured along with the surrounding community in the second half of the 20th century, with its wealthy residents fleeing to new subdivisions in the San Fernando Valley and the Westside.  Since then, many of those large mansions have been converted to multifamily housing, with a large population of Central American immigrants that makes Westlake among the most dense neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

The rehabilitation effort, led by 1st District Councilmember Gil Cedillo, builds upon a $2.5-million renovation in 2008 that added a soccer field, a playground and picnic tables to the north half of the park.