On February 28, Santa Monica city officials are scheduled to mark the grand opening of Historic Belmar Park with a virtual ribbon cutting ceremony.
The new green space, which replaced a surface parking lot, is located just east of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium at 4th Street and Pico Boulevard. The park's 3.5-acre field consists of artificial turf, and is built to support soccer and other outdoor sports.
Proposals for a sports field at 4th and Pico date to the 1990s, and were later formalized by a master plan in 2005. Belmar Park is the third large green space to open within Santa Monica's Civic Center in recent years, following the completion of Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square in 2015.
The name of the new park is a direct reference to the historic Belmar neighborhood, a thriving African-American enclave in Santa Monica from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century, when much of the community was demolished to make way for the Santa Monica Civic Center and the extension of the I-10 freeway. Prior to the neighborhood's mid-century redevelopment, LAist reports that African-Americans comprised 25 percent of the Santa Monica’s population, compared to just 4 percent in 2020.
Outdoor exhibits distributed throughout the park reference the history of Belmar, including the art installation "A Resurrection in Four Stanzas," which was created by April Banks and historian Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson. The various displays are a part of the Belmar History + Art project, which tells the stories of Black community members who were displaced by the development of the Civic Center in the 1950s.
“It is encouraging to be a part of this project dedicated to sharing the history and memories of our community that were overlooked for many years,” said Robbie Jones, a local historian and activist who served as an advisory committee member for the Belmar History + Art project. “This park and the dedicated artwork represent the displaced Santa Monica families and offer a starting point for the healing process of our Black community.”
The City of Santa Monica is currently in the midst of developing a "right of return" policy which would grant displaced residents and their descendents priority placement on the city's affordable housing waiting list. A presentation on the new program is scheduled for the February 23 meeting of the Santa Monica City Council.
To register for the virtual grand opening celebration, visit santamonica.gov/historicbelmarpark. A recording of the virtual event will be rebroadcast on CityTV Channel 16 on Monday, March 1, 2021, at 8 p.m., and available on the City's Youtube channel. To learn more on the Belmar History + Art Project, visit santamonica.gov/arts/belmar.
- Santa Monica (Urbanize LA)