With the second largest population in the United States, Los Angeles is starved for park and recreational space, a fundamental feature of livable cities. The beach is among the last "natural" open spaces, unique because it is adjacent to the urban areas of Los Angeles, closer than most other open space resources to the densest parts of the city. Yet our beaches are increasingly threatened by pollution and other urban pressures. Closures, warnings, and advisories due to unsafe water conditions degrade the beach, limiting the already short supply of open space in LA. Pollution negatively impacts both the health of the beach ecosystem and human health.
This sections focuses on LA beach use, including beach accessibility for culturally diverse residents of Los Angeles County. Data reported here are derived from the USC Sea Grant publication Attitudes toward Marine Wildlife among Residents of Southern California's Coastal Zone . Overall beach use activities, for all racial/ethnic groups, are shown in the chart below.
Access to coastal ocean resources was generally not seen as a problem by most survey respondents: only 22% felt they did not enjoy adequate access to local beaches. Barriers respondents cited are listed in the adjacent figure, showing the percent of respondents who noted each barrier that affected them. Results showed that Latinos and Asian-Pacific Islanders were twice as likely to report barriers to access than other respondent groups. Approximately one quarter of all those who faced a barrier to beach access cited beach pollution as the primary factor keeping them from visiting the beach: almost half of Latino respondents indicated that their perceptions of beach pollution kept them from using the coastal zone's beaches. Though the vast majority of African American respondents felt they had adequate beach access, 45% of those who experienced barriers had trouble with transportation to the beach.
FOCUS: Latino Immigrants
The survey included 223 Latino immigrant respondents; this
group was characterized by relatively low education levels and low-to-moderate
household incomes with 94% earning less than $49,999 annually. Over 64%
of this group listed Spanish as the primary language spoken at home,
and almost half had children under age 18 living at home. With respect
to beach use, our findings show that:
|Highlight: Latino respondents living in the U.S. longer than 20 years went to the beach less and participated in fewer activities than newer (less than five years in the U.S.) residents. Longer-term residents respondents were more likely to participate in water sports, perhaps reflecting superior income status.|
Activity and use patterns did not vary drastically by duration of residence in the U.S. Most differences that were present, however, occurred between new arrivals (less than five years in the U.S.) and the longest duration residents (more than 20 years in the U.S.). Newly arrived immigrants were more apt to use the beach, compared with those living in the U.S. longer than 20 years (see table below). These differences are possibly attributable to differences in family status (such as having younger children at home), age, and socio-economic status. Perhaps because it is a low-cost activity, those with fewer economic resources are able to visit the beach more frequently; also, newer residents tend to be younger, and younger respondents had higher rates of beach use.