A Wealthy Developer Owns A Rare Plot Of Green In A Very Crowded Part Of L.A. What Does He Owe His Neighbors?

A grassy horseshoe-shaped park an acre wide in the heart of Koreatown takes up some of the hottest real estate in Los Angeles.

Pine trees tower over rocks scattered in the center of the plot, the only green space for miles along Wilshire Boulevard. Residents say it's a much-needed respite in one of the densest, most park-poor neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Even if a private security guard will chase you off the minute you set foot on the grass.

The park was created in 1966 by a family building a national headquarters for their insurance company. They built on just half the lot, turning the rest into a landscaped plaza they hoped would serve "to strengthen the central city, to enhance it, to beautify it."

Half a century later, Liberty Park, as the Mitchell family of Beneficial Insurance Group dubbed it, became a focal point of tensions between the latest building boom spurred by the city's housing shortage, and Angelenos living in increasing density.

The latest owner of the block, Koreatown developer Jamison Services, wanted to replace the park with a 36-story residential and commercial tower.

A year-long heated skirmish ended last month with the city designating the property a historic-cultural monument, protecting it from immediate development. The controversy over the park brought to a head the perennial question: What, if anything, does a wealthy owner of a private property owe the community and city around it?

Learn more at the L.A. Times