DTLA's Grand Park to be renamed in honor of Gloria Molina

Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles will renamed in honor of Southland Latina political pioneer Gloria Molina, who announced last week she is battling terminal cancer, under a motion approved unanimously Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, who succeeded Molina in the county's First District seat, introduced the motion to dub the park "Gloria Molina Grand Park." Solis, who now holds the First District seat once occupied by Molina, said that it was appropriate that the park would be renamed in her honor.

"She wanted a park for all the people that was in the middle of the city," Solis said.

Solis and the other members of the board all wore purple on their clothes during Tuesday's meeting, and purple streaks in their hair in honor of Molina.

"It is her favorite color," Supervisor Holly Mitchell said, adding, "Purple is the color of royalty."

The 74-year-old Molina, who served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for more than two decades following terms in the state Assembly and on the L.A. City Council — and was the first Latina elected to each, announced her cancer diagnosis last week in a Facebook post.

Molina wrote that she has been receiving treatment for three years, but that, "at this point, it is very aggressive."

"I've lived a long, fulfilling and beautiful life," Molina said in the post, which is addressed to "dearest friends and beloved community."

"You should know that I'm not sad. I enter this transition in life feeling so fortunate. I have an amazing and caring family, wonderful friends, and worked with committed colleagues and a loyal team. Throughout my life I've had the support of many people."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Gloria Molina, former LA County Supervisor, battling terminal cancer

Molina, who grew up in Pico Rivera, was active in the early days of the Chicano movement, becoming an advocate for women's health issues — which she continued into her elected offices. At one point, she founded a Nurse Mentoring Program through local community colleges to address a nurse shortage.

She first won elective office in 1982, winning the 56th Assembly District seat and eventually leading a fight to quash a proposed prison in East L.A.

Molina won the City Council's First District seat in 1987, and was elected to the Board of Supervisors from the county's First District in 1991. She was the first woman elected to the board — once known as the "Five Little Kings" — though Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who was appointed to fill a vacancy, was the first woman to serve on the board.

Known as a sharp fiscal watchdog, Molina served as a supervisor until 2014, forced out by term limits enacted in 2002. On her exit in 2014, she recalled of her early years on the board, saying, "Everything seemed like a battle."

Prior to her elected positions, she worked as a deputy for presidential personnel in the Jimmy Carter White House.

"I'm really grateful for everyone in my life and proud of my family, career, mi gente, and the work we did on behalf of our community," Molina said in her Facebook post.

She continued, "I have a great daughter, son-in-law, a precious grandchild and another one on the way. I'm so excited! I am very appreciative of the doctors, nurses and health care professionals at City of Hope. ... They have taken good care of me.

"Most of all, I am fortunate to have this time to spend with family, friends and those who are special to me. Thank you all for your love and support."

The board auditorium was nearly full Tuesday as the supervisors discussed the matter. Speakers noted that development of the park was one of the supervisor's last accomplishments.

Former Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who also served with Molina on the Los Angeles City Council, said Molina was the park's champion.

He noted that the park was originally meant to center a Civic Center development project by the city, the county and The Related Companies, a development firm that had promised $50 million for the park. Yaroslavsky recounted that due to the 2008 recession, Related tried to back out of the park deal, but Molina dug in her heels and demanded the park. It took years, said Yaroslavsky, but "they created the park before they dug a shovelful of dirt for the rest of the development."

Several speakers applauded the courage of Molina, who was initially the solitary female presence on the board — which is now exclusively women.

"She was the only one in room," Supervisor Lindsey Horvath said.

Other speakers talked about her toughness and bravery in standing up for what she believed and the underserved constituents she represented. One speaker termed her a "force of nature."

While the Board of Supervisors was considering the Grand Park motion Tuesday morning, the Los Angeles City Council a few blocks away was introducing motions of its own to honor Molina. The first will formally throw the council's support behind the county's renaming of the park.

"It's among many really wonderful open spaces, including a plaza that she has also helped to build a lasting and enduring legacy," said Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who introduced the motion with Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez. "But for everyone that has had the opportunity to enjoy Grand Park, and all of its activations, we can thank the great Gloria Molina leader for that, which stretches as a 12-acre park from the Music Center to Los Angeles City Hall."

A second motion by Rodriguez and Councilman Kevin de León would rename the pedestrian crosswalks through Grand Park between Temple and First streets as the "Gloria Molina Legacy Pathway," meant to symbolize her connection to both City Hall and the county Hall of Administration.

Mayor Karen Bass attended the council meeting Tuesday to express her support for the council's two motions.

"Our struggle was nothing compared to the struggle that those that came before us had to wage," Bass said. "Gloria Molina impacted all of our lives considering her role pioneering environmental justice, her role as a fiscal watchdog and her advocacy for public health. She helped shape Southern California in many indelible ways."