The concept is simple. A community decides to recapture a piece of sidewalk to become a community gathering place. With the help of groups such as Central City Community Partners and a team of landscapers, urban designers and woodworkers, the once barren piece of sidewalk undergoes a face lift…add street furniture here, some potted plant life there…and just like magic a stretch of asphalt is reborn as a community’s living room. In some instances, the entire process has taken less than one month.
Angelenos have been drawn to Community Living Rooms because of the speed in which they can be built and the low cost to improve their streets. The Times’ reports:
Supporters say the innovation has brought some efficiency to what was once a cumbersome process. "People said that when they wanted a bus stop repaired or to fix the lighting or get a bench, they had to address five different entities," said Veronica McDonnell, executive director of Central City Neighborhood Partners. "We were really drawn to the idea of community living rooms. We saw it as an inexpensive way to deal with the bureaucracy of the city."
Central City Neighborhood Partners has worked with Stephen Rasmussen Cancian, the urban architect that created the Community Living Room concept in Oakland, since CCNP decided to build a living room in front of their own building to give something to the surrounding neighborhood.
The project proved so popular that CCNP began to incorporate Community Living Rooms into some of their other projects. Designer Magazine reports:
The Fifth Street Living Room led in turn to two other significant initiatives, starting with CCNP’s Positive Places Project. Working with four different community organizations, CCNP had gathered 1,000 surveys from bus riders, which revealed their biggest complaint was inadequate bus stops, some marked only with a sign. One of the answers was to build sidewalk living rooms at key bus stops in areas facing gentrification. The first site chosen was the sidewalk in front of the offices of Justice for Janitors, the Service Employees International Union local. This is a major bus stop for a transit-dependent population and the center of the predominately Latino Pico-Union neighborhood.
There are already 15 CLR’s around Los Angeles, 5 of which are at bus stops. Seven more are being planned throughout the city.
Photo: New York Times