People St: Garcetti and LADOT Declare Streets Are for People, Offer Help Re-Purposing Wasted Asphalt

Image from People St

Last week’s media-friendly launch of the Great Streets Program overshadowed another announcement that could have a far greater impact on how Los Angeles thinks about streets and public space. The city also announced the launch of People St (as in People Street), a program that will allow residents, business owners and non-profits to ask for and plan projects that convert portions of the street to bike corrals, parklets or plazas.

“People St represents one of the many tools in our Great Streets toolbox as we work to change the way Angelenos interact with the built environment, while using existing government resources to make City Hall work better for our residents and businesses,” writes Mayor Eric Garcetti in an open letter on the webpage. “Fundamental to People St is its bottom-up, community-based approach. I am proud of our city’s transportation and planning experts, but no one knows more about our neighborhoods than you.”

People St, declares that Los Angeles’ streets are the city’s largest public asset – covering over 6,500 miles of street – and that this asset is often times underused. Instead of unused asphalt, People St proposes to make that a useful and usable living space.

Just let LADOT know where, and the process is underway.

The LADOT and Garcetti Administration are looking at pilot projects such as Sunset Triangle Plaza, the parklets on Spring Street and Northeast Los Angeles, and the bike corral in front of Cafe Leche also in Northeast Los Angeles, and planning to make them common place. Are there underused car  parking spaces? Consider a bike corral…or a parklet. If there’s enough spaces not being used, maybe even consider creating a plaza.

It’s a nice vision.

“I am excited to see that the hard work and effort we put into the pilot projects is leading to this citywide program,” writes Ryan Lehman, one of the leaders of Living Streets Los Angeles. “It once again shows the value of experimental urbanism as a way to quickly test new ideas, especially important in these lean times. My hope is that the city will find funds to provide the staffing resources needed to fully support citywide implementation of this potentially transformative program.”

Living Streets L.A. was involved in the creation of the parklets, and Sunset Plaza highlighted on People St.

Ok, this map of all of the plazas in Los Angeles is kind of depressing. But the unstated promise is that this map will be filling up in the next couple of years.

There are just two catches.

The interactive portions of the website, the part where people can begin a conversation on converting portions of the street, won’t be online until 2014. The website launch last week was a Beta launch, the program itself isn’t ready for prime time.

Second, People St. does not provide details as to how the city plans to fund these renovations, although it does have some grant money in-hand to expand the bike corral program. The website also notes that the cost of these projects is “in the thousands, not the millions.”

(Update, Tuesday 12:00 pm): I’ve gotten more details on the funding part of the equation. When the website discusses “public-private partnership,” they mean that the city is offering assistance when communities or businesses are willing to fund and maintain a parklet, bike corral, or plaza. Staff will work with interested communities who can either pay out-of-pocket or work with city staff to seek and earn grants. In other words, outside of staff hours, this is a budget neutral program for the city.

Will cash starved Los Angeles fund these projects? We’ll have to wait until 2014 to see just how much car estate the city has the money to convert to public space. In the meantime, Garcetti and LADOT are offering us a new vision of what can be, a city that takes reclaiming car space for people space a priority.

To re-appropriate a phrase made popular by Stephen Colbert during the 2012 election, they’re promising that Los Angeles will be building a better tomorrow, tomorrow.

  • Niall Huffman

    You’ve got a typo in your headline (“Garcett”).

  • AJ

    The key point here is whether or not the City will take a top-down approach to all projects, or if they allow parklets and bike corrals to be privately funded and maintained (San Francisco’s approach). The Spring Street parklets have been an example of what not to do–they are poorly maintained and lack a good connection to the adjacent local businesses. This approach is fine for big, complex projects like Sunset Plaza, but hinders the development of smaller projects. Ideally, a business should have the ability to request a permit and then build a parklet or bike corral using their own resources without getting sucked into city bureaucracy and finances.

  • None

    Sunset junction is OK… The green polka-dots are pretty ugly. Concept is good. Need 30 more of these around the city, just to start, and make them more permanent. No curbs to walk up and down.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, awesome idea! We can have a Perfect City Super Rad Plan ™ that has a deadline of 2035 and continue building roads like the Glendale Hyperion bridge and Garcetti can be elected on the city he promised us instead of the one we live in. Awesome! ™

  • Anonymous

    Anyone ever tried to file for an R-permit in LA before? The revocable permit process is expensive and costly. I don’t see the city budging one inch on detangling that issue unless you are already rich enough to make the process simply a pay-to-play annoyance. The “decentralized” efforts, like the one that had an alley in Boyle Heights painted and cleaned up, are going to forever be in danger – even while they fortify social & cultural capital and improve property values as well.

  • I think that’s part of what’s being proposed here.

    I’m surprised to hear some bad commentary on Spring Street. All I’ve heard is that things are going well. Admitedly, it’s been a couple of months since I’ve been there.

  • AJ

    The cushions have pretty gross stains (after all, the upholstery has been sitting outside for nearly a year), some of the plants aren’t in good shape, and the counters get all kinds of spills and trash. The exercise bikes are also a real waste of space–bike parking would be a much better use. I live a block away and have been sad to see them deteriorate over time, but it underscores the need for parklets to be adopted by local businesses to succeed in the long run.

  • NELAer

    Hey, “Northeast Los Angeles” has street names too – York Boulevard in Highland Park and Huntington Drive in El Sereno.

  • Honestly, the sentence was a little too long and unwieldly with the names of all the locations in NELA and “in Downtown Los Angeles” so I cut some parts out. No slight meant to NELA. Maybe I could have edited it better. (cut to Sahra, Kris, Gary, and Brian all nodding in agreement…)

  • Hillster

    Have any of you looked at Silver Lake’s Polka Dot Plaza lately? About 30% of the paint has chipped off and the rest is faded and dirty. That along with the damaged road barrier make this more of an eyesore than an asset to the community. Basically it’s just providing free outdoor dining for the restaurants on that street. Either fix it up or remove it, it was supposed to me temporary anyway.

  • grrlyrida

    I think you forgot what it was like before it was a plaza. I walk and ride through it everyday. I meet people there, enjoy events and eat. Whether they repaint it and finally put permanent barriers at the park, it is still a far better situation than as a dangerous and busy thoroughfare for automobiles only.

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