People Street Project Idea: Eagle Rock Boulevard Median Park!
(Severin Martinez is the author of Walk Eagle Rock, a personal blog where he shares his experiences and observations from walking and cycling around the community of Eagle Rock. – DN)
The new bike lanes and crosswalks on Colorado Boulevard have generated a lot of attention from local residents and media. However, what has happened on Colorado Boulevard does not reflect a radical change in how our streets are used. Yes, the planning process spanned over two years with many spirited debates and meetings, but travel lanes have simply been re-striped as dedicated to bicycle lanes.
This doesn’t mean the new configuration doesn’t have potential to have a big impact; York Boulevard was re-striped with reconfigured lanes in 2006 and has since seen significantly fewer traffic collisions, traffic-related injuries, and hit-and-runswhile seeing an ever-growing amount of bicycling.
But there’s more to streets than the striping of lanes; streets are public right-of-way and can be used for more than the moving of traffic. Locally, this has been most apparent in Silver Lake where a portion of street was closed off to motor vehicle traffic to be converted into a public plaza.
Once a space used exclusively for the moving and parking of cars, the plaza – formally known as Sunset Triangle Plaza – is now used for weekly farmer’s markets,summer night movie showings, games of basketball, outdoor cafe seating and more!
Silver Lake’s polka dotted plaza marks a dramatic shift in our perception of streets and their function as publicly owned spaces, but at the moment Sunset Triangle Plaza the only project of its kind in the entire city. However, Mayor Garcetti just launched a People Street program, which seeks to expand the number of such street-to-pedestrian plaza conversions, signaling an opportunity to bring meaningful transformations to the streets of Northeast L.A. beyond mere lane striping.
Consider the large grassy median on Eagle Rock Boulevard that stretches from Avenue 35 to Avenue 36 (pictured above).
According to Daft Logic’s Google Maps Area Calculator Tool, the median occupies three quarters of an acre– over twice as large as a 0.3 acre planned park at the corner of York Boulevard and Avenue 50. There are a couple dozen trees planted in this large median, most of them young, but at least six have sizable canopies. Below are couple pictures of what the median looks like from the ground, for added perspective of the size of the median:
It almost looks like a place for recreation, doesn’t it? But it isn’t, it’s just a well-kept median that goes unused on a daily basis in a part of the city that lacks access to public spaces and green space. Wouldn’t it be great if this median actually were a park? At three quarters of an acre it is certainly large enough.
So what’s stopping this purposeless median from becoming a truly nice and pleasant place? Currently the barriers appear to be two-fold: the median is not easily accessible and the adjacent traffic moves much too fast to make spending time in the median a peaceful and enjoyable experience.
However, these barriers can be addressed. According to traffic counts conducted by the LA Department of Transportationin 2007 and 2011, this section of Eagle Rock Boulevard, with two travel lanes in each direction, sees roughly 17,000 trips a day. This is about 3,000 fewer daily trips than the 1.3 mile section of York Boulevard between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Avenue 54 which is only a single lane of traffic in each direction.
Why not expand this median on Eagle Rock Boulevard by doing away with a lane in each direction as a means to calm the traffic and then convert the median into a park for public use?
Maybe get rid of the superfluous and over-engineered left turn pocket just south of the median as well, and add a few crosswalks to improve accessibility to the median.
What would this look like? Let’s take a look below:
Suddenly, the median looks like a safe, inviting space that might actually draw some people out to this otherwise empty and inhospitable section of Eagle Rock Boulevard. Using Daft Logic’s area calculator again, if the median were expanded as proposed above it would be 1.5 acres– now that’s a nice, big, comfortable size for a park!
The median could unite the two sides of Eagle Rock Boulevard rather than divide them, as it currently does. A walking and jogging path around the perimeter could provide a nice way for neighbors to get some exercise (a lap around the design pictured above would be about a third of a mile, a nice even number so by jogging three laps one would cover a mile). As a park, the median could be used for events such as: community yard sales, summer night movies, and school fundraisers.
While the Glassell Park Recreation Center is just a block away, the neighborhood currently lacks public spaces, green space, and community gather spots. A median park along Eagle Rock Boulevard could be a gateway into the highly residential part of the the street, signaling to drivers to slow down. Having a park along this area of Glassell Park might inspire greater community engagement simply by its visibility, and encourage more passive and active neighborly interaction.
The possibilities are many, and the portion of Eagle Rock Boulevard between Avenue 35 and Avenue 36 could likely function with a single lane of traffic in each direction without impacting peak-hour traffic. This idea presents itself as a low-risk opportunity to pilot Mayor Garcetti’s People Streets program, which supports bold re-envisioning of our streets as social spaces and sources for civic pride. Now is an ideal time to pursue and further discuss the idea of an Eagle Rock Boulevard median park; the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council has already expressed interest in discussing the prospect in an upcoming meeting, and if the idea gains traction Garcetti has an opportunity to give something special to the community he represented while serving on the city council.