Pacoima2050: Party at the Plaza, Envisioning the Community’s Future

Edward Emiliano Muñoz, 4, looks at the Pacoima Wash model created by urban planner James Rojas for the Pacoima pop-up plaza event on April 19. Photo by Kris Fortin

Edward Emiliano Muñoz, 4, looks at the Pacoima Wash model created by urban planner James Rojas for the Pacoima pop-up plaza event on April 19. Photo by Kris Fortin

James Rojas brought his interactive planning workshop to Pacoima at a pop-up plaza event on April 19.

Bradley Avenue was blocked off for the morning and early afternoon between Van Nuys Boulevard and the alleyway adjacent to the San Fernando Gardens housing. Volunteers decorated the wall of a nearby flower shop, Bikesanas del Valle bicycle cooperative worked on people’s bicycles and Meet Each Need with Dignity gave out produce and fruit at their mini-farmers market booth.

At the center were Rojas’ interactive workshops, and a custom made 12-foot model of the Pacoima Wash. The 12-foot model gave an interactive way for people to visualize the Wash and interact with it using toys and found objects.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes, who represents the 7th District which includes Pacoima, moved around house shaped blocks on the 12-foot model, designing pathways that give better accessibility to the tributary, and used other animal toys to describe enhanced recreation and equestrian uses.

Mainly children crowd around the interactive workshop to create their ideal Bradley Street plaza using toys and found items. James Rojas designed this interactive activity as a way to help people tap into the issues faced in a city and to craft possible solutions in a tangible, and fun, way. Photo by Kris Fortin

Mainly children crowd around the interactive workshop to create their ideal Bradley Street plaza using toys and found items. James Rojas designed this interactive activity as a way to help people tap into the issues faced in a city and to craft possible solutions in a tangible, and fun, way. Photo by Kris Fortin

Throughout the day, local children gave the most feedback, through the interactive models. Pulling from an assorted pile of animal toys and found items including wooden blocks, hair curlers and plastic leaves, they created models that showed they lacked open spaces. Raymiro Gomez, an 11-year-old Pacoima resident, designed an elaborate animal park and petting zoo using juice packaging caps as cages, and using a pine cone to show there should be greenery near the entrance. Gomez said there isn’t much widelife where he lives, and that he’s never been to the zoo.

Priscilla Riestra, a 9-year-old resident of the adjacent housing projects, designed a plaza with a garden, complete with flowers, bushes, a pond and a bridge. Riestra stacked blocks with a U.S. flag poking out from the top.

Residents also gave feedback by drawing street needs including bike lanes, parks and curb extensions on an 8-foot-by-4-foot map of Pacoima. Michelle Klein-Hass, 50-year-old of Panorama City, wanted a protected  bike lane extending northwest to southeast of Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima because it connects directly to Panorama City. She also wanted a Metrolink station at the intersection of San Fernando Road and Van Nuys Boulevard, because the Sylmar Metrolink station is too far, Klein-Haas said.

The sunny day and limited shading made it cumbersome for people to interact with the displays or activities for long. Children working on their ideal plaza models were shaded, but would take toys from the sparingly used unshaded Pacoima Wash model.