A Pocket Park Begins to Take Shape in South L.A.

A parklet under construction. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

A pocket park under construction. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

My, my, what have we here?

I pulled up at Avalon and Gage to survey the change happening at what I had always considered a terribly depressing island with great potential.

In case you’re not sure what that category of traffic island looks like, here’s the “before” shot:

The previous configuration of the island at Avalon and Gage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

The previous configuration of the island at Avalon and Gage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

The intersection is one that marks the boundary between the industrial and residential sections of Gage.

It’s a busy transit stop, with bus stops on both Avalon and Gage. And there had clearly been an attempt made to create pleasant environment by putting in nice seating areas featuring tables with checkerboard tops.

But the lack of shade, empty tree boxes, and removal of the tree at the center of the island (made worse by the fact that the stump was left behind, as if the tree had been decapitated), meant that people tended to eschew the seating areas in order to take refuge from the sun alongside telephone poles.

The island from above. The central tree was removed after this 2012 image was made. (Google maps screen shot).

The island from above. Gage runs east-west. The central tree, visible here, was removed some time after this 2012 image was made. (Google maps screen shot).

Thankfully, that’s all about to change.

The Neighborhood Land Trust – open space heroes known for working intensely with communities to convert blighted lots into pocket parks and gardens — are constructing what promises to be a lovely little haven for families.

The plans for the new parklet at Avalon and Gage. Courtesy of the Neighborhood Land Trust.

The plans for the new pocket park at Avalon and Gage. Courtesy of the Neighborhood Land Trust. Click to enlarge.

The plans promise a space for kids with playground equipment, more trees and plants, fitness equipment, pedestrian lighting, a drinking fountain, and new tables and chairs.

They had originally hoped to enhance the space with a People St. plaza project, closing off the street adjacent to the north side of the island. But, as doing so would have cut off access to residents, they had to settle for improved pedestrian facilities that would make it easier for families to cross to the pocket park.

Groundbreaking took place in May (see photos here) and construction will continue throughout this year.

I, for one, can’t wait to see the final product.

If only they could also do something with the rest of the industrial section of Gage, which I also see as an ugly site with great potential (albeit harder to tap).

The section of Gage just east of Avalon. (Google map screen shot)

The section of Gage just east of Avalon. (Google map screen shot; click to enlarge)

The dirt median seems ripe for transformation into something beyond parking.

Screen shot of how Gage is used now. (Google maps screen shot)

Screen shot of how Gage is used now. (Google maps)

True, the strip is quite narrow, but it might be ripe for a fitness course makeover, as an extension of the pocket park.

Or it could play host to benches and shaded seating, in a scaled down version of the gem of a park that popped up just north of Century on Vermont at the end of last year.

A mini-park wends its way down Vermont Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

A mini-park wends its way down a southern stretch of Vermont Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

That’s probably very wishful (perhaps “delusional” is a better word) thinking on my part. But that’s what happens when you see the innovative conversion of a neglected space — you begin to think everything can be transformed.

Keep up with the Land Trust’s ground breakings and garden parties here.