Eyes on the Street: Another Green Alley to Open Soon in South L.A.

Coming soon! A green alley in South L.A. near 52nd and Avalon. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Coming soon! A green alley in South L.A. near 52nd and Avalon. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The hundreds of miles of alleys that run through South Los Angeles often look more like dirty dumping grounds than inviting places to stroll.

Littered with furniture and other debris, overgrown with vegetation, lacking pedestrian lighting or other amenities, and occasionally gated off to limit nuisance activities, they generally feel isolated and unwelcoming.

A demonstration project helmed by the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and in partnership with the City of L.A., the Council for Watershed Health, the Coalition for Responsible Community Development and the Los Angeles Conservation Corps aims to change that by converting a network of alleys into green walkways.

The Avalon Green Alley Network (below) is retrofitting two alleys with permeable pavement to infiltrate and clean approximately two million gallons of rainwater a year. They and the remaining five alleys will be spruced up with gardens, new street trees (and fruit trees), art, and lighting. Area crosswalks will also be improved.

The network of alleys to be converted. The red box marks the alley set to open. The orange alley at left is already open. Source: TPL
The network of alleys to be converted. The red box marks the alley set to open. The orange alley linking to the Food4Less is already open. Source: SALT Landscape Architects
Once complete, the alley network squeezed between South Park and the South Los Angeles Watershed Park should help make it easier for youth and families to move more easily and safely between home, two schools, the grocery store, and the two parks.

The launch of the project dates back to 2010, when the local Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA) was funded to develop the South Los Angeles Green Alley Master Plan. The plan was to include a more extensive network of green alleys, streets, and community connections beyond the Avalon network. When the CRA was dissolved in 2012, stewardship over the program was transferred to the Bureau of Sanitation.
Some of the literature available on the green alley project focuses largely on the environmental benefits of capturing and filtering runoff, and refilling L.A.’s aquifer. Which might seem like an odd thing to lead with, given how long it has been since the sky has had a good cry over Los Angeles.
The entrance to the alley from 51st, near Avalon, and across the street from South Park. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The entrance to the alley from 51st, near Avalon, and across the street from South Park. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
But alleys like those targeted for makeovers tend to flood and remain flooded whenever it does rain, creating a gross and potent garbage stew. This project should help alleviate that problem while also preventing the accompanying breakdown of the alleyway surfaces to such a degree that they come to resemble dirt roads.
All that is great, as is the idea (fingers crossed) that a more active, well-lit, and clean space will be less likely to be used as a dumping ground. But what I am most excited about with regard to this project is seeing alleys potentially reclaimed for family activity.
The Playboys (PBS), a prominent gang in the area, leave their stamp on the side of a house in one of the alleys designated for a makeover. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The Eastside Playboys (PBS), a prominent gang in the area, leave their stamp on the side of a house in one of the alleys designated for a makeover. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
In their inhospitable current state, alleys are often havens for taggers – something which can contribute to a feeling of insecurity in the community. If these spaces can really be reclaimed and made more active, they will offer kids much-needed safe places to play games, skate, or learn to ride bikes.
The more places in South L.A. that kids can just be kids, the better.

Calls to the TPL asking when the current construction project would be finished were not returned, but the sign on the alley at 52nd Street only says it will be finished this summer.

For a look at the makeover on the first segment as it was being completed, please see the TPL’s video below.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

A Changing South Park Plans for “Livable Alleys”

|
Through cinematic distortion, alleys are seen as hubs where criminals engage in drug dealing, whacking, and even murder. In reality, most city alleys are wasted, often unkempt spaces cluttered with toilets and mattresses due to illegal dumping. Despite this reality, alley spaces offer great, unrealized potential, says the South Park Business Improvement District (BID). As […]

Active Streets Participants Explore Vermont Square in South L.A.

|
“This is such a pretty neighborhood!” It was a comment I heard several times over the course of the Active Streets event held at Vermont Square park (48th and Budlong) last weekend. For people unfamiliar with South L.A., the neighborhood appeared to have defied expectations. It certainly defied stereotypes — the winter sky shimmered, the […]

New Green Bike Lanes on Spring and First

|
City crews were literally greening Los Angeles streets over the past weekend. Stretches of Boyle Height’s First Street and Downtown’s Spring Street received bright green pavement coloring. Though pavement color has been used in Europe, and various U.S. cities, including New York, San Francisco, and Long Beach, these two projects represent the city of L.A.’s […]

Councilmember Jose Huizar Promotes a More Bikeable Downtown L.A.

|
Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar is excited about the future of bicycling in downtown Los Angeles. At a press event yesterday, Huizar took a test spin on one of Metro’s bike-share bikes. SBLA Streetsie-winner Huizar sees bike-share as one key feature of “a snowball effect” virtuous cycle for central Los Angeles: more bikes on the […]

Los Angeles Alleys in Books and Blogs

|
One of the quiet debates that I hear in Los Angeles is whether or not our city is ugly.  Some argue that the design of our streets has taken the natural beauty of Los Angeles and made it ugly.  While there is some truth in this, I find there are so many beautiful streets and […]