Skip to content

Posts from the "Open Space" Category

25 Comments

City Nears Purchase of Key Parcel for L.A. River Revitalization

Map of Taylor Yard parcel G2.

Map of the 41-acre Taylor Yard parcel G2, which the city of Los Angeles is purchasing to restore and revitalize the adjacent Los Angeles River. Image from City of Los Angeles MND notice. [PDF]

A big property acquisition is underway that will set the stage for planned large-scale revitalization of the Los Angeles River. The City of Los Angeles is expecting to complete the purchase of a former railyard site that Mayor Eric Garcetti and others describe as the “crown jewel” of any large-scale restoration of the river.

While there’s a long lineage of leaders who pressed for this purchase, credit will go to Garcetti and City Councilmember Gil Cedillo for marshaling the present push.

In a statement to SBLA, Mayor Garcetti emphasized:

This parcel is a crown jewel in our plans to restore the Los Angeles River, and I’m proud to have made acquisition of it a top priority for the city.  This site represents a large amount of open space that will help us free the river from its concrete straight jacket and connect local communities to its natural beauty.

In May, Mayor Garcetti celebrated the federal government’s selection of an extensive $1 billion, 11-mile habitat restoration project. Though that is great news, there are still a lot of hurdles before that federal money washes up on L.A. shores–not the least of which is getting the feds to begin setting aside initial portions of that $1 billion.

Another hurdle is ownership of river land. Though the city has approved an ambitious river master plan, some parts of the plan would take shape on river sites that are currently privately owned. For the most part, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the main federal agency involved in L.A. River work, does not proceed with project design and implementation on privately owned sites.

So, to tap into federal funding, the city needs to buy land.

Read more…

12 Comments

Dead Spaces Make for Dead (and Unwalkable) Places

Mirror, mirror along the wall of a vacant lot... 43rd. and Vermont. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA.

Mirror, mirror on the wall…of a vacant lot. 43rd. and Vermont. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

I’m feeling sorta trashy.

Not in that way.

I’ve just had trash on the brain lately.

Even as L.A. is celebrated for moving toward being more walkable and livable, trash seems to be the one constant, particularly in lower-income areas.

One of the reasons is that there is a lot of dead space in places like South L.A.

Vacant lots, alleys, under- and overpasses, foreclosed homes/properties, and streets running alongside freeways all lack someone to watch over and take responsibility for them on a regular basis.

Which means we get this:

Piles of random clothing and issues of the National Enquirer from the year 2000 (at the overpass at 52nd and Broadway) Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Piles of random clothing and issues of the National Enquirer from the year 2000 (at the overpass at 52nd and Broadway) Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Piles of random clothing, instruction manuals for jurassic technology, handwritten correspondence from the 90s, and issues of the National Enquirer dating back over a decade.

All piled up on the overpass the corner of 52nd and Broadway.

The mess stretches the entire overpass, actually.

Looking west on 52nd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Looking west on 52nd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

It’s on the north side of the overpass, too.

More piles of crap. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

More piles of garbage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

And, it’s around the corner, all up and down Grand, the street running along the east side of the freeway. Read more…

10 Comments

The 2014 Los Angeles River Kayak Season Is Open!

Experience the greenest stretch of the Los Angeles River this Summer. LACC leads kayakers under the Bubank Boulevard Bridge, in the San Fernando Valley. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Experience the greenest stretch of the Los Angeles River this Summer. LACC leads kayakers under the Bubank Boulevard Bridge, in the San Fernando Valley. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

I got a chance to do a preview kayak tour of the Los Angeles River yesterday. The tour was part of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps Paddle the L.A. River program. It took place in the most natural stretch of the 51-mile-long L.A. River: the Sepulveda Basin. The river runs through the middle of the 2000-acre Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area, located in the middle of the San Fernando Valley, near the intersection of the 101 Freeway and the 405 Freeway. The Sepulveda Basin is easily accessible via the Metro Orange Line; both the Woodley Avenue and the Balboa Blvd. stations are located there.

The Sepulveda Basin lies behind the Sepulveda Dam. Behind the dam, the riverbanks are not lined with concrete. Both banks are lined with tall trees. There is plenty of wildlife: ducks, egrets, herons, killdeer, stilts, dragonflies, damselflies, fish, and coyote.  Read more…

10 Comments

Weekend Update: Lawsuit and Rally to Save Riverside-Figueroa Landbridge

Tomorrow is a crucial decision point for the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge. LandBRIDGE proponents rally at the bridge at 8am.

Tomorrow is a crucial decision point for the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge. Landbridge proponents rally at the bridge at 8am.

Last Wednesday, proponents of preserving the historic Riverside-Figueroa Bridge lost an appeal before the L.A. City Public Works Commission. EnrichLA, RAC Design Build, and others, have pressed for converting the bridge into a “Landbridge” – an elevated park, similar to New York City’s Highline, accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.

Last Thursday, the new parallel bridge opened to traffic; car traffic that is, bicyclists and pedestrians are still awaiting the opening of their facilities. Late Friday, Landbridge leaders filed a lawsuit to prevent demolition. Landbridge proponents are seeking a legal injunction against demolition. The case is scheduled to be heard at 8:30am tomorrow morning at Department 85 or 86 in Los Angeles Superior Court, 111 N. Hill Street in Downtown Los Angeles.

Just before the court hearing tomorrow, Monday June 2nd, 2014, at 8am, there’s also a rally at the bridge itself. Event details at Facebook.

At a time when the city is announcing a billion dollar investment in this stretch of the Los Angeles River, it would be unfortunate for them not to preserve existing structures that contribute the historic character of river.

 

5 Comments

Eyes on the Street: New Security Fence at Ed Reyes River Park, Opening Soon?

New permanent fence at Ed Reyes River Park. Photo: Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

New permanent fence at Ed Reyes River Park. Photo: Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

There’s a brand new security fence at Ed P. Reyes River Park, located just east of the Metro Gold Line in Lincoln Heights.

This L.A. City Bureau of Sanitation mini-park features a day-lighted creek bed that cleanses urban runoff water. The park also features native plantings, walkways, benches, and educational signage.

Although the park is considered “new” and has yet to open to the public, construction was completed some time ago. Sahra previewed it last November, when its inauguration appeared imminent. When the park failed to open, KCET reported that the delays were due to security issues that the new fence appears intended to resolve.

The park has been standing so long, it's furniture is starting to look worse for (no) wear. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The park has been standing so long, its furniture is starting to look worse for (no) wear. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Calls to Gil Cedillo’s office last month regarding the park’s status were not returned.

So, while it remains unclear when it will officially open, as of two days ago, the gates remained unlocked.

No Comments

Pop-Up Plaza Enhances Art Walk, Hints at What Could Be in Leimert

IMGP2570

The blocking off 43rd Pl. in Leimert Park created space for people to play this past Sunday. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

As we watched the group led by female elders drumming their way toward us, Rashida, a vendor of wonderful-smelling body scrubs, leaned over and said, “You can’t get this anywhere else in L.A.!”

She’s so right.

For the last four years, the monthly art walk in Leimert Park has brought together community, culture, art, and African heritage in a truly unique way.

Few places in the city, if any, feel so vibrant and warm as Leimert does on the last Sunday of the month.

Which is why the Pop-Up Plaza event at this art walk was so exciting — it offered a glimpse into the future of what Leimert Park Village could be if 43rd Place (the street running along the base of the village) were to be closed to cars and converted into a plaza.

The idea of making that conversion is one that many in the community have been kicking around for some time.

With the birth of the 20/20 Vision initiative — the strategy to drive the economic development of Leimert Park Village and its creative district in tandem with the arrival of the Metro station — the potential value of creating a plaza space has come more sharply into focus. So much so that the community is currently in the process of putting together a People St. application in the hopes of making that happen sooner rather than later.

IMGP2540

Drummers serenade a woman as they move around Leimert Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Speak to anyone who has been coming to the area for years, and you will hear stories of the incredible street life Leimert once hosted: chess games up and down the sidewalk, spontaneous poetry performances, live jazz blasting, and a strong sense of community.

The loss of Richard Fulton and his coffee house and jazz emporium, which had played host to much of that joyful noise, helped push that culture into hibernation.

On days like this past Sunday, however, when several generations of Leimert residents and aficionados turn out in droves to celebrate art, music, community, and unity, that culture feels tangible and ready to be revived. It is just looking for a home base.

A plaza might be a good place to start.

IMGP2556

Women serenade the plaza with gospel and love. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

In addition to the existing arts spaces and businesses, the opening of new gallery Papillion (on Degnan), the construction of artist Mark Bradford’s art and community space (on the corner of Degnan and 43rd Pl.), and the renovation of the Vision Theater (still underway), offer the possibility of a packed calendar of events that can draw crowds to spend the afternoon or evening in the area.

Read more…

3 Comments

If Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, Surely it Should Also be a Component of “Complete”-ness, No?

Bus stop, bus goes, she stays, trash grows... Olympic Blvd., Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Bus stop, bus goes, trash stays, trash grows on Olympic Blvd.  Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

As folks were preparing to cut the cake in honor of the Complete Streets Day motion put forth by Councilmember Jose Huizar at City Hall last week, I was getting geared up to volunteer at a high school located in his district, around which many of the streets are decidedly incomplete.

I had run into Roosevelt High School teacher extraordinaire Jorge Lopez a couple of weeks prior; students from his food justice class were helping give a tour of two corner markets that had received healthy makeovers courtesy of Public Matters. When he heard I was interested in interviewing the students involved in the project, he suggested I stop in his classroom instead and assist the students in reworking their own interviews with food activists and workers in the area into articles.

Hell, yes! I thought.

Teens — besides being inspiring to work with — are often incredible, unfiltered informants about the unique dynamics of their communities and how those dynamics impact mobility, health, and access to opportunity.

When I first worked with his English class two years ago, students were writing speeches about things they would like to see improved in their neighborhood. Given the myriad challenging circumstances that the youth came from, immigrant rights, living wages, affordable housing, protection from gang activity, and access to healthy food and other health resources unsurprisingly figured prominently into their discussions.

But, I was also struck that one of the recurring themes was an inferiority complex many expressed with regard to East L.A.

It was so much cleaner, they complained.

Complete Streets should also encompass clean streets. Couch on Rivera St. (just off 1st), a frequent dumping site. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Complete Streets should also encompass clean streets. Couch on Rivera St. (just off 1st), a frequent dumping site. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

When we think of “Complete Streets,” we tend to focus on ways to facilitate mobility by “design[ing] and operat[ing streets] to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.”

But, for these students, it was clear that having streets that looked clean, inviting, and safe was important for mobility and access, too.

In comparing their neighborhoods to East L.A., many voiced a belief that people in East L.A. took more pride in their community because the sidewalks and streets there were well taken care of. Boyle Heights streets’, they said, felt run down and forgotten.

It was something that bothered them a lot. Read more…

6 Comments

Feasibility Study on Slauson Corridor Rail-to-River Project Takes Another Step Forward

The Slauson corridor that runs through South L.A. is not as empty as we imagine. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The Slauson corridor that runs through South L.A. is not as empty as we imagine. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

How are you going to get community input?

It was a question asked by one of the few community members who had shown up to Metro’s Rail to River meeting last week on the potential conversion of 8.3 miles of the rail right-of-way along Slauson Ave. into an active transportation corridor.

He and a friend were looking at one of the boards illustrating the neighborhoods the corridor ran through and speaking with Ryan Johnson, a planner with the Alta Planning & Design team working on the feasibility study for the project.

I told him that was a good question.

I had heard from several people involved in the project that Metro had been reluctant to do too much community engagement at this point because they are still studying the feasibility of the project. Getting the community excited about a project they are not sure they can bring to fruition hadn’t seemed prudent.

The bike and pedestrian paths would run along the Harbor Subdivision tracks, starting just north of Vernon, at Washington, heading south parallel to Santa Fe, heading west at Slauson, and taking a turn southward near Western. It would end at the Crenshaw Line stop at Florence. (map taken from 2008 Harbor Division study)

The bike and pedestrian paths would run along the Harbor Subdivision tracks, starting just north of Vernon, at Washington, heading south parallel to Santa Fe, heading west at Slauson, and taking a turn southward near Western. It would end at the Crenshaw Line stop at Florence. It could also extend along Randolph (where the path turns north) southwest toward the river. (Map taken from 2008 Harbor Division study)

And while that makes sense, to a degree, if feasibility involves projections of who will use the space and how, knowing how residents currently use the space, their concerns, their aspirations for it, and insight into elements that would entice them to use it would seem important.

Their input would also matter with regard to routes. With regard to the question of whether Metro should invest first in extending the Slauson path along Randoph St. to the river or follow it north toward downtown and Vernon, for example, locals who work in either of those areas might have very different perspective than those who were looking to use the bike facilities for recreation.

With that in mind, I told the young man and his friend, I had spent the weekend prior to the meeting engaging vendors and other folks along the corridor about the meeting and stuffing flyers into their hands.

The neighbors — all of whom unequivocally viewed Slauson as a dangerous, largely inaccessible, and unfriendly space — had been thrilled to hear about the potential for a park-like zone.

All of the vendors remembered me from when I had interviewed them a few months ago and were eager for updates. As before, they were interested in the potential conversion of the space, but apprehensive about what it might mean for them. Most lived in the area and had been vending there on the weekend for several years. They did it because they needed the income. But, they also felt that their presence helped make the area safer — without them, there are few eyes with vested interests in the area looking out onto a street dominated by industrial structures.

Despite their concerns, they were reluctant to commit to attending.

Proclaiming their presence, many felt, might bring unwanted attention and result in their being shut down. Back on November 6th of last year, Councilmembers Jose Huizar and Curren Price introduced a motion asking for the City Council to draft a report and a proposal for the legalization of street vending within 90 days. The Council has yet to make a move in that direction, and the vendors are aware that their presence remains precarious.

I could go to the meeting, the vendor of miscellaneous tools and appliances set up at the corner of Main St. had affirmed in Spanish, but I am a little afraid. I have a permit to vend and I pay taxes — I always have — but I am afraid to speak up.

Why don’t you just come to listen, so you will know what’s going on? I asked. If you have any questions, I can ask them for you so you won’t have to worry.

I could go, he repeated, nodding and folding up the flyers and putting them in his pocket. I will think about it.

He didn’t show up, unfortunately.

Nor did the others.

Read more…

3 Comments

Streets and Creeks, Part 1: Why Fish Need Bicycles

Given all the coverage and advisories about Los Angeles receiving heavy rains today, Streetsblog is kicking off an occasional series that makes the connections between rain, streets, creeks and people. 

Woman-Man-Fish-Bike quote on a T-shirt via Etsy

Woman-Man-Fish-Bike T-shirt design via Etsy

There’s an oft-repeated phrase that emerged during the 1970s Feminist Movements that states “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” It’s credited to Irnia Dunn, and appears on posters, T-shirts, and even in a U2 song. Overall it’s a great quote for rethinking women’s independence and agency.

It appears that when trying to imagine two entirely unconnected things, Dunn perhaps seemed to think that there just weren’t any connections between fish and bicycles. Certainly fish can’t ride bikes.

Streetsblog asserts that fish do need bicycles.

Fish need pedestrians too.

And transit.

Also complete streets, parking reform, freeway removal, and pretty much the whole livability agenda that Streetsblog is known for.

What’s the problem?

Streetsblog readers are familiar with the most obvious problems inherent in the present car-heavy transportation system. Cars kill lots of people. They cause air pollution, including greenhouse gases. In addition to health problems from toxic air, over-reliance on cars makes for a sedentary lifestyle, leading to obesity and chronic disease. That’s a short summary, leaving a lot out.

What may be somewhat less intuitive is that cars are also a primary cause of water pollution.

Read more…

6 Comments

Garbage Removal Makes Space for New Trash to Accumulate

The tires were left neatly stacked, and two more may have been added to the pile since BSS cleaned up the area. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The tires were left neatly stacked in front of the vacant lot at 41st and Main; one may have been added to the pile since BSS cleaned up the area. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

I lost the last of three Turkish wool hats on Sunday.

Silly as it may sound, it genuinely bummed me out. I had brought them back from Istanbul over a decade ago and they were wonderful reminders of where I had been, offered a link (of sorts) to my heritage, and, most importantly, were very warm for biking on winter nights.

I remembered yanking stuff out of my bag at the vacant lot at 41st and Main I photographed for my story on blight and wondered if I had inadvertently dropped it and added it to the pile of stinky garbage occupying the sidewalk.

Lovely, I thought.

Are you there, hat? It's me, Sahra. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Are you there, hat? It’s me, Sahra. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

I am nothing if not selectively nostalgic, however.

So, I decided to swing by the lot on my way home from the Rail-to-River meeting held at a school near Slauson and Avalon last night to see if perhaps it was there. The garbage pile had been there for well over a month, so I figured that if it had fallen amongst the other discarded clothing items, it probably wouldn’t have moved. The only question would be how badly it had been contaminated.

I was stunned by what I saw. Read more…