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Eyes on the Street: Parklets Arrive In East L.A.

East Los Angeles Parklet on Mednik Avenue. Photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

East Los Angeles Parklet on Mednik Avenue. Photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Many cities are finding that sometimes, places where people park are just a little more desirable than places where cars park. Parklets began in San Francisco. The first Southern California parklets are in Long Beach. They’ve since spread to the city of Los Angeles, the city of Huntington Park, and now unincorporated East Los Angeles.

The parklet pictured above is located in front of So-Cal Burgers on Mednik Avenue, across from the East L.A. Civic Center.

In late March, County Supervisor Hilda Solis celebrated the opening for East L.A.’s parklets. The County installed three new parklets; they can be found at 203 S. Mednik, 4514 Whittier Blvd., and 3534 1st Street. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Huntington Park Building Its Fourth Parklet!

Construction underway on Huntington Park's fourth parklet. Photo by Ryan Johnson

Construction underway on Huntington Park’s fourth parklet. All photos by Ryan Johnson

Friend of the blog Ryan Johnson visited the Southeast L.A. County city of Huntington Park and spotted crews building that city’s fourth parklet! SBLA reviewed Huntington Parks first parklet last summer.

Unless I am mistaken, if Huntington Park (population 60,000) can open this parklet before Los Angeles (population 4,000,000) repairs and re-opens its damaged parklet on Spring, then H.P. will be the county’s clear parklet leader. Right now, I think Long Beach (population 470,000), L.A., and Huntington Park each have three parklets open. Los Angeles is planning four additional parklets, expected to open late in 2015. Huntington Park has three more on the way, too.

Johnson adds:

I ran into the Huntington Park public works team on Pacific today [February 12] installing their 4th parklet (with apparently 3 more being planned). Their Public Works supervisor I talked to was stoked about their impact in downtown, and several businesses are requesting more in front of their establishments. This one under construction is in front of Winchell’s Donuts at Pacific/Randolph. They’re so committed, they relocated the fire hydrant to appease the Fire Dept!

More photos after the jump. Read more…

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Damaged DTLA Parklet to Be Repaired, Four New L.A. Parklets in 2015

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Last July a drunk driver damaged this parklet on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. The city is working with parklet sponsors, the Historic Core Business Improvement District, to repair it for a March re-opening. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

In July 2014, according to coverage at LAist and CBS, a drunk man made off with his friend’s car and, after clipping a couple of parked cars, smashed into a parklet. That parklet is located in front of Downtown Los Angeles’ L.A. Cafe, on Spring Street between 6th Street and 7th Street. Sadly, since the collision, the parklet has been closed.

The L.A. City Department of Transportation (LADOT) People St program recently announced that the Historic Core Business Improvement District (HCBID), L.A. City Councilmember Jose Huizar, and LADOT have collaborated to devise repair and modification plans for the damaged parklet. According to HCBID executive director Blair Besten, the repairs will cost “into the thousands of dollars.” Besten said that the HCBID and LADOT “are taking the opportunity to revamp some things about the parklet that we thought could be a better use of space. For example, the [stationary exercise] bikes were underutilized, so we are replacing them with additional seating and bike racks.”

In addition, People St’s Valerie Watson stated that LADOT will be adding “reflective flexible delineators on parklet corners, like the ones you see out on Broadway Dress Rehearsal, for extra nighttime visibility.”

Besten said, “We are excited to get this program back up and running for the neighborhood and hope everyone will be happy with the usability changes we are making.”

In addition to getting the damaged parklet back up to spec, People St announced that four more parklets are on the way, and they are expected to appear on L.A. streets by late 2015.  Read more…

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Former Huntington Park Parking Now a Popular Parklet, More on the Way

Southern California's newest parklet on Huntington Park's Pacific Boulevard. All photos: Aviv Kleinman/Streetsblog L.A.

Southern California’s newest parklet on Huntington Park’s Pacific Boulevard. All photos: Aviv Kleinman/Streetsblog L.A.

A new phenomenon hit the streets of Huntington Park this year. It’s a space where people can catch up on their reading and feed their coffee cravings, a space where family and friends can gather together, and a space where business deals can take place right next to kids playing dominos. It’s called a parklet.

Parklets are parking spaces converted into sidewalk mini-parks. They primarily offer seating areas, also often greenery and bicycle parking. They foster lively pedestrian-oriented streets. For the unfamiliar, view a SF parket in this StreetFilms documentary.

L.A. County’s first parklet was in Long Beach. They have also come to Los Angeles City neighborhoods, including downtown and El Sereno.

Also, for the unfamiliar, the city of Huntington Park is located in Southeast Los Angeles County. The city has a population of roughly 60,000, more than 95% Latino.

The new parklet in Huntington Park is quite a wonderful scene. It features comfortable sitting areas and potted plants surrounded by aesthetically pleasing wooden tiles. And it is well-sited, located in front of one of the city’s most frequented coffee shops: Tierra Mia, a specialty Latin American coffee shop, located at 6706 Pacific Boulevard.

As I enjoyed my coffee that was sustainably harvested from a small finca (agricultural estate) in the Guatemalan highlands, I watched a young family with loud and happy children eating a takeout lunch, a pair of friends enjoying a fancy-looking latte, and a speech therapy session in progress, all taking place in the small public parklet. Taking up only three diagonal parking spaces on the bustling boulevard, the parklet is the perfect size to feel both large enough to relax and breathe, but petite enough not to take up too much room on the busy street.

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The Parklet’s pragmatic placement in front of the popular Tierra Mia coffee house

According to Fernanda Palacios, Huntington Park’s Community Development Project Manager, the parklet is park of the city’s Pacific Blvd. Revitalization Plan, designed to bring more activity to the city’s most prominent thoroughfare. Pacific Boulevard is a former streetcar corridor, and has retained much of its historic Main-Street-type commercial character. The street is dotted with restaurants, clothing stores, and specialty cultural shops. The Boulevard hosts a popular Christmas Lane Parade.

As part of the revitalization plan, the city has set aside a $60,000 budget for parklet development. These funds are from grants directly funded by Measure R and the Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). The city’s funding goes to four parklets, each budgeted at $15,000 for construction and maintenance. According to Palacios, the city government does not fund the parklet with any of its own money, but it does contribute its own Public Works department’s labor to construct the site.

The $15,000 in grant money is used to purchase furniture and raw materials, in addition to touch-ups as the parklets age. With regard to collision safety, the parklet is surrounded by well-hidden K-rails (the same concrete barriers used to divide freeways) that are covered with wooden planters. In fact, I would have had no idea that the K-rails were there within the wooden planters had Ms. Palacios not pointed them out. Because the street space is owned by the city, no special permits or zoning variances were needed for parklet development.  Read more…

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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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People St Launches: Plazas, Parklets and Bike Corrals on the Way

LADOT People St Flyer

After months of promise, the LADOT formally launched the “People St” website moments ago. All of the documents a community group needs to apply to create a plaza, parklet or bicycle corral in their own community are available online. An introductory project application period will open on March 3 through April 30. After this special period, the application period will be open every fall, starting this October.

When the application window re-opens in October, the community partners will already be working with the city to install the first People St projects.

People St is a new program where local organizations can partner with LADOT to reclaim a little public space for the community. Groups can pitch a project to LADOT through the People St website. If approved the department will work with the group to bring the project to fruition. For more details, read the People St info sheet available here.

“We know there’s a lot of interest in communities,” said Valerie Watson with LADOT. “People are ready to get their ducks in a row and build their partnerships to get their applications together in advance of the two 2014 application windows.”

In addition to releasing the formal applications, LADOT also released a series of manuals to help interested parties navigate the People St process. There is no limit on the number of parklets and bike corrals can be built through People St, although Watson noted that because the city will help pay for some of the design of plazas, People St is limited to building about four per cycle.

Currently, there is one “People St style” plaza in Los Angeles, the Sunset Triangle Plaza in Silver Lake.

“People St will foster a greater sense of community making streets more active and inviting places,” said LADOT General Manager Jon Kirk Mukri.

That doesn’t mean that everyone who fills out an application form and has the money available will see a project built in their community. LADOT has to weigh each project on its own merit considering community support, project location and ability to maintain the project once it is built.

“We are looking forward to prioritizing and moving the strongest applications forward to insure the success of the project,” Watson continued. If applicants are not approved for moving forward, they will be encouraged to strengthen or re-tool their applications and re-apply in a subsequent application cycle. Read more…

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A Look at Parklets from the L.A. Forum: L.A. Interrupted

(The following article appeared in the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design Fall 2013 Newsletter, available here. For information on how to join the forum, click here. In addition to other benefits, members receive a paper copy of the newsletter in the mail. – DN)

City leaders and neighborhood advocates gathered on York Boulevard Saturday for the grand opening of the first Los Angeles parklet. Kris Fortin/LA Streetsblog

Last February, urban designers, architects, landscape architects, politicians, and bike activists flocked downtown to attend a ribbon cutting for two parklets on Spring Street. The opening was half spectacle and half entreaty for new types of public interaction in Downtown L.A. (DTLA), a neighborhood that feels the tension between burgeoning – even booming – new development and the very real proximity to Skid Row.

The small parks, each 6 feet by 40 feet (the size of two parking spaces) and located between 6th and 7th streets, seemingly appeared overnight. Fashioned with planters, benches, and exercise bikes, they were ready to engage downtown residents, workers, homeless and tourists alike. With their playful, brightly hued design, the mini-parks offer a micro-spectacle, sparking a pedestrians’ curiosity, creating an event on the street. Yet their purpose runs deeper than simply eye-catching display; the parklets, part of a larger city initiative, attempt to redefine how Angelenos interact and view urban design and public spaces.

On a morning in late March, I met with Valerie Watson, assistant pedestrian coordinator for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). We sat in one of the parklets at a galvanized-steel bar planted with low-maintenance and drought-tolerant plants. Proposed to te city council in 2011 and appointed this year, Watson’s position at LADOT seems contrary to the dominant car culture identity of L.A.

Watson is part of the team at LADOT shaking things up in the city and changing the car-pedestrian paradigm. Outgoing mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s agenda – likely to be continued by incoming mayor Eric Garcetti, who took office on July 1 – to develop a network of bike lanes, build fifty pocket parks, and increase pedestrian safety has hit a few roadblocks as the city finds itself caught between the needs of drivers and those of the walking public. Read more…

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We Can Tell You How to Get, How to Get to People St

The People St program seeks to bring more plazas, such as the one above in Silver Lake, parklets and bike corrals through the city by encouraging partnerships with community groups.

“Thank you for liberating our streets,” City Council Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin greeted LADOT staff last week. While LADOT staff may not be used to a hero’s welcome, Assistant General Manager Dan Mitchell and Assistant Pedestrian Coordinator Valerie Watson weren’t there to present a typical transportation project, or even to talk about why some five-lane street in The Valley needs to have its speed limit increased.

They were there to talk about People St.

For those that missed it, People St is a new LADOT program, which will be formally launched next week, to partner with community groups to create more bike corrals (L.A. has 2), Parklets (L.A. has 3) and pedestrian plazas (just one…and it has polka dots). Mitchell and Watson were there to ask the City Council to approve a timeline for an application process.

In other words, People St isn’t just a flashy website. It’s a real program that’s going to create more space for humans on a small portion of the thousands of underused miles of streets in Los Angeles. The first application process will begin on March 1. The next one will begin October 1 with future cycles beginning on October 1 in future years. While the second application process is beginning, the city will actually begin installing the first People St programs.

The full proposed timeline is available below.

Once approved by the full Council next week, community groups will be able to propose their own parklet, plaza and bike corral locations and work with the city to make them happen. Some local advocacy groups are already working on their own People St projects. For example, the Los Angeles Eco-Village is already planning for a new plaza located near their Bimini St compound.

“Communities that know their neighborhoods best propose project locations and are responsible for long-term maintenance,” explains Watson. Costs will be split between the city and the community partners for construction.

Currently, the People St website is informational. An expansion of the website is planned for early next year. On March 1, 2014 the city plans that the site will be a two-way portal for people to learn about the program and for the city to collect project ideas from community groups and businesses. Read more…

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Spring Street: A Park(ing) Day Success Story.

“Over the past few years, the  community along Spring Street has  become much more tightly woven.  The ‘bump’ factor happens all the  time now. If not daily, then at least  several times a week, I will happen across not only people that I know but  that occasional person that I forgot I even once knew! … As a place that brings people together, Spring Street has become a thriving neighborhood spot and an attractive regional destination for other Angelenos seeking a brief reprieve in our little small-town urban oasis we like to call DTLA.”
– Will Wright, AIA-LA Government  and Public Affairs Director and Spring Street Resident

Click to read the report.

In 2011, City Council Members Jose Huizar and Jan Perry used Park(ing) Day to announce a pilot program to make everyday Park(ing) Day in Northeast and Downtown Los Angeles. The duo announced that four parklets would be built, two of them on Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles, as part of a pilot program. The parklets are now the only ones of their kind in city limits, although Long Beach built a couple of them too.

Park(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. A parklet is basically a permanent Park(ing) Day space.

Thanks to UCLA  and Parklet Studies, there is hard data on how the two Spring Street Parklets are performing. In short, they’re doing pretty well. The parklets were opened to the public in February of 2013. Researchers conducted their interviews a month later, and their report was released late last month. Both Downtown parklets are on the 600 block of South Spring Street.

“More and more, Downtown Los Angeles is becoming an increasingly vibrant and dynamic place to live, work, shop and entertain. The Spring Street parklets will add to Downtown’s unique urban atmosphere, encouraging and supporting a pedestrian-friendly, local experience…we are creating a model that can be used throughout the city,” promised Huizar at the parklets opening.

Reclaiming the Right of Way: Evaluation Report, is a 52 page report based on surveys and first-hand observations by researchers. Huizar must be pretty happy, because the data proves his words from last year to be true. The report looks at everything from how people use the parklets to how people perceive the parklets. For example, people feel that Spring Street is cleaner, they feel that their neighborhood is something special, and they’re more likely to start a conversation with someone they don’t know as a direct result of four parking spaces being turned over to the public.

Foosball and exercise bikes make people feel better about their community. Who would have guessed?

Research can’t put a dollars and cents value on such feelings, but even if that is the measure of success, the Spring Street Parklets are doing well. Read more…

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Parklet Party in Downtown Los Angeles


There were lots of cameras, but only one outlet broadcasted the parklet opening live.

It felt like a political rally.

“Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow” was blaring from the speakers. One speaker at the microphone, LADOT Pedestrian Coordinator Valerie Watson, proclaimed, “It’s the dawn of a new day!” from the podium. Roughly 100 people gathered in a circle, hooting and hollering at the applause lines (“Let’s hear it for UCLA!”) .

But, despite the presence of Jose Huizar, one of the Council Members that represents Downtown Los Angeles, it wasn’t a political rally. It’s was the opening ceremony for the second and third parklets in the City of Los Angeles. Parklets are extensions of the sidewalk, usually into what was a car parking area, that provide seating and recreational public space to encourage increased pedestrian use and community interaction.

This morning in front of LA Cafe, at 639 Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles, the Spring Street Parklets were officially open for business. These parklets join the Highland Park parklet as the only ones of their kind in city limits. On February 16th, the third Parklet will open in El Sereno. All four parklets are inside Huizar’s Council District 14.

While L.A. is not the first city to turn parking space into open space, the city has tried to do something different and unique with their parklets. In Highland Park, the parklet is not attached to an eatery, but is more of a communal open space that just happens to be located in what used to be a parking spot. On Spring Street, the theme is exercise. In addition to chairs, benches, and tables, both parklets have a pair of exercise bicycles. The one in front of LA Cafe also has a foosball table, although nobody pointed to that as an example of exercise equipment.

“More and more, Downtown Los Angeles is becoming an increasingly vibrant and dynamic place to live, work, shop and entertain,” said Councilmember José Huizar. “The Spring Street parklets will add to Downtown’s unique urban atmosphere, encouraging and supporting a pedestrian-friendly, local experience…we are creating a model that can be used throughout the city.”

In fact, the story of all four of L.A.’s parklets started at the community level. When Living Streets L.A. and Huizar’s office teamed to create community created projects in El Sereno and Highland Park, both communities selected parklets. At the same time, the Downtown Neighborhood Council, pushed by Watson and President Patti Berman were pushing a separate program to bring parklets to the Downtown.

“It all kind of worked out,” Huizar said of the timing of the two programs.

Read more…