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Highland Park Parklet Not in Front of Restaurant? Attempts to Create Public Space For All

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

The first of Los Angeles's four parklets opened up Saturday on York Boulevard in Highland Park. While its the second of its kind in Greater Los Angeles, it may be one of the few parklets across the nation that isn't tied to any one business as it sits adjacent to a crosswalk, and is in front of a bank and a hardware store.

"In the city of L.A. we are prioritizing cars over people. We want to flip that," said Jose Huizar, CD14 Council Member.

Living Streets L.A. began working to install parklets at York Boulevard almost two and a half years ago. Working with community groups, city departments, and CD14 offices, three more parklets will open up -- two on Thursday on downtown's Spring Street, and one on Feb. 16 in El Sereno. All four parklets are part of a pilot project to launch and support a citywide parklet policy.

Huizar along with Councilmember Jan Perry, introduced a motion in 2011 to support the pilot projects and directed City departments to develop a long-range plan to support parklets throughout the City.

Parklets across the country have been heavily supported by restaurant services, and in affluent parts of town. The first parklet in Southern California opened in Long Beach in front of a restaurant on Retro Row, which is lined with vintage shops and wine bars.

Participants tested out the seating, which is in front of a hardware store and a bank. While parklets are known for replacing parking space with recreational people space, the Highland Park parklet did not subtract to the existing parking stock. Kris Fortin/LA Streetsblog

Yet Highland Park's parklet sits in front of a bank, and a hardware store next to a crosswalk. Across the street is a billiards, and down the block are trendy bars and a cafe.

While Highland Park has been undergoing a heavy gentrification process, this parklet's aim wasn't meant to encourage or discourage the changes that the community has gone through, said Steve Rasussen Cancian, Principal architect at Shared Spaces, consultant with Living Streets L.A.

"At the very least, it's not something that is exclusive," said Cancian. "But really, anyone who comes for new spark plugs or buy a bolt at the hardware store would feel comfortable, so that it's for the whole neighborhood."

Stay tuned for a Streetsblog video  on the parklet openings sometime next week. The opening of the Spring Street on Parklets on Thursday  and the El Sereno Parklet next Saturday are open to the public. Get the details in our calendar section.

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