Yesterday, the People St program unveiled its project list for 2014 at the City Council Transportation Committee. People St is the new program by LADOT that encourages communities to plan and pay for their own parklets, plazas, and bike corrals. LADOT will help with the permitting and final planning for the projects. The project list included three plazas and four parklets spread out throughout the city.
"We had very diverse geographical representation," explained LADOT Pedestrian Coordinator Valerie Watson before ticking off a list of communities in the San Fernando Valley, Westside, South L.A., and more.
The three plazas include the 43rd Street Plaza in Leimert Park and Bradley Street Plaza. Advocates for these two projects held open street parties demonstrating how they could appear in the future. Watson testified that future programming in the plazas was a key factor in approving the proposals.
The third plaza will be just off Lankershim Boulevard in an alley at 5225 Lankershim Boulevard in Council District 2, represented by City Council Transportation Committee member Paul Krekorian.
"I'm very excited about the Lankershim Boulevard Plaza,” Krekorian stated. His office supported the efforts of local advocates to work with LADOT.
The three plazas will resemble the existing "polka dot plaza" in Silver Lake, without the polka dots. These plazas will have seating, planters, and other dividers to make the areas safe and pleasant for people to be outdoors. There will also be four more parklets placed on the street: one on Hope Street, Downtown, and three in West Los Angeles -- two on Motor Avenue and another on La Cruz Drive.
Projects will move through the permitting process this summer and construction could begin as early as this fall.
But, the news wasn't all good.
Because of unmet staffing needs, the program may need to skip its fall 2014 application cycle for a year until the fall of 2015.
The city's byzantine hiring process can take four to six months, and some with current staff working to implement the current crop of seven People St projects on the ground, a new set of proposals may have to wait until next year.
“That’s problematic,” lamented Mike Bonin, the City Councilmember representing part of L.A.'s Westside and Chair of the L.A. City Transportation Committee. “We’ve created an expectation.”
Krekorian concurred. “I share your concern that, if we launch these projects, they turn out to be as successful as I believe they will be, and there’s a long lag until the next cycle, that people won't be happy.”
Bonin pledged to work with city staff and LADOT staff to decrease the time it will take to hire new staff. And, Watson testified that hirings would happen before the end of the calendar year.
From there, it would take a couple of months for the new staff to be trained. Next spring, they can begin the outreach to new, and returning, People St applicants to prepare for a Fall 2015 call for projects.