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Building Healthy Communities South LA

Eyes on the Street: Avalon and Gage Pocket Park is Now Open

3:32 PM PST on February 12, 2015

New children's play area open at Avalon and Gage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
New children's play area open at Avalon and Gage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
New children's play area open at Avalon and Gage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Over the past year, I watched the Neighborhood Land Trust and Department of Parks and Recreation slowly transform a dumpy traffic island at Avalon and Gage into something families in the community could actually use and be proud of.

The transformation couldn't come soon enough.

The island sits at a very busy intersection in a neighborhood whose environment is intensely impacted by the factories found on the east side of Avalon, along Gage, and the heavy and fast-moving traffic (especially truck traffic) the corridor sees.

The island from above. The central tree was removed after this 2012 image was made. (Google maps screen shot).
The island from above. It sits on the edge of an industrial zone (at right). (Google maps screen shot).
The island from above. The central tree was removed after this 2012 image was made. (Google maps screen shot).
The section of Gage just east of Avalon. (Google map screen shot)
The section of Gage just east of Avalon. The new pocket park is at center left (A). Click to enlarge. (Google map screen shot)
The section of Gage just east of Avalon. (Google map screen shot)

The island, in its earlier iteration as a tiny and uninspiring oasis from the chaos, had never realized its full potential.

For years, the lack of shade and run-down feel of the space meant you were unlikely to see anybody using the furniture unless they were waiting for the bus or the shadows of the few remaining trees fell in the right place for a few minutes.

The previous configuration of the island at Avalon and Gage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA
The previous configuration of the island at Avalon and Gage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The previous configuration of the island at Avalon and Gage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

While there was no one in the play area when I stopped by last week -- it was a school day, after all -- it was clear the renovation represented a vast and welcome improvement to the space.

Given how exposed the previous incarnation had felt, I was surprised by how quiet, safe, and spacious it feels in its newly transformed state.

The equipment is bright and fun, encourages kids to climb, run, and jump, and promises soft landings on rubberized surfaces should they fall. There is ample space for parents to sit around the equipment so they can keep an eye on their kids. And there is also some fitness equipment nearby, in case parents want to get their own heart rates up while watching their kids. The tall fencing enclosing the park space ensures kids won't be able to run out into traffic.

The pavilion and small grassy hill behind it (just out of frame at left, below) offer nice places for picnicking. And the trees, while a little anemic right now, will eventually grow to shade some of the space and further separate it from the noise of the street.

The layout of the new pocket park at Avalon and Gage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The layout of the new pocket park at Avalon and Gage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The layout of the new pocket park at Avalon and Gage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

There is even some furniture outside the enclosure for those waiting for the bus.

Furniture just outside the fence can serve those waiting for the bus. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Furniture just outside the fence can serve those waiting for the bus. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Furniture just outside the fence can serve those waiting for the bus. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

This transformation didn't come easy -- it was apparently ten years in the making.

Which is unfortunate because it would be amazing to see these sort of projects streamlined (and more easily funded) so they could take root on other corners in need of makeovers. Like the one just down the street at Western that currently serves as both a dumping ground and, oddly, a parking lot on occasion.

Traffic island at Western and Gage. (Google map screen shot)
Traffic island at Western and Gage. (Google map screen shot)
Traffic island at Western and Gage. (Google map screen shot)

Or this one, at 40th and Broadway Pl.

This space at 40th and Broadway Pl. could also use an intervention. (Google map screen shot)
This space at 40th and Broadway Pl. could also use an intervention. (Google map screen shot)
This space at 40th and Broadway Pl. could also use an intervention. (Google map screen shot)

If you'd like to learn more about the Land Trust, check out their website, here. Photos from their packed Jan. 24 grand opening can be found here.

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