UCLA and Parklet Studies release Spring Street Parklet Evaluation

The Spring Street Parklet Evaluation examines how the new projects – initiated by DLANC and maintained by the Historic Downtown BID – are being used and perceived by the neighborhood.  Major findings?  Pedestrians, parklet users, and local business operators think the parklets are a great local asset that the BID is taking great care of them.  For more information, visit The Lewis Center website, or download the report here.

Huntington Parklet Grand Opening

The fourth and final pilot parklet was dedicated this weekend on February 16th, 2013, with much fanfare. People St and Councilmemer Huizar gathered with the LA 32 Neighborhood Council, Barrio Action, Living Streets LA and the Wilson High School Band to commemorate the grand opening in El Sereno. This parklet sits on the T-intersection at Huntington Drive and Rosemead Avenue in the heart of El Sereno’s commercial district.

The parklet was designed through a series of workshops by local residents who wanted to add a public gathering and seating place to Huntington Drive. Funding for the project came from Councilmember Huizar who worked with Living Streets LA to create an “Improvement Vision and Action Plan” for the Huntington Drive corridor. Here, small details that reflect the community were able to make their way into the final designs. For example, the lavender plants and lime and lemon trees pay homage to the areas not so distant agricultural heritage.

Like the parklet on York Blvd. in Highland Park, the Huntington Drive parklet was built 100% by hand by the skilled youths at the Los Angeles Conservation Corps. Located just blocks away from El Sereno Elementary, along one of Northeast LA’s most visited corridors, the Huntington Parklet is ready for when you visit!

Spring Street Parklets Opening in Downtown Los Angeles

LADOT celebrates the installation of the Spring Street Pilot Parklets in Downtown Los Angeles, the result of a 2-year collaboration between the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC), the City of Los Angeles Departments of Transportation, Public Works and City Planning, Councilmember Jose Huizar, the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District (HDBID), the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative, the Gilbert Foundation, and countless project partners and supporters.

The parklets initiative of the DLANC Complete Streets Working Group received City Council support as a pilot project in Fall 2012 and convened grassroots volunteers and community members to work with an array of talented design professionals, all on a pro-bono basis, to design and install the parklets. The urban parks, which occupy the length of two metered parking spaces, are located on Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Parklets aim to create more space for sidewalk amenities while encouraging a more vibrant street life with traffic calming measures. Exercise bikes, a foosball table, and a variety of seating in the parklets are designed to complement public life on Spring Street.

Major funding was provided by The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation. Research support was provided by Parklet Studies and the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative. The Historic Downtown BID, parklet steward, has partnered with DLANC and LADOT to assume responsibility for long-term maintenance and operations.

This pilot project effort, led and designed by the DLANC Complete Streets Working Group, was achieved with a variety of pro-bono contributions, donations, and sponsorships. The interdisciplinary team of pro-bono design professionals included architects, urban designers, landscape architects, environmental graphic designers, web designers, and planners who led and managed the design process with the city, instigated a parklet impact study, crafted a wayfinding and signage system, and developed a website with public information materials. Community-driven design shines through in this project, which will inform the future development of a citywide program for parklets.

More information about the Spring Street Pilot Parklets and DLANC Complete Streets Working Group, including team member bios and a list of project sponsors, can be found at www.completestreets.dlanc.com

York Boulevard Pilot Parklet Grand Opening

On Thursday February 7th, 2013 People St unveiled one of the city’s first pilot parklets on York Blvd. in Highland Park. The Parklet design came out of a months long collaboration between Councilmember Huizar and Living Streets LA who worked to create an “Improvement Vision and Action Plan” for York Blvd. After dozens of community workshops, community members selected the parklet and it’s location between Avenue 49 and Avenue 50 as the centerpiece of the community-driven improvement plan. LADOT engineers worked in unprecedented close collaboration with designers and community members to translate concept drawings into the parklet that exists today.

The York Parklet is the only parklet in the City of Los Angeles to feature custom mural tile work, done by local Highland Park artist, Cathi Milligan, whose shop the Glass Studio is just down the block. The entire parklet was built by the hands of skilled youths from the Los Angeles Conservation Corps. If you haven’t already, be sure to stop by the York Parklet on your next visit to Northeast LA.

UCLA Releases “Reclaiming the Right of Way”

The UCLA Luskin’s Complete Streets Initiative released a comprehensive guidebook to planning, building and maintaining “parklets,”—small parks created in urban areas from the conversion of parking spots, alleyways and other underutilized spaces for cars into places for people.

The report, Reclaiming the Right-of-Way,” compiles best practices from cities in the U.S and Canada that have implemented parklet projects in their communities. These projects, which enhance neighborhoods through low-cost, small-scale inventions, were pioneered in San Francisco but have also appeared in New York, Philadelphia, and Vancouver, B.C., among other cities.Download the full document here.

City Council Poised to Approve Four Parklets

The Los Angeles City Council has directed the Departments of Transportation, Public Works, and City Planning to assist community groups with the installation of four pilot parklets. Over the past year, community groups in Highland Park, Downtown Los Angeles, and El Sereno have been developing plans for improving the public realm, design elements such as parklets as a centerpiece of their plans. Parklets are small areas for seating and planting that extend the sidewalk into on-street metered parking spaces.

The four pilot parklets – one on York Boulevard in Highland Park, two on Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles, and another on Huntington Drive in El Sereno, will be the first of their kind in the City of Los Angeles, and will inform the development of a citywide program to facilitate communities across Los Angeles with implementing similar projects.

“Experimenting with the Margin: Parklets and Plazas as Catalysts in Community and Government”

“Experimenting with the Margin: Parklets and Plazas as Catalysts in Community and Government” was published this month by the University of Southern California this month.  This graduate thesis from student Robin Abad Ocubillo resulted from interviews with over sixty parklet and plaza stakeholders in New York, San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.  Parklets and Plazas – besides being novel new open spaces where communities gather – actually play a huge role in bringing neighbors together through the process of planning, fundraising, design and implementation.  From the Abstract:

Two related  typologies  of  small-scale,  experimental  urban  design  have  emerged  in  recent  years  as  a  synthesis  of  community  action  and  progressive  governmental  experimentation:  the  Parklet  and  the  Pedestrian  Plaza. The  Parklet  occupies  curbside  parking  spaces  while  the  Pedestrian  Plaza  reclaims  excess  roadway,  often  at  irregular  intersections. While  the  typologies  differ  in  physical  form,  both  emerge  from  a  common  thrust  of  experimental  action  redressing  the  urban  fabric  and  environment. Together,  these  two  typologies  –  and  the  city  programs  created  to  facilitate  their  implementation  –  begin  to  define  a  process  of  Heuristic  Urbanism:  a  collaborative  practice  that  engages  urban  design  through  provisional  programs  and  projects  that  are  continually  self-evaluating. This  thesis  illustrates  how  the  Heuristic  Urbanism  of  Parklets  and  Pedestrian  Plazas  necessitates  innovation  within  city  government  through  the  assimilation  of  grassroots  initiatives. A  literature  review  outlines  the  theoretical  and  practical  contexts  from  which  Heuristic  Urbanism  emerges;  suggests  the  evolutionary  heritage  of  Parklets  and  Pedestrian  Plazas;  and  examines  the  range  of  assumptions,  expectations,  and  outcomes  engendered  by  the  new  typologies  and  their  relatives. The  thesis  then  leverages  interviews  with  over  65  individual  stakeholders  from  government,  advocacy  groups,  design  and  business  communities  in  four  California  cities  which  are  in  various  stages  of  advancing  Parklet  and  Pedestrian  Plaza  programs…

The  discussion  then  moves  from  overarching  examination  of  program  development  to  circumstances  at  the  site  and  neighborhood  scale;  identifying  common  physical  and  social  conditions  as  pre-requisites  for  Parklet  and  Plaza  viability. This  set  of  conditions  is  generated  from  stakeholder  interviews  and  correlated  with  the  literature  review. Here  the  thesis  articulates  a  coherent  practical  framework  for  evaluating  future  potential  sites  of  intervention;  engaging  the  dialectic  between  action,  research,  analysis,  and  refinement  that  characterizes  Heuristic  Urbanism.  The  study  concludes  with  a  discussion  on  the  long-term  implications  of  Heuristic  Urbanism  for  urban  design  and  planning  practice. Significant  and  recurring  themes  emerge  from  the  interviews;  defining  a  territory  which addresses  public-private  tensions,  the  role  of  design  professionals  in  activism  and  governance,  and  the  catalytic  potential  of  Heuristic  Urbanism  for  re‐adapting  both  the  urban  fabric  and  modes  of  its  management.

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