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02.05.2013
Power to the Parklet
Los Angeles' first mini-park kicks off citywide program.
The new parklet in Eagle Rock.
waltarrrrr / Flickr

On February 3, Los Angeles kicked off its pilot parklets program, announced last fall, with the opening of a miniature public space in Eagle Rock, a neighborhood in East Los Angeles. Designed by LA landscape architecture firm Shared Spaces, the park is located on the site of a former illegal parking space in front of Bobby’s Auto Parts near the corner of Avenue 50 and York Boulevard.

The $30,000 space is modest in scope: it features stained wood plank flooring, curving built-in wood furniture, and mosaic tile furniture and siding. But as the city's first parklet it represents a major milestone. The parklets initiative involves intensive coordination between several city departments, including the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Planning, the Bureau of Engineering, the Bureau of Street Services, the mayor’s office, and various city council offices. The parklet was sponsored by LA councilman Jose Huizar, planned and coordinated by non-profit Living Streets LA, and built by the LA Conservation Corps (which gives at-risk young adults work experience through conservation and service projects).

 
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for a parklet in Eagle Rock.
Sam Lubell / AN (left) and waltarrrrr / Flickr (right)
 

“We’re definitely learning lessons for the future,” said Valerie Watson, assistant pedestrian coordinator at the Los Angeles DOT. “We’re learning how to interface with the community and how to move forward with back of house regulations.”

Watson hopes the pilot program will turn into an official city program by the end of the year, after which “you’ll see a crop of parklets coming to the city.”

The city’s three other pilot parklets will open in the next few days. Two colorful parklets, created pro bono by designers Berry and Linné, architects/developers utopiad.org, and builders Hensel Phelps, will open this Thursday on Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Watson worked on these parks as part of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, which coordinated the projects. She said they can easily be copied because they use inexpensive, off-the-shelf materials like wood, perforated metal, and stone pavers.

One of two parklets on Spring Street in Downtown LA that will open Thursday.
Courtesy Berry and Linné, utopiad.org, and AHBE Landscape Architecture
 

Another new parklet, a much larger iteration designed by Shared Spaces, will open on February 16 in El Sereno, another neighborhood in East Los Angeles.

This first round of parklets took more than two years to realize, not because of the complexity of their designs, but because of the significant community outreach and input involved and the development of an entirely new approval process, which is now coming into shape. Future parklets should take less time to complete, said Tricia Roberts, deputy planning director for Los Angeles councilman Jose Huizar’s.

Parklets have been popular elsewhere. San Francisco, for instance has more than 15 of them. LA’s parklets, said Shared Spaces principal Steve Rasmussen, will be open to the entire public, not just the customers of businesses which they front, which often happens in San Francisco.

LA’s pilot parklet program is part of a bigger initiative for streetside improvements in the city, namely the Streets for People program, which includes separated cycle lanes, increased street plantings, wider sidewalks, curb extensions, bicycle parking, and midblock crossings.

Sam Lubell

 

One of two parklets on Spring Street in Downtown LA that will open Thursday.
Courtesy Berry and Linné, utopiad.org, and AHBE Landscape Architecture