‘Parklets’ Coming to Highland Park and El Sereno

By Richie Duchon, City News Service

Following the models of New York, San Francisco and Long Beach, the Los Angeles City Council on Aug. 24 approved mini public park spaces in downtown, Highland Park and El Sereno.

The public spaces dubbed “parklets” are temporary or permanent structures in street parking spaces or red zones to extend the width of sidewalks into the street for public seating, gardens, bike parking or other uses.

The City Council voted 10-0 to approve construction of the four projects in the public right-of-way. The council also directed the Public Works, Planning and Transportation departments to coordinate plans for a citywide parklet pilot program similar to San Francisco’s “Pavement to Parks.”

Rendering of a ‘parklet’ on York Boulevard in Highland Park. City of Los Angeles image.

Councilman Jose Huizar, who championed the pilot project along with Councilwoman Jan Perry, described the parklets as community-driven. The design, construction and maintenance of the parklets were funded by local businesses and private donations.

The parklets will extend 6 feet into the road and be between 20 and 38 feet long, surrounded by Caltrans-approved barriers. The spaces will range in cost from $5,000 to $50,000.

Huizar said the idea of parklets are counter to the way the city has planned public spaces in the past.

“For decades now, the city of Los Angeles’ idea was, `let’s get cars through. Let’s get them as quickly as possible. Let’s build as many public parking spaces as we can.’ But now we have to slow that down,” Huizar said.

“People want a sense of feeling like they belong to a community,” he said. “Why not shift that paradigm and look more for places where they can gather and get to know one another?”

The pilot project will take six months to complete and evaluate, officials said.

With approximately 91 million feet of curbs in the city, Huizar said he hopes parklets will dot the entire city over the next five years.

“We are, to be honest, a bit behind the ball,” Huizar said.

“Hopefully this is the first of many.”

Supporters, including downtown and Highland Park Neighborhood Council board members said the parklets will enhance pedestrian traffic that will support local businesses while increasing public safety.

“Nothing is a better police force than the neighborhood out using the street every day,” said Steve Rasmussen Cancian, a landscape architect with Living Streets L.A. who helped advise the city on the pilot project.

Cancian told the council that restaurants in Long Beach saw a 20 percent increase in business after parklets were opened.

The parklets in Highland Park and El Sereno — on York Boulevard near 51st Street and Huntington Drive near Rosemead Avenue — will be open by Thanksgiving, Cancian said.

The two downtown parklets will be funded by a $75,000 grant from from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation administered by UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Complete Streets Initiative. The grant requires those parklets to be built by the end of the year and to include two pieces of exercise equipment as part of the foundation’s effort to prevent diabetes.

The council also greenlighted parklets in the districts of Councilmen Richard Alarcon and Joe Buscaino. Buscaino said San Pedro is looking to put one on Center Street between Sixth and Seventh streets.

As part of the demonstration project, the council ordered staff from the relevant city departments to develop a permit process for future parklets.

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August 30, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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