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L.A. Council OKs pilot program to turn parking spots into 'parklets'

August 24, 2012 |  4:02 pm

An illustration of a parklet proposed for Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: City of Los Angeles

In the latest attempt to cultivate a pedestrian lifestyle in L.A., the City Council on Friday approved plans to temporarily block off a few street parking spaces at four locations so they can be turned into tiny public plazas big enough to hold a bench or two.

These pocket parks, or "parklets," will use parallel parking spots to provide bike racks, a little greenery and a place to sit for passing pedestrians. Two parklets were approved on Spring Street downtown, one on Huntington Drive in El Sereno and another on York Boulevard in Highland Park. The downtown parklets could be ready as early as the fall.

If the six-month pilot program is successful, city leaders hope to sprinkle the mini-plazas throughout Los Angeles. Councilman Joze Huizar, a co-sponsor of the plan with Councilwoman Jan Perry, said it’s a cheap and fast way to provide open space.

“People want to feel like they belong to a community, and this is providing that space — not just for building community, but also economic development,” Huizar said.

Councilman Richard Alarcon has allocated $100,000 from his discretionary fund to explore the creation of two parklets in his district, and Councilman Joe Buscaino also expressed the desire to see a parklet in his district.

It takes about three days and costs about $10,000 to $30,000 to build a parklet, according to Madeline Brozen of the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative. The money comes from grants, some council discretionary accounts and foundations. Maintenance will be handled by designated community sponsors including art walk organizations, business improvement districts and neighborhood councils.

The city’s first pocket park, Sunset Triangle Plaza in Silver Lake, debuted in March with funding from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. It’s a slightly larger space sprinkled with chairs, tables and potted plants abutting a grassy median. The concrete is painted with large green polka dots and closed to cars.

San Francisco already has dozens of street-side parklets, and Long Beach and Oakland are trying them out as well.

Advocates say the parklets will help make the city more pedestrian friendly. Cathy Milligan, a Highland Park business owner, said parklets will be a welcome complement to the area’s “Second Saturday” event, as well as giving pedestrians a place to sit during art walks.

The council has requested a report on the viability of the pockets parks to be submitted in six months. Council members also hope to use the time to streamline the approval process and refine safety regulations.


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-- Frank Shyong at Los Angeles City Hall


Photo: An illustration of a parklet proposed for Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: City of Los Angeles