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Parallel Parks
Inspired by San Francisco, Los Angeles announces its own parklets program.
A proposed parklet for Spring Street.
Nirad Gupta and Daveed Kapoor

Los Angeles has finally begun to follow San Francisco’s parklet phenomenon. The City by the Bay already has 15 popular mini-parks, most located on former street-side parking spaces or other city-owned rights of way.

In mid-September LA leaders announced plans for its parklets program in partnership with the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. Councilmembers Jan Perry and Jose Huizar introduced a motion instructing LA City Planning to work with the Departments of Public Works and Transportation to implement demonstration projects on Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles and on North Huntington Drive and York Boulevard on the city’s East Side.

“We’re familiar with San Francisco, and that’s the model,” said Simon Pastucha, a Los Angeles city planner who is head of the city’s Urban Design Studio. “[The parklets] have been accepted as a major benefit to the community. They’re a viable way to generate open space without a lot of land or money.”

Unlike San Francisco’s parklets, which are largely regulated and funded by the city planning department’s Pavement to Parks program, LA’s parklets would mostly be initiated by neighboring businesses. The city would provide subsequent permitting, maintenance, and monitoring. According to Valerie Watson, at-large director of the Downtown LA Neighborhood Council, most parklets would fall into one of three categories: active, with eating spaces and even sports like table tennis and foosball; passive, centering on relaxation; and communal, focusing on group congregation and events.

In addition to providing recreation and gathering space and to beautifying neighborhoods, the parklets, pointed out Watson, would have the added benefit of slowing down traffic on some of the city’s more pedestrian-friendly streets. “It’s a neighborhood street, not a raceway,” she said of Spring Street in Downtown LA, where cars recently zoomed by her organization’s pop-up park for Park(ing) Day LA.

The initiative falls into the city’s Streets for People program, instigated by LA Planning Commission president Bill Roschen, who is an architect. That program includes not only Parklets but also separated cycle lanes, increased street plantings, wider sidewalks, curb extensions, and other traffic buffers, bicycle parking, and midblock crossings.

Sam Lubell