There is a lot happening—or about to happen—on the streets of LA these days. From parklets to Mayor Garcetti’s new “Great Streets” initiative, things are looking up for the city’s pedestrians and cyclists. Starting in early 2014, community members will have the opportunity to take the lead on small-scale street projects through a City of Los Angeles-LADOT (LA Department of Transportation) program known as People St. Once the People St program is underway, interested community members will be able to apply online for city permission to install a parklet, plaza, or bike corral on an underused stretch of roadway. Though the process will vary depending on the type of intervention, in general the person or group initiating the petition will cover the cost of materials, installation, and upkeep. The city or LADOT, in turn, will provide the site’s operators with the architectural elements needed to transform a patch of pavement into community space.
This kit of parts concept is part of what makes People St so unique. The program will draw on pilot projects throughout the city, including the York Boulevard Bike Corral in Highland Park, Sunset Triangle Plaza in Silver Lake, and the Spring Street Parklets downtown. The goal, according to architect Daveed Kapoor, who helped design the Spring Street Parklets, is to take the best design elements from the pilot projects and manufacture them as economically as possible. “It’s expensive to build these things. It’s kind of like building a car,” said Kapoor. “You want to do it for less, but it adds up.”
People St also stands out as a bottom-up alternative to traditional city planning. “LA has a hunger for transforming public space,” said People St project manager Valerie Watson. “To meet that hunger we need a much more consistent, quickly-implemented multi-phase process—not a New York–style, top-down approach, but more of a grassroots process where communities identify sites for the reallocation of the public right of way.” The projects begun through People St will supplement and help build support for larger and slower efforts being supervised by the city.
People St projects will undergo regular evaluation to insure that they do what they’re meant to—create community space and enhance pedestrian safety—without becoming nuisances. Kapoor already thinks that the program is a step in the right direction toward better planning for LA. “In America we have a real civil rights problem of unequal access. In general, city planning principles discriminate against people who don’t have access to a car,” he said. “Hopefully we’re moving toward a new space for people on the right of way.”