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L.A.'s Pocket Parks Bring People Together

Minerva Ruelas |
March 22, 2014 | 4:06 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

L.A. is home to a number of parklets (Minerva Ruelas/Neon Tommy)
L.A. is home to a number of parklets (Minerva Ruelas/Neon Tommy)
Various neighborhoods across Los Angeles are growing greener as mini park pockets, commonly known as “parklets” replace street space. The sprawling industrial city is attempting to alter how people think of public space by creating small parks and plazas in parallel parking spaces and underused areas. The overall aim of project is to create a more “pedestrian-friendly” environment throughout Los Angeles.

Acres of lush greenery are seen in most centralized cities—like Central Park in New York, but others like Boston and San Francisco were the first to come up with more compact ways of gaining green in their busy cities.

According to the University of Southern California's Center for Sustainable Cities, despite the 10 million residents living in Los Angeles, the city remains one of the largest park-poor cities in the nation. Only seven percent of the city is dedicated to public use, so it makes sense to convert some of L.A.'s underused street space into people-friendly areas that attract locals. Although, these parks may be a tad bit more intimate than what most residents are used to, the spaces are intended for Los Angelenos to relax and interact.

READ MORE: People St. Program Adds Green Space To L.A.

The parklets typically have greenery surrounding the 6-foot-wide and 20-foot-length spaces. They provide bike racks and a place to sit and eat; some offer a bit more participatory fun relative to traditional parks. Two parklets on downtown's Spring Street seek to provide entertainment for passersby with an urge for some foosball during a lunch break or a workout as they pass through downtown. 

Traveling all the way from Germany, Torben Viets and Sabrina Ernst were excited to see the different activity sets available right along the sidewalk they were passing through, and agreed that the parklets offered a pedestrian-friendly vibe in the busy downtown area.

“It’s really fun. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this in a city like Los Angeles,” said Viets after playing a few games of foosball. “We’ve been going at it for a while!”

Two similar parklets can be found on Huntington Drive in El Sereno and on York Boulevard in Highland Park. All four park pockets were set up in the last year.

READ MORE: Los Angeles Residents Strive To Reopen Downtown Park Angels Knoll

Downtown L.A. is reimagining public green spaces (Minerva Ruelas/Neon Tommy)
Downtown L.A. is reimagining public green spaces (Minerva Ruelas/Neon Tommy)

Roger Vandi has lived near the downtown area for a few years and is impressed by the public’s reaction to the parklets.

“I think this is one of the nicest things I’ve seen done for the community in a while,” he said. “People that walk by these parklets take the time to play the table or simply sit with their friends and have a coffee. I can see this bringing the community closer.”

Sunset Triangle Plaza was created in L.A.‘s Silver Lake neighborhood two years ago, providing patio-like space with umbrella tables and a bright polka-dotted floor to outline the leisure space. The popular spot between Griffith Park Boulevard and Edgecliffe Drive that hosts events like a weekly farmers’ market and movie nights, is now in the running to become a permanent public square that could offer more for the neighborhood in the future.

People St is one of the main programs behind the effort to create these mini parks and plazas for L.A.

“Expanded public spaces can calm traffic and increase safety for people who walk, bike, and take transit. These projects also encourage increased levels of walking and bicycling, all the while supporting economic vitality,” they said.

People St is the program put together by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, and other L.A. public services departments as an effort to create more active and accessible public spaces for city pedestrians in underused areas.

Among many benefits to these parklets and plazas like health and safety, these street pockets help to economically foster a stronger city.

People St stated, “Pedestrian-centered activity is shown to foster a greater sense of community, and local businesses benefit as more pedestrians frequent neighborhoods that accommodate them.”

As for future plans for more of the people-oriented street spaces, the program offers applications for the public to apply as community partners for anyone that wishes to place a plaza or parklet in their neighborhood.

Contact Minerva Ruelas here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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