Streets for People is a new program within the City of Los Angeles designed to facilitate partnerships between the community and the City to implement projects that transform under-used areas of street into high-quality public space. These projects create destinations that neighbors can walk and bike to, sit down to read, drink a coffee, meet friends or make new friends, or just watch the parade of life. The program allows community organizations, business owners and other groups to apply to install three innovative design treatments:
- Plaza – converts a redundant or underutilized portion of a street into a public space with tables and chairs
- Parklet – expands the sidewalk into one or more street parking spaces to create people-oriented space
- Bike Corral – places a collection of bike racks within metered parking spaces or plazas described above
Each project requires the active participation of neighborhood sponsors — a business improvement district, neighborhood council, or any organization of neighbors and businesses — to build community support for a project, identifying a site, conduct outreach, raise the money required (in the range of $15,000 to $40,000), and provide and fund long-term maintenance for the project. The goal is to create true public-private partnerships on projects that are initiated and driven by and for communities.
These interventions are tactical and dynamic: LA City Planning Commission President Bill Roschen notes “A key feature of Streets for People is that projects can be completed in months, not years, and for thousands of dollars not hundreds of thousands,” he says. “They are projects that can move forward fast enough that people won’t get discouraged and lose interest.” The projects are permitted for a year with the option to renew — it is hoped that community support will be so strong that residents will work with the city to make them permanent. By demonstrating the benefits of capturing street space for public space, these projects can, in turn, attract and foster future investment in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.
The first Streets for People demonstration project, Sunset Triangle Plaza, debuted on Griffith Park Boulevard in Silver Lake in March 2012. It is located a block north of Sunset near a small park, where a one-block stretch of the street has been closed to traffic and is filled with café tables and chairs, planters, a bike corral, and a basketball hoop.
Since its installation, the community has enthusiastically embraced the space – neighborhood groups have held “summer movie nights” in the plaza, and the weekly farmers market has enjoyed expansion into the reclaimed street space.
In August 2012 the Los Angeles City Council passed a motion to assist with the installation of parklet demonstration projects. Four pilot parklets – one located in Highland Park on York Blvd., two on Spring St. in Downtown Los Angeles, and another on Huntington Dr. in El Sereno, debuted February 2013. Along with Sunset Triangle Plaza and the City’s first bike corral in Highland Park at Café de Leche, these projects provide six pilot cases that are informing the formalization of the new Streets for People placemaking program.In this era of scarce resources, public-private partnerships like Streets for People can help leverage resources for shared goals, and in the process cultivate neighborhood leadership that can result in other partnerships to improve neighborhoods. Over the next year, the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) is taking the lead on finalizing the Streets for People Program, and upon its launch, will seek applications from communities citywide to bring these innovative design treatments to a street near you.