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Promoting green space, one city parking meter at a time

September 20, 2007|Lisa Boone | Times Staff Writer

HAS the motor city of Los Angeles given up too much land to the almighty automobile? That is the question driving Park(ing) Day L.A., an event Friday in which design teams will transform metered parking spaces into temporary public parks.

The day is part of a national event conceived two years ago by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art collective commenting on the lack of quality park space in American cities. The group fed the parking meters of downtown San Francisco, brought in trees, rolled out sod and installed benches. The installations demonstrated, in a whimsical way, the effect that green space can have on an urban environment.

"Our most significant open space is our streets," says architect Michael Lehrer, whose firm will convert a parking space along Hyperion Avenue in Silver Lake. "They are the collective rooms of the city -- the rooms we share. As streets get wider and cars go faster and faster, streets become unpleasant for human activity. We're at a point now in the urbanization of our city where it can embrace the notion of great streets."

Lehrer Architects will install "99 Gallons Per Mile," with 99 balloons representing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from a Cadillac Escalade.

Alfredo A. Hernandez and the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council will create a small recreation center, and Ah'bé Landscape Architects will erect a sunflower-filled safety barrier with bright orange traffic cones in Culver City. One group of bicyclists will create four sites throughout Koreatown, Westlake and Pico Union. At 9 a.m., the team will set up a large potted tree, grass, bench, three chairs and a row of potted plants for one hour, then bike to the next locale towing small trailers with the installation.

"If we're really serious about not having so much public space allocated to cars, it just doesn't makes sense to create our temporary parks with the help of cars," says team member Joe Linton, a policy associate for the housing advocacy organization Livable Places.

"We want to draw attention to how much space L.A. sets aside for cars," Linton says. "So much of our space is about traffic and parking. We don't have plazas, places where people meet in the street like they do in Latin American and European cities."

He adds ruefully: "My parking space is bigger than my office."

For a full schedule and map of installations, go to www.parkingdayla.com.

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