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Los Angeles to try out 'parklets' at four locations

Los Angeles will create four pocket parks by temporarily blocking off parallel parking spaces. It's an effort to increase the city's pedestrian friendliness. If they're a success, more may be added.

August 26, 2012|By Frank Shyong, Los Angeles Times
  • An illustration of a parklet proposed for Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles.
An illustration of a parklet proposed for Spring Street in downtown Los… (City of Los Angeles )

In the latest attempt to cultivate a pedestrian lifestyle in Los Angeles, the City Council has approved plans to temporarily block off a few street parking spaces at four locations so they can be turned into tiny public plazas big enough to hold a bench or two.

These pocket parks, or parklets, will use parallel parking spots to provide bike racks, a little greenery and a place to sit. Two parklets were approved Friday for downtown on Spring Street, another on Huntington Drive in El Sereno and one for York Boulevard in Highland Park. The downtown parklets could be ready as early as the fall.

If the six-month pilot program is successful, city leaders hope to sprinkle these mini-plazas throughout the city. Councilman Jose Huizar, a cosponsor with Councilwoman Jan Perry, said it's a cheap and fast way to provide open space.

"People want to feel like they belong to a community, and this is providing that space — not just for building community but also economic development," Huizar said.

Councilman Richard Alarcon has allocated $100,000 from his discretionary fund to explore the creation of two parklets in his district, and Councilman Joe Buscaino expressed the desire to see a parklet in his district.

It takes about three days and costs about $10,000 to $30,000 to build a parklet, according to Madeline Brozen of the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative. The money comes from grant funding, some council discretionary accounts and foundations. Maintenance will be handled by designated community sponsors including art walk organizations, business improvement districts and neighborhood councils.

The city's first pocket park, Sunset Triangle Plaza in Silver Lake, debuted in March, funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. It's a slightly larger space sprinkled with chairs, tables and potted plants abutting a grassy median. The concrete is painted with large green polka dots and is closed to cars.

San Francisco already has dozens of street-side parklets, and Long Beach and Oakland also are trying them out.

Advocates say the parklets will help make the city more pedestrian friendly. Cathy Milligan, a Highland Park business owner, said the parklet there will be a welcome complement to the area's "Second Saturday" event, as well as giving pedestrians a place to sit during art walks.

The council has requested a report on the viability of the pockets parks, to be delivered in six months. They also hope to use the time to streamline the approval process and refine safety regulations.

frank.shyong@latimes.com

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