The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation recently awarded UCLA’s Complete Streets Initiative a $75,000 grant for research and implementation of the project “Parklets for Los Angeles.” ‘Parklet’ is a term which describes a parking space, or spaces, that are re-purposed as public space for people to use rather than exclusively storing cars. These type of public spaces are appearing in cities such as San Francisco, Vancouver and Philadelphia.
The need for this project lies in the lack of open space for recreation in many low-income communities, including downtown Los Angeles. Identifying large swaths of land in central and inner city neighborhoods and converting them to open space is both difficult and costly. An alternative is to look to smaller-scale and lower-cost solutions, such as parklets.
The Complete Streets Initiative will create a ‘Parklet Toolkit’ as the first phase of this Gilbert Foundation supported project. The toolkit will assist cities, including Los Angeles, interested in best practices and provide practical guidance for the development of small-scale parks. The second phase, conducted in collaboration with the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC), will construct and implement a demonstration parklet in Downtown Los Angeles. This demonstration parklet will provide a free opportunity for exercise in this park poor, low income community. In the third and final phase of this Gilbert Foundation funded project, the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative will evaluate the demonstration parklet, through examining what worked and what could be improved for future projects.
While this small addition of park space will not close the deficit in open space, the objective is to provide direct benefit to downtown residents. Additionally, the entire grant process will inform future development of parklets in other disadvantaged communities. The broader objectives of the project include identifying a process for institutionalizing parklets in the city of Los\ Angeles and creating a legacy of making strategic use of our streets for people.
This is a timely project. Recently, Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa signed into law a motion instructing the Departments of City Planning, Public Works, and Transportation to implement demonstration parklet projects. The DLANC is moving forward with two passive recreation parklets. The UCLA project will be complementary, adding a parklet with an active recreation focus to encourage physical activity, and will provide tools important for the development of other parklets.
Anastasia Loukitou-Sideris, Associate Dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, will be the principle investigator. Other research team members include Madeline Brozen and Colleen Callahan.
The Complete Streets Initiative is a joint effort between UCLA’s Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, Institute of Transportation Studies, Luskin Center for Innovation, and Luskin School of Public Affairs. Through research, education and community engagement, the Complete Streets Initiative is advancing streets that provide mobility for all, improve environmental sustainability and create healthy, economically vibrant communities. The Complete Streets for California Conference will take place on March 2nd, 2012 in downtown Los Angeles.