A simple but radical idea is set to reclaim some street space for L.A. pedestrians.
The idea is simple. Choose a street lined with cars, remove two of them, ring the space with plants, install a bench, table, bike racks and, hey presto: a park. A tiny one with a distinct rectangular shape perhaps, but still a park. Or, as those who created it say: a parklet.
Four parklets are about to infiltrate the citadel of automobile worshipping Los Angeles, a pilot project that could lead to hundreds more. “The goal is to create public space and re-purpose how we use streets,” says Madeline Brozen, programme manager of the Complete Streets Initiative. “The great thing about streets is they’re so transformable.” Los Angeles gave the green light last month and the parklets should be debuting within weeks – two on Spring Street downtown, one on Huntington Drive in El Sereno, and one on York Boulevard in Highland Park.”The idea is to bring things down to human scale so people can socialise and enjoy their own neighbourhoods.” She dismisses the notion that parklets are for hobbits. “There’ll be space to exercise, to sit and read, to talk.” Don’t all rush at once.
San Francisco pioneered permanent parklets in 2009 and now boasts around 35. Other cities such as Oakland, Long Beach, Philadelphia and New York are following suit, an indicator, along with campaigns for bike paths, walkways and public transport, that the US love affair with cars is fading. LA – currently bracing for “carmageddon II” when the 405 shuts again for roadworks –has become an enthusiastic convert to the pedestrian. As well as new plazas, conventional parks and art walks there is a passion to queue for gourmet food trucks.
The parklets will be reviewed after six months and, activists hope, replicated across the city. It takes about three days and up to $30,000 (£18,500) to create one. Great news unless, like Seinfeld, you obsess about getting a parking space.