A plan to increase the pedestrian friendliness of Los Angeles by blocking off parallel parking spaces and creating pocket parks on the adjacent sidewalk appears to be flourishing, according to city officials and backers of the project.
The pilot program could expand as a result of its success, they said.
The pocket parks, also called parklets, provide greenery, bike racks and a place to sit. They are typically no bigger than 6 feet wide and 20 feet long, or 120 square feet. Four have been installed in Los Angeles this year: Two on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles, one on Huntington Drive in El Sereno and another on York Boulevard in Highland Park.
"This is a way of being creative and creating space in ... limited areas, in places with high density," said Councilman Jose Huizar, who co-sponsored the parklets pilot program with former councilwoman Jan Perry.
"There’s more activity,” Huizar added. “People are walking. So I think they've been highly successful."
Steve Rasmussen Cancian, who heads the community-based landscape design company Share Spaces and helped conceive the parklets in Highland Park and El Sereno, said the new parks were designed to reflect the community.
For example, the one in El Sereno has a Latino ambience with large flower pots, lots of color, fruit trees and the feel of an expansive plaza, Cancian said. At Spring and 6th streets, the parklet has a more “internationalist urban design ... to match what we see as the rising spirit of downtown L.A.,” he said.
In addition, the parklets on Spring Street focus on recreation. They sport stationary exercise bikes and one has a Foosball table.
Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, associate dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and a lead researcher at the school’s Lewis Center Complete Streets Initiative, which played an integral role in creating these new public spaces, said they seemed to be “catching on.”
More people appeared to be using the sidewalks, and the parklets were generally “very well occupied,” she said.
"I think they’re amazing,” said Kesha Macc as she sat one recent morning on a bench at the parklet at Spring and 6th in downtown Los Angeles. “It’s just a great meeting space. If you’re smoker-friendly you can sit there, you can smoke and chill out. Whenever I get cabin fever, I just come here to get out.”
Clad in high heels, Sandra Olsen was looking for a place to rest her feet and complete some paperwork when she came across the bench at 6th and Spring.
"I think it’s perfect,” Olsen said. “People walk so much in the city, and bike. It’s just nice to have an area where you can come and relax if you need to 'cause not all areas have benches.”
Megan Winters, who works downtown, said it was nice to have a pleasant place to sit outside and eat lunch.
Huizar said his goal was to find a way to make parklets a part of the planning process for Los Angeles. He said a report would be issued detailing the viability of the parks and gauging their success. His spokesman, Rick Coca, said in the coming months transportation officials would outline the structure for a citywide program.
"My goal is to have hundreds of [parklets] throughout the city of Los Angeles,” Huizar said. “It's a new way of thinking, a new way of adding to public amenities, to neighborhoods."