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New Spring Street parklets to be built with the help of grant, pro bono work

By Hayley Fox
Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012, at 10:38AM

A rendering of the parklets planned for Spring Street.

City Council has approved the installation of two parklets in downtown L.A. -- the first of their kind in Los Angeles, said Valerie Watson, a Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) board member and a driving force behind the new parklet.

These street plazas will convert metered parking spaces on Spring street into miniature neighborhood parks. Watson said she expects people to use these as they would the sidewalk; to check their phone, have a conversation or read a book.

"In my mind they're less providing open space for people… this is more about extending the sidewalk to benefit life on the street," Watson said.

She explained that for downtowners, sidewalks often serve as the "connective tissue between buildings," and are an important part of daily life for DTLA residents. These parklets will be for the public, and although they may be located in front of certain eateries or retail stores, "they're not for the exclusive use of that business," said Watson.

The project was created by the DLANC with support from councilmembers José Huizar and Jan Perry, as well as the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative. The $20,000 to $25,000 construction costs for each parklet will be covered by a grant from the Gilbert Foundation, Watson said, and design professionals are working on the park pro bono.

The parklets will include seating areas, exercise equipment and plantar boxes that will help "define" the space as well as include drought-tolerant plants. There will also be some sort of games or interactive element in the space -- such as a foosball table aimed to help "bring folks together."

There are a total of four parklets being installed in Councilman José Huizar's district 14.

"Community members have spoken and they want more pedestrian-friendly public spaces that support local businesses and neighborhoods,” Huizar said in a statement last week. “It's a marked shift back to community planning of decades past, where now, like then, we are emphasizing local, sustainable communities where residents can shop, relax and spend time in their own neighborhoods.”

The other two plazas will be located in El Sereno and Highland Park, and all of the parklets will be done in a manner similar to San Francisco's "Pavement to Parks."

The one main concern people have expressed in regards to the street plazas is safety, said Watson, but she explained that in the "vast number" of parklets in existence across the country, there have been little to no safety issues.

Watson said in an email that she hopes these L.A. pilot programs will help develop a "City-wide parklets program" where neighborhood groups, residents, business owners and others can learn to create these parklets in their own communities.

"Lessons learned from these pilot parklets will help identify design and logistical considerations and demonstrate how these work in a local, Los Angeles context," she wrote.

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