Spring Street Parklets Installed!
The DLANC Complete Streets Working Group, working closely with DTLA Councilmembers Huizar and Perry, the City of Los Angeles Departments of Transportation and City Planning, UCLA Complete Streets Initiative, the Gilbert Foundation, and the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District (HDBID), installed two of LA's first four pilot parklets on Spring Street in February 2013. Lessons learned from installation of these pilot parklets will inform the eventual development of a City-wide parklets program, similar to San Francisco's Pavement to Parks.

LA City Council file 11-1604 offers a detailed report on the Council action that enabled pilot parklets.

What are parklets? The parklets re-purpose metered parking spaces on Spring Street to create mini-parks with seating, planting, and communal, public spaces, functionally extending the sidewalk into the street to enrich the vibrant street life already present and foster future investment in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in the neighborhood. Our pilot parklet sites are on Spring Street between 6th and 7th Streets in Downtown Los Angeles.

How did these come about? The DLANC Complete Streets Working Group convened in the Spring of 2011 with the goal of advocating for pedestrian, bicycle and transit improvements via installation of physical demonstration projects. Parklets were chosen as one intervention that would help bring a focus to the need for public realm enhancements Downtown. On Park(ing) Day 2011, we set up a temporary parklet in front of LA Cafe, one of our pilot parklet sites, and enjoyed hanging out in a metered parking space re-purposed as a mini-park for the day. We conducted an informal survey of passers-by asking what amenities they'd like to see in parklets Downtown. 85% of respondents said they would kiss a loved one in a future parklet, indicating love for parklets and people alike, and a heartwarming level of comfort with the concept. This and other results can be found here.

Since 2011, collaborating with local businesses and residents, the DLANC Complete Streets Working Group diligently developed technical design plans for City permitting and approval. We worked through the administrative process with the City of LA, created a partnership with the Historic Downtown BID for maintenance/operations, and secured the materials to build the parklets. The Gilbert Foundation generously donated funds for parklet materials, and what we couldn't purchase was donated by a variety of vendors.

Who made these happen? These pilot parklets are the result of a two-year-long process and were made possible by a close collaboration between DLANC, the business community, local property owners, the Historic Downtown BID, Downtown residents, and an illustrious team of pro-bono design professionals. This commendable effort utilized a budget of $0, attracted financial aid in the form of a grant from the Gilbert Foundation and countless materials donations, and research support from the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative. Hensel Phelps Construction Co. donated countless hours managing materials procurement, pre-construction, and parklet installation. The full Spring Street parklets design team, key project supporters, and project sponsors and donors are profiled here.

Is there any way to measure the benefits? Why, yes there is! We are mid-stream in conducting our Parklet Impact Study, a pre- and post-parklet evaluation that will document the benefits parklets bring to the life of Spring Street. In September 2011, Parklet Studies - a research collaborative founded by members of our Complete Streets Working Group - entered into a volunteer collaboration with the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) and the USC School of Architecture to design and coordinate the Spring Street Parklet Impact Study. The Parklet Impact Study is a longitudinal study composed of two phases implemented over a span of approximately 14 months.

Phase One - or The Spring Street Public Life Survey - was implemented in March 2012. It captured baseline of information regarding daily life on Spring Street between 4th Street and 7th Street. The 2012 Public Life Survey documented existing characteristics of human activity, behavior and use; inventoried physical elements within the streetscape; and queried pedestrians, residents, and business operators regarding their perceptions and experiences on Spring Street. The 2012 Spring Street Public Life Survey is currently in production as a book for upcoming publication, and will also describe the corridor in terms of its larger jurisdictional, geographic, and social context. Preliminary findings for the Public Life Survey are accessible to the public at parkletstudies.carbonmade.com.

Phase two of the Spring Street Parklet Impact Study revisits the same neighborhood in March 2013, collecting data to measure changes in public life after parklet installation. The Lewis Center at UCLA is supporting Phase two post-installation surveys with funding from the Gilbert Foundation. Parklet Studies and The Lewis Center will be co-authoring an evaluation of the Spring Street Parklets, which is scheduled for release in Summer 2013.

Have ideas for future parklet sites Downtown? Send 'em our way!

If you'd like to get in touch or become involved with the DLANC Complete Streets Working Group, please email us at completestreets@dlanc.com