On the heels of the recent City Council vote to allow the construction of a series of micro-parks in Los Angeles, researchers from UCLA Luskin's Complete Streets Initiative are releasing a comprehensive guidebook to planning, building and maintaining “parklets,”—small parks created in urban areas from the conversion of parking spots, alleyways and other underutilized spaces for cars into places for people.
The report, “Reclaiming the Right-of-Way,” compiles best practices from cities in the U.S and Canada that have implemented parklet projects in their communities. These projects, which enhance neighborhoods through low-cost, small-scale inventions, were pioneered in San Francisco but have also appeared in New York, Philadelphia, and Vancouver, B.C., among other cities.
“These community-driven projects allow for citizens to be engaged in improving their communities in a new way,” said Madeline Brozen, program manager of UCLA Luskin’s Complete Streets Initiative.
“More and more cities are allowing parklets, partly because of this growing demand,” she continued. “However, there are a lot of considerations that both designers and cities must take into account—everything from the landscaping and construction materials to guidelines for ensuring safety and security. We hope to be able to provide a resource to help answer these questions and make implementing parklets easier.”
The toolkit contains parklet program case studies from around the country, but encourages users to adapt their plans to their own community. It explores a range of designs: Some parklets consist of simple tables and chairs, whereas others feature creative landscaping. It introduces the concept of “active parklets,” which include simple exercise equipment to provide an opportunity for active recreation within the parklet. The toolkit is meant to provide helpful guidance to planners and property owners while encouraging creative implementations that fit the spirit of a space.
“There’s definitely an increase in interest in walking, biking and exercising in the city,” said UCLA Luskin Urban Planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. “People realize the value of living active lives. And cities no longer have the resources to purchase acres of land for public open space. That’s why the idea for an active-recreation parklet has become more powerful.”
This toolkit is the first of a three-phase effort, made possible by a $75,000 grant from The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation. During the second phase, the UCLA team in partnership with the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council will install an active parklet on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles this fall. This parklet will be evaluated during the third phase, and these data will be provided to the LA City Planning Department for reporting to the City Council. Brozen will give a presentation on the toolkit at the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference in Long Beach on Sept. 12.
“Reclaiming the Right-of-Way” can be accessed here.