People St. Invites Communities to Reimagine Streets Across L.A.

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Valerie Watson is the Assistant Pedestrian Coordinator for the City of Los Angeles. For more information on People St visit peoplest.lacity.org or e-mail peoplest@lacity.org.

Bring plazas, parklets, and bicycle corrals to life in your neighborhood through this new citywide program

Are you interested in ways to make your neighborhood better for people walking, bicycling and taking transit? Is the street you spend time on challenged by narrow sidewalks, fast-moving vehicles, or a lack of nice places to linger, meet a friend, read a book, check your email, have a coffee, sit with your charming canine companion, or people watch?

We ultimately want to bring permanent physical changes to our streets that address mobility, quality of life and public space accessibility issues within our communities. Typically, we think about our local government and elected officials initiating big projects to create public space opportunities, like neighborhood parks with grass and trees, or streetscape plans and road diets with physical infrastructure. However, these types of projects can sometimes take years—even decades—to come to fruition. The funding required is nothing to sneeze at, involving hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars. At the same time, neighbors don’t always agree on improvements like sidewalk bump-outs or cycletracks for bike riders. Pouring concrete is permanent, and we all know people sometimes don’t like change.

Does the labyrinth of project process, responsibility, and capital investment make your head spin? What if there was a way to repurpose little slices of the streets in your neighborhood for space that people can enjoy quickly, and for a fraction of the cost? How can you start bigger conversations on urban design in a non-threatening way and, at the same time, demonstrate the benefits of investing in infrastructure to make it better for people moving around by foot or bicycle? Do you want to see something happen?

Let’s take a walk down People St!

Communities can now easily transform underused areas of L.A.’s largest public asset—our 7,500 miles of city streets—into active, vibrant, and accessible public space with People St, a program of the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). Eligible community partners can apply for approval to install three innovative types of projects: plazas, parklets, and bicycle corrals.

These temporary project types have one thing in common: they are situated below the curb. Unlike repurposing a vacant lot into a park, or planting trees along a sidewalk—both examples of above-the-curb improvements—People St projects reallocate pieces of the roadbed, where you step down from the sidewalk, as their home:

  • Plazas are installed in underused or redundant road space by blocking off a segment of street with heavy planters and colorized or textured surface treatments.
  • Parklets and Bicycle Corrals are installed in on-street or metered parking spaces.
  • All three People St project types transform below-the-curb roadbed into spaces for people to enjoy.

A Program Based in Partnerships

People St is all about facilitating partnerships between the community and the City of Los Angeles. Projects initiated by communities can be brought to life by working through People St and community partners are required to be active players in building neighborhood support for a project. They are responsible for identifying an appropriate site, conducting outreach, raising funds required for materials and furnishings, installing project elements, and providing and funding long-term management, maintenance, and operations of the project.

Wait, Temporary? Why Spend Money If These Are Temporary?

The projects are permitted through a one-year agreement between approved community partners and LADOT, with the option to renew the agreement annually. We hope that community support will be so strong that residents will work with the city and local elected officials to make the temporary transformations permanent or seek future capital-intensive, corridor-level urban design improvements. You can think of People St projects as quick “step one” interventions for speeding up the more permanent projects that take lots of work to achieve.

By physically and contextually demonstrating the benefits of capturing street space for public space, these projects can, in turn, attract, expedite and foster future investment in infrastructure that better provides for walking, bicycling, and taking transit. Channeling the smarts of the business community is the ROI, or return on investment, for a community partner in installing a People St plaza, parklet or bicycle corral.

How Do These Projects Happen So Quickly?

We’ve heard over and over that getting projects on the ground quickly is paramount to shifting the balance on our streets. To keep the “application-to-installation” cycle to under one year in duration, each People St project type offers a pre-approved “kit of parts” of design elements that contains packaged, required configurations from which to choose. The specifications provided in these documents simplify the process, removing the need for community partners to reinvent the wheel each time a project is considered.

With People St, LADOT aims to demystify city processes, rules, and requirements in order to make our government more responsive to residents and businesses. In turn, the city and its partners can work together to improve the quality of life in Los Angeles quickly and efficiently, starting with People St.

Sounds Great! How Do I Start?

People St offers an application-based process for community partners to receive approval to install a plaza, parklet, or bicycle corral. Through the website, potential community partners can access an online-application portal and the materials required for the application process, including downloadable PDF application manuals and the Kit of Parts documents.

Each year, LADOT opens an application window, a time during which community partners can submit an initial project proposal. The next application window opens in October of 2015.

Using a set of established criteria to assess each proposal, LADOT selects a limited number of applications with which to move forward. Considerations for proposal selection include: organizational capacity, site location, site context, community support, and access needs for public spaces. Those selected then work closely with LADOT to complete the process of bringing a project to life.

See you on People St!

We look forward to working with groups across the City of Los Angeles to reimagine our streets and bring projects to life!

Have another issue on your street or in your neighborhood? Sometimes there are street design or operational issues that aren’t quite the right fit for a People St project. You can visit myladot.lacity.org, our new service request and tracking system, to report things like knocked-over stop signs, malfunctioning signals, or dangerous crossings in your neighborhood.

From our 2014 report Footnotes: A Report On the State of Walking in LA. Donate to get a printed copy. Special thanks to Melendréz for funding the printing of our 2015 Footnotes report. 


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