With plenty of fanfare and celebration, the Spring Street parklets (between Sixth and Seventh) were opened to the public today in Downtown. Parklets are small extensions of the sidewalk that create a small park in spaces formerly dedicated to parked cars. The parklet model was created in San Francisco, but the Spring Street parklets are the first such spaces to include exercise equipment, so there's that. Their opening followed shortly behind the city's first parklet in Highland Park. LADOT Pedestrian Coordinator Valerie Watson called the opening of the new parklets, "the beginning of a great era ... as we focus on improvements that repurpose road space as public open space and encourage people to walk, bike, and take transit."
As for how one goes about converting a parking space into a nice place to sit and relax and/or socialize and/or exercise: the Spring Street parklets got two sets of safety planters, a wheel stop, and a reflector strip to protect them from southbound traffic. They're surrounded by redwood planters filled with succulent plants and a wall covered in "safety" colors in a pattern that mimics the lines of the buffered bike lane a few feet away, between the parklets and traffic. The entire parklet scheme requires concrete pavement rather than asphalt to anchor the platform (that means streets that carry bus lines are more likely locations for future parklets). The "swing chairs" placed around the parklets were designed and fabricated by the DLANC design team. "You can't sit still in them," said Daveed Kapoor, an architect and a member of the design team (the swing chairs also have the benefit of being, ahem, nap proof). The exercise equipment is found in both parklets, but the foosball table is only at the southern location.
Now that the parklets are in place, a team of researchers from DLANC, the UCLA Lewis Center, and the USC School of Architecture are in the midst of a 14-month study of the impacts of the new parklets on the experience of that street. The hope is that the new parklets will provide measurable results in increased pedestrian activity, sales to local businesses (the parklets are open to the public across from businesses including cafes, restaurants, and a dry cleaners), and traffic calming. Results are expected to be released in the summer of 2013.
The city is getting four new parklets in total this month, including another in El Sereno.
· LA's First Parking Space Park Opens With Reservoir Dogs Imagery in Highland Park [Curbed LA]
· Here Are LA's First Four Parklets, Poised For Final Approval [Curbed LA]