Yesterday, Downtown LA celebrated the grand opening of two new parklets along Spring Street in the Historic Core, which has become one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Downtown LA now active with pedestrians and bicyclists almost around the clock. In case you’re not quite sure what a “parklet” is, they’re basically mini parks extended from the sidewalk that replace usually one or two metered parking spots. The most amazing thing about these parklets — besides the fact that they actually do expand our public space — is that they represent a change in attitude about what Los Angeles should be. In Los Angeles a decade ago, if you were to propose getting rid of a parking spot for any reason whatsoever, the pitch forks and torches would be coming out in mob form. And in some backward places in LA, that’s still the case unfortunately (I’m looking at you West LA).
But Downtown LA is different — it’s big and it’s urban and definitely not suburban. People here walk and bike, and for those who live and work downtown, the use of the automobile wanes dramatically. In fact, some have gotten rid of their car completely like Historic Core resident Josh Gray-Emmer who told me recently that he sold his car and has saved thousands of dollars over the years now that he lives car-free. And that’s the kind of new Angeleno lifestyle and attitude adjustment that is fueling the momentum to take back the public space we handed over to the automobile. Instead of narrower sidewalks, we want wider sidewalks and more park space to boot.
The two new parklets on Spring Street — one in front of LA Cafe near 7th and another in front of Syrup Dessert near 6th — have added new landscaping and seating allowing Angelenos to congregate in a novel way. These visually compelling and intimately driven parks may be small, but they’re symbolic in a big way. They continue to build on the success we’ve had here in Downtown LA as we mature into an urban center that Angelenos desperately yearned for. And as I like to think of them, they’re great PR for urbanism.
Parklet near 6th & Spring
Parklet near 7th & Spring