On Sunday tens of thousands of Angelenos discovered what life in LA is like without cars. People rode through neighborhoods they never knew, saw architecture they never noticed, connected with all kinds of other people and had lots of fun doing it. Spirits were high as people talked to strangers, listened to music, negotiated for position and pedaled leisurely through some of Los Angeles’ most distinct neighborhoods. Many commented on how fast it was to cycle the 7 and 1/2 mile route without traffic. They realized how close things are when streets aren’t choked with cars.
My impression is that the event came off significantly better than imagined. Prior to the event, some people expressed concern that the publicity might not reach enough people. Well, it did. While some merchants took advantage by selling their wares on the street, others played music to impromptu live audiences, I expect the next time around that more people will realize the opportunity that all these people bring along the route.
Photos by Ryan Snyder
Public spaces including living streets are central to the winning entries in this design competition that asked entrants to envision forward thinking strategies for the redevelopment of a four mile corridor along the L.A. River. I attended the jury discussion at the opening of the exhibit on Saturday and would urge anybody interested in the future of Los Angeles to head over to SCI-Arc to be inspired by the great ideas on display. The sponsors, SCI-Arc and The Architect’s Newspaper, asked entrants to re-conceptualize LA’s urban fabric, including ideas about circulation and public space, as part of a broader strategy to support the industries of tomorrow.
Exhibit Venue – SCI-Arc, 350 Merrick Street, Los Angeles (Directions)
Hours – Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm through October 27.
More information can be found in The Architect’s Newspaper and on the SCI-Arc website.
I joined the Living Streets: Boyle Heights Initiative as its Coordinator at the end of July, and began my work by meeting with our local community organization partners, as well as with members of the project teams for the funded improvements. In meeting with leaders from the East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC) and Union de Vecinos, we began the discussion of how to best integrate the work of the Initiative with their ongoing community programs and groups in Boyle Heights, including upcoming holiday plans for el Dia de los Muertos and numerous Posadas planned around Christmas.
Alexis Lantz, of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) has begun outlining with me a proposed program of community events for the Initiative, but their specific timing and programs will depend upon how we can most effectively collaborate with both ELACC and Union de Vecinos’ efforts, together with the community outreach activities planned as part of the design process of the funded projects. We will also take advantage of the opportunity provided by CicLAvia on October 10, when the stretch of 4th Street from Hollenbeck to the L. A. River will be closed to traffic.
Another of my current tasks is that of collecting all relevant policy, public agency plans and community initiatives specific to Boyle Heights and/or Living Streets tenets. I’m starting with the plans that most impact and control the ‘menu’ of what’s possible to implement in the public street rights-of-way, such as their current street-type classifications and the proposed updates to the street standards through the Community Plan Update process (especially as one of our partners, ELACC, has been so active in this). I’ve also been paying special attention to other such plans or policies that are currently in motion, such as the City of Los Angeles’ Bike Plan Update.
In examining these various plans, I’m looking for how their goals and recommendations overlap, complement or contradict one another, or else leave out key streets identified by community members for improvement–but that’s just a starting point. Using the example of the Bike Plan, Alexis and I have ridden an initial survey of these streets and develop a draft opinion paper weighing the feasibility of the various options over the next week or so–such as which streets should/should not be selected in the Bike Plan Update–and then we will take this to our community partners for their feedback before passing along our comments as part of the public process. My assumption is that the ‘selection process’ for our prototype Living Streets will follow much this same outline over the course of the Initiative, and collecting feedback for the Draft Bike Plan in this way is only its first iteration.