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Our Work in Boyle Heights
Working closely with the community in Boyle Heights, we developed designs for four prototype living streets. Each street is tailored for its context, whether it be a residential street or a bustling commercial district, yet many of the proposed elements are similar: zebra striped crosswalks, improved lighting, additional trees, curb extensions and infiltration of stormwater to prevent runoff.
These streets include Fickett and Saint Louis Streets, Wabash Avenue, and Whittier Boulevard.
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Focus on Safe Routes to School
Improving the nature of these streets provides opportunities of further enhancement of the quality of life for all residents, down to the youngest of its users, children. Both State and National Safe Routes to School Funding Programs work to improve street conditions and encourage more walking and bicycling to school. Currently, the Safe Routes to School focus within these prototypes is aimed at involving the children who utilize these streets, and engaging them with the planning and development process. This not only creates avenues for community involvement of all ages, but also empowers children to take control and reclaim the streets they use. In turn, this will hopefully get more parents involved in the initiatives and prototypes.
Keeping the community involved through low cost immediate projects
One of the main values that drives Living Streets LA is involvement of the communities it works with. We strive to ensure the community is kept informed and involved. Currently this is being achieved through collaborating with the East LA Community Corporation (ELACC) and Union de Vecinos in the form of salas publicas, or community living room type improvements, mercaditos and other functions. In such initiatives, residents take over spaces such as underused alleyways and street corners, and clean them up, recreating them into public space for the community. Such spaces then become representative of a public living room, a space where the community can come together and enjoy each other, interact, and share dialogue, ideas, etc.
Providing space for such dialogue then gives meaning to the streets and connects the significance of these prototypes with faces and stories familiar to the community. These events keep residents engaged in the improvement of the streets of Boyle Heights, and informed about opportunities to implement the prototype streets. As the case study thoughtfully states, “community change must be community driven”, and we must keep the community fueled and updated for this change to manifest.
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This rendering by Aaron Kuehn hints at how the Bicycle-Friendly Streets in the City’s Bicycle Master Plan could be enhanced to be more than simply a great place to bike. Once cars are slowed down, and the street fills up with bicyclists of all ages, the potential is there to add in play areas, gardens, and other common areas to make these streets into vital centers of community. We have begun exploring this idea with partners in Koreatown, a dense, multi-ethnic neighborhood which currently lacks high quality open space.
For inspiration, additional beautiful renderings can be found here.
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Stretching from LA Live in Downtown to Exposition Park, this state funded project is potentially LA’s most visible and comprehensive living street, although with the demise of the Community Redevelopment Agency, its future is not completely secure. The LA Streetsblog article Plenty of Hurdles Still Remain for Progressive South Figueroa Corridor Project posted on April 30, 2012 provides the most recent information from an advocate’s point of view on the status of this important project.
Legendary architecture and urban design firm Gehl Architects is a consultant on this project.
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