CityWatch, June 26, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 51
Park[ing] Day LA hits the streets of Los Angeles on Friday, September 18th, as community activists, neighborhood leaders and urban planners throughout the city step up to the curb, put a quarter in the meter, and proceed to transform curbside metered parking spots into temporary public parks.
Jane Jacobs, in "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" writes that in order to make a city safe, prosperous and worth living in, one must start with "lively and interesting streets."
To that end, Park[ing] Day LA is an opportunity for community members to engage passers-by, motorists, members of the press, city leadership and yes, even the authorities, in a rational and respectful dialogue of everything from our city's parks and public space to the environment and allocation of land to mobility issues and local beautification projects.
Park[ing] Day LA is an opportunity to create community, engage the public and create a dialogue, all while taking advantage of one of the best real estate deals in town, the public park(ing) space.
Park[ing] Day originated in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco based art and design collective, transformed a metered parking spot into a park-for-a-day in an effort to make a public comment on the lack of quality open space in American cities. Their goal was to reprogram the urban surface by reclaiming streets for people to rest, relax and play and their mission is to promote creativity, civic engagement, critical thinking, unscripted social interactions, generosity and play.
This is the third year that Los Angeles will be participating in Park[ing] Day and the call is out for individuals and organizations who want to work together to stir a discussion of LA's parks, open space and land use allocation.
Last year there were over 70 parks spread throughout Los Angeles, built and hosted by community activists, architectural and design firms, advocacy groups and neighborhood councils.
Cyclists loaded up trailers with sod, trees and park benches and then rode through Central LA until they found an empty park[ing] space. They would throw a quarter in the meter, unload, roll out a park, sit for a spell and engage the passers-by in a conversation and then after the meter had run out, they would load up and head off to another empty park[ing] space.
Architects and designers in Silver Lake created a Zen garden complete with babbling brook and flagstone walk that proved to be irresistible to those who wandered by.
East Hollywood, which is the "park-poorest" neighborhood council in the city, went all out and built the "East Hollywood Rec Center" complete with swimming pool and BBQ pit. Alfredo Hernandez hosted a party that earned him the title of Park Czar.
Mia Lehrer and Associates built a park inspired by the LA River and complete with willows and giant reeds. The beautiful and serene environment was complemented with shade from plastic bags and police line tape as a reminder of the impact of pollution on nature.
One park featured basketball, some created complicated political statements, others simply loaded up on basic park amenities and encouraged folks to sit a spell and relax.
As for the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, well, they simply did it all. Not content with a simple parking space, they simply shut down the street and threw a block party. Organized by Gunner Hand and Ashley Zarella, the block party included bands, food, exhibits and, in keeping with the park theme, served as the driving force for a petition drive for a downtown dog park.
The 3rd annual Park[ing] DayLA is just 3 months away and now is the time for neighborhood councils to partner with community groups and to select a message, pick a location, assemble the team and go to work transforming LA's best real estate deal, the park[ing] space, into a park.
For a recap of last year's Park[ing] Day LA and ideas on how to build your own park visit www.ParkingDayLA.com
Park[ing] Day LA has a twitter page on www.twitter.com/ParkingDay_LA
For an overview of the origins of Park[ing] Day visit www.ParkingDay.org
(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)