First Person

First Person: Valerie Watson turns curbs into parks

First Person Valerie Watson

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Valerie Watson is assistant pedestrian coordinator for the L.A. Department of Transportation. Watson has pushed for bike lanes and other people-friendly projects in downtown, including "parklets" such as this one on Spring Street.

First Person Valerie Watson

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Watson plays with the foosball table at the Spring St. parklet.

First Person Valerie Watson

MayaSugarman/KPCC

The "parklet" on Spring Street in downtown LA also features sitting areas.

First Person Valerie Watson

Maya Sugarman/KPCC


Valerie Watson is an urban designer; her official title is assistant pedestrian coordinator for the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation. She works to make the streets more pedestrian-friendly - part of that involves her parklet initiative.

L.A.'s streets are "our biggest public space asset," she says, noting that the city has 7,500 miles of them. Watson wants to "bring a better balance to the road and make the streets work better for all different users."

Two of the city's first parklets are on Spring Street between 6th and 7th Streets. A parklet "is an extension of the sidewalk, using decking and planters and seating, where you’re actually repurposing the space...and expanding the sidewalk out with those materials."

"So in that space where just two cars would park, now tons of people can sit and hang out and enjoy the street life of downtown Los Angeles," Watson says.

One parklet on Spring Street even has a foosball table.

"What I think is interesting about L.A. is that we really have so much room to work with on our streets," says Watson, adding, "if we just think creatively about how we could more efficiently use that space, we can start to really turn the dial on making make our streets not just more pedestrian friendly and more conducive to bicycling, but also safer."

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