The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is encouraging applications from community stakeholders that want to make neighborhood streets more welcoming to people.
With small grants and donations, communities could take portions of city streets and develop uses like pedestrian plazas closed off to cars, areas to park bicycles or mini-parks.
To see an example, swing by the area just off Sunset Boulevard at Edgecliff Drive in Silver Lake. You'll spot a street painted bright green with yellow polka dots. It’s pretty quiet there because no cars are allowed on the street. On Tuesday, people hung out sipping coffee at umbrella-covered tables as vendors set up for a farmers market.
It’s something the city calls a People Street Plaza — a street that’s been blocked off and turned into a vehicle-free space for people.
“People love it. It’s a hangout. It brings togetherness,” said Zach Albanese, enjoying his morning coffee at one of the curbside tables. It’s a scene the city of Los Angeles wants to make more common.
“Streets are really places to be and to slow people down and change how they’re using them is really significant,” said Elizabeth Gallardo, who heads the transportation department's People Street program. The aim is to develop projects like plazas and "parklets," small park-like spaces with seating and planters in areas that would otherwise be used for car parking.
The projects are not time-consuming to develop or costly — plazas average around $50,000 initially — but they allow unneeded or underused portions of streets to be turned into public spaces.
Efforts like these are part of a larger movement called tactical urbanism, which promotes easy, sometimes temporary modifications to make streets more bike and pedestrian friendly.
In the last year, L.A. opened three new people street plazas — in Pacoima, Leimert Park and North Hollywood.
Transportation officials are taking applications until Dec. 15 from community groups that want to develop a project in their neighborhoods. Information on how to apply is posted on the department's People Street website.
Andrew Thomas with the Westwood Business Improvement District is preparing an application for a plaza on Broxton Avenue near Westwood Village mainstays like Diddy Riese and the Westwood Village Theater.
"We’re excited about a plaza because we really want and need a people destination in our district," he said, noting that outside of the university, Westwood village lacks a single gathering place for community programs, concerts and events.
"I think it’s just a really great opportunity to take this space back and build on what we already have," Thomas said.
He added providing a shady place for those who braved the long lines at Diddy Riese to sit and eat their frozen treats would be the icing on the ice cream sandwich.