The years of public meetings, planning sessions and design sessions are complete. Highland Park's first parklet will be unveiled to the public next week.
A grand opening ceremony will be held on Saturday, Feb. 2, 1 p.m. on York Boulevard, just east of Avenue 50.
The parklet, which will be located in a no-parking zone on York Boulevard near Do it Best Hardware, was first pitched in 2011 during a community forum held as part of Councilman José Huizar's "new York" Vision Plan.
Here's a look back at how the York Boulevard parklet went from an idea, to a reality.
- Community Creates 'New York' Wish Lists
The first 'New York' Vision plan meeting was held in January of 2011. At that time, community members were provided blank canvases and asked to pitch their ideas for the boulevard. It was then that owners of the Knowhow Shop, Kagan Taylor and Justin Rice, pitched an idea that would eventually become the parklet template.
The group came up with the idea of encouraging business owners to sponsor parking spaces at every block along York Boulevard, which could be used on certain weekends for art or music exhibitions, instead of for parking for automobiles.
- Community Narrowly Chooses Street Plazas for First York Project
The following week, attendees of a followup 'York Vision' plan meeting were asked to narrow down their list of immediate projects. Parklets, which were being called pocket plazas at the time, made the cut.
Installing Street-Side "Pocket" Plazas
- First of a series of projects that ties York Blvd. together
- Easy to combine aspects of other projects
- Easily replicated
- Most unique
- Would have a natural traffic slowing effect
- Takes away parking spaces
- Not as easy to implement
- Safety concerns
- Could take away a traffic lane
- Would lock community into series of projects
- Trash cans needed in plazas
- More Innovative Infrastructure Coming to York Boulevard
In February of 2011, Design Firm Living Streets Los Angeles, who were hired by Huizar's office to steer design efforts, got word that city officials were firmly behind the pocket plaza plans.
According to Steve Rasumussen-Cancian of Living Street's Los Angeles--an architectural group hired by Councilmember Jose Huizar to facilitate redevelopment efforts on York--city planners have indicated that they are firmly in support of installing two state-of-the-art sidewalk plazas on the booming Highland Park thoroughfare.
However, pocket plazas supporters also learned that the project would not be completed as soon as they hoped.
Rasmussen-Cancian said he had hoped that Los Angeles Bureau of Engineers would fast-track the first-of-its kind project, which he believed would help curry favor for Huizar's and Living Streets' grander redevelopment plans for York Boulevard.
However, after a meeting with Lemuel Paco of the Bureau of Engineers and Jay Kim on the Department of Transportation, Cancian-Rasmussen told a small group of community volunteers on Monday afternoon that the project may take up to six months to complete.
In April of 2011, the list of potential projects was narrowed from 12 to 3. Pocket Plazas made the cut.
“This is not just a talking party,” said Steve Rasmussen-Cancian of Living Streets L.A., the organization responsible for facilitating the planning meetings. “We are going to actually build something to improve the street.”
- Huizar to Pitch Highland 'Parklets' at City Council Friday
In September of 2011, Patch readers began to raise concerns about the potential impacts on parking. Cathi Milligan, owner of the Glass Studio on York Boulevard, responded.
"As a participant of this project I have to correct a couple of the things mentioned. This will also address the concerns with John's comments. First, we made it understood that we would find locations that did not take a parking space since we all agreed parking is very much needed on the boulevard. Second, the seating design that has been proposed would not allow a homeless person to lie down on it. It just wouldn't be comfortable and a person could not fit on the surface. These are important points because these issues have been addressed in a slow and thoughtful manner. I too have a business on York, in the same block as the bike corral and the proposed "parklet" and I welcome the innovation and change that is coming to the boulevard."
- Patch Poll: You Pick the York Boulevard 'Parklet'
A pair of street porch designs were released to the public for review in October of 2011, they can be viewed above.
- Images Inside: Take a Look at the Designs for York Boulevard's Proposed Parklet
After months of planning and debate, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved installing parklets in Highland Park, El Sereno and Downtown.
Highland Park resident Margaret Arnold was among dozen or so community members who attended the council meeting to state their support for the parklet program.
"It's very hard to do something creative in Los Angeles, you have to have every nut and bolt on a pre-approved list," Arnold said. "We are doing something creative."