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Alleys as Parks

An article in the LA Times describes efforts in Los Angeles to convert alleys to park-like spaces, an opportunity quantified quite well.

There are few cities whose alleys offer more possibility than Los Angeles. The USC Center for Sustainable Cities, which is leading the alley campaign here, found recently that there are 12,309 blocks of alleys in the city — 914 linear miles’ worth, roughly the distance between here and Portland, Ore., even if some are just 10 feet wide.

Particularly in older, poorer neighborhoods, where many of them are located, alleys are often dens of crime and blight. But the researchers see something else. They see, all told, more than three square miles of underused land — about half the size of Griffith Park — a precious resource in a region starving for vacant land and public space.

The problem, at least from the park perspective, with other alley ‘greening’ is that it has involved gating off the areas. But Los Angeles is concentrating on strategies that open them to the public through concepts including Dutch “woonerf” shared streets that feature planters and furniture while allowing slow car movement and even including the “pieces of a typical park — swing sets, barbecues” that “could be transformed into safe, green connectors between homes, schools, churches and parks, encouraging people to go outside.”

There are many challenges to making these spaces successful: crime, graffiti, maintenance, resident buy-in, city regulation hurdles and finding the construction funds. But there has already been some limited success. Cities looking for parkland might find it right behind their residents’ homes.

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