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Creating More Parks, Less (Visible) Traffic in LA

Jason King at Landscape+Urbanism provides a summary of plans to cap sections of freeway in Los Angeles with a linear44-acre Hollywood Central Park.

TPL’s Center for City Park Excellence took a look at this trend a few years ago and provided an article on the capping-freeways-with-parks movement. It should be noted that while the Big Dig has been seen as a costly public project in the billions of dollars, it was a tunneling project in addition to many other big ticket items such as bridges and tunnels underwater. Many freeway parks are built on decking, or a series of bridges, that require less extensive work than a tunnel — and many have been and can be, as in Los Angeles, built over already below-grade viaducts.

Below-grade freeways can be found in Charlotte, Atlanta, Cincinnati, the Twin Cities, Portland and countless cities across the country. Seattle, Dallas, Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia, New York City and even Duluth, Minn. have done or are in the process of capping these areas with parks. After a while, many of the cities without them, as is the case in Los Angeles, may say, “why can’t we have a park over a freeway?”

As cities experience the colliding forces of creating more humanistic cities and a reluctance to completely remove freeways, placing parks on top of these areas may be the one choice everyone can live with.

(This all being said, it may be fitting to just remove some freeways altogether — here’s some suggestions from the Congress for the New Urbanism.)

Housing Geared Around Parks for Aging Residents

A new report just released by AARP’s Public Policy Institute and authored by the Center for Housing Policy says that housing that is affordable, accessible and well-connected to services is essential to addressing the challenges older adults face. The report:

Even if older adults cannot or choose not to remain in their homes as their abilities change, they should have the opportunity to remain in the same community with the neighbors, friends, relatives, doctors, restaurants, parks, and services with which they are familiar. In fact, 85 percent of older adults agreed that if they can no longer live in their home, they would at least like to remain in their local community for as long as possible.

The report later says that “because some older adults cannot or choose not to drive, communities also need to ensure that important services and amenities are integrated with residential developments and are accessible via a comprehensive public transit system.”

Many senior living residences are built in very pastoral settings with green spaces, gardens and trails for residents — but they are hardly accessible in any other way than by car. As the report suggests, housing should be considered that allows residents to get around in ways other than by car, and keep that access to green spaces through close, safely walkable and aptly programmed and designed public parks.

Go Fly a Kite

DCist has a Flickr feed of photos from the Smithsonian Kite Festival by the Washington Monument this past weekend.

Photo by: M.V. Jantzen

São Paulo’s Slum Upgrading Includes Parks, Playgrounds, Fields

The newly unveiled global urban news website Citiscope has one of it’s first pieces on slum upgrading in São Paulo, Brazil. Writers Fernando Serpone Bueno and Veridiana Sedeh provide a nice overview of the multi-faceted efforts to improve the living conditions of people in the favelas, such as providing sanitary and drainage facilities, granting property rights, building streets and schools, setting building guidelines for flooding — and creating new parks.

Close to a third of São Paulo city’s 11 million people live in slum-like conditions. The housing in these areas was built without much regard to providing any common areas set aside for public use or for flood protection, and they are quite dense with few recreational amenities. By relocating some residents, such as those who live in a flood plain, the city is able to provide better community public spaces for those who remain:

São Paulo is consciously seeking to recycle city areas left by relocated families into such common spaces as parks, playgrounds, soccer fields and skate parks — ways to help people socialize and build a sense of citizenship for remaining residents.

Here in the U.S., we often talk about providing parks to those living in “underserved” areas. On a global level, this issue is no different, and improvements to the public realm are integral to upgrading slums into livable urban neighborhoods.

Some news from around….

  • Sen. Dodd’s Livable Communities Act: a $4 billion bill that aims to establish an Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at HUD and an Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities at the White House, and help empower the federal government to fund smart growth projects at regional and local levels. Willy Staley of Next American City provides some context.
  • Curbed NY provides some photos of the newly-opened 9.5 acres of Brooklyn Bride Park .
  • Former freeway ramp areas become garden space in San Francisco. (Good)
  • More on connectivity: Seattle’s Bell Street being converted to linear park. (DJC)
  • New Toronto waterfront park to open in space under overpasses. (DCN)
  • America needs to continue making capital investments, even if the payoff is very long-term. (Grist)
  • Lastly, EPA says redevelopment of urban centers has continued to outpace construction in the outskirts of suburbia. Is there a migration underway? (Greenwire)