Portlandi-LA: Placemaking Lessons from the City Repair Project

#LeapLA tries to keep you looped into all things that make Los Angeles streets and neighborhoods more livable. Last month, Active Transportation Division had the opportunity to partner with the Department of City Planning, the Mayor’s Great Streets Initiative, and the Los Angeles Eco Village to bring Portland’s Mark Lakeman to speak to City departments. Lakeman, the founder of City Repair Project, gave a compelling presentation on how communities in Portland create natural building, permaculture, and public art projects. Lakeman’s presentation provided Los Angeles with some food for thought, illustrating how City Repair Project has served as an effective means for achieving transportation implementation goals.

The mission of the City Repair Project is to “foster thriving, inclusive, and sustainable communities through the creative reclamation of public space.” The project has facilitated simple, yet holistic approaches to improving Portland’s neighborhoods. Lakeman’s strategy emphasizes that streets are the center of cultural convergence: a community meeting place where ideas are communicated and people are compelled to interact. In this, Lakeman argues, a street should reflect the full spectrum of human expressions and serve more as a cultural continuum than a conduit to move traffic.

People enjoying a completed City Repair Project

People enjoying a completed City Repair Project

Culturally and physically, Los Angeles neighborhoods seeking to reclaim culture back into the streets can continue to expand their toolkit and learn from the City Repair model. Many Los Angeles communities have been touched by locally-driven placemaking efforts. From the more recent Great Streets Challenge, to well-established organizations such as Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative (LANI), placemaking in Los Angeles has generated greater connectivity and revitalized neighborhoods. Community-driven strategies like these that utilize and engage active communities can facilitate critical improvements that enhance community cohesiveness.

City Repair Projects inspire creativity and community engagement

City Repair Projects inspire creativity and community engagement

Lakeman’s talk explained that City Repair Projects are a unique partnership between the non-profit, the community, and the City of Portland. The projects are driven from the bottom up, largely developed by volunteers and citizen activists, but the process is sustained and facilitated by the city. The city has made the process to opt into a City Repair Project fairly simple:

  1. after identifying gaps and corridors, community members can pool resources and collaborate to design a project that is context sensitive and cost effective
  2. community members then apply with the Portland Bureau of Transportation for an encroachment permit and a block party permit, that allow them to shut down two streets (4 blocks) during a City Repair Project intersection painting

By keeping the regulatory process flexible and simple, Portland enables communities to create artistic and ecologically-oriented transportation improvements. Projects such as benches, community kiosks, gardens, street paintings, tile mosaics, and intersection treatments, though granular, integrally stitch neighborhoods together and inspire creativity and diversity.

The semi-permanent nature of some projects foster opportunities for continual innovation

Some projects are semi-permanent, fostering opportunities for continual innovation

The City Repair Project is about the intersection of transportation, art, public spaces, and community engagement. Fostering collaboration among community members, these projects create permanent and semi-permanent street improvements that benefit neighborhoods and the city at-large.  Following the lead of People St and Great Streets, City Repair Project is another model that Los Angeles can adapt as a means to encourage creative and environmentally sustainable placemaking.

Our mobility future is upon us! Plan for 2035!

Exciting things keep happening for the future of mobility in Los Angeles! Some of you who have been following mobility planning and implementation in the City may be wondering when Mobility Plan 2035, the primary planning document that guides planning and implementation of mobility for the City, could take effect.  Well you are in luck! On Tuesday, August 4th, the LA City Council Transportation and Planning and Land Use Management Committees will consider the decision to adopt the Plan at 2:30pm in Council Chambers.

If urban planning and government are not your profession, you might be wondering what a plan is, why we use them, or how you can learn more. Planning documents are developed (this one has been in development for nearly 4 years!) with an extensive process of outreach, studies, socio-economic forecasting, visioning, and strategic planning in order to guide unified decision making in the future.  Plans are not set in stone, but they provide goals (aspirations in vision) and objectives (ways of achieving the vision) that the City can pursue to achieve a desired future. Once adopted, Mobility Plan 2035 will become part of the City’s General Plan and provide policy and implementation guidance for LA streets for the next 20 years.

Mobility Plan 2035 is getting ready for a green light!

Mobility Plan 2035 is especially dynamic and groundbreaking in that it represents the first time Complete Streets policies and guidance will be reflected in the City’s General Plan! Complete Streets are considered streets that provide safe access for all users.  Mobility Plan 2035 includes a Complete Streets Design Guide that provides decision makers, departments, and the broader community a number of options for public rights of way (streets!) to achieve safe mobility access for people of all ages and abilities.

Next Tuesday August 4th at 2:30pm the LA City Council Transportation and Planning and Land Use Management Committees will consider the decision to adopt the the Mobility Plan 2035, the key planning document for mobility and streets in the City of Los Angeles. If the Committees vote to adopt the Plan, then the Plan will be heard at full City Council for final Plan adoption, the last step in the adoption process!

We’d like to tell you a little more about the Plan! Planning documents can be policy game-changers, and some of the substantial policy directives found in Mobility Plan 2035 are outlined in its Chapters:

  1. Safety First
  2. World Class Infrastructure
  3. Access to All Angelenos
  4. Collaboration, Communication and Informed Choices
  5. Clean Environment & Healthy Communities

Reseda Boulevard, LA’s first iteration of the Great Streets program shows how streets can facilitate low-stress travel with a parking protected bike lane and an attractive walking environment

Mobility Plan 2035 provides a vision of integrated transportation networks for all road users. The Plan especially focuses on safe, low stress networks that encourage more people to embrace modes of active transportation, whether it be biking, walking, strolling, rollerblading, skating or more.

The plan also establishes objectives to measure success, including objectives to decrease transportation-related fatalities; establish slow school zones; provide frequent, reliable on-time bus arrival; increase vehicular travel time reliability; expand bicycle ridership; expand access to shared-use vehicles; share real time information to inform travel choices; and increase economic productivity by lowering the overall cost of travel.

Other cool Mobility Plan objectives include ensuring that 80% of street segments do not exceed targeted operating speeds and increasing the percentage of females who travel by bicycle to 35% of all riders by 2035

If Mobility Plan 2035 is achieved, it would take 219,000 trips off of our roads every day, and result in 1.7 million fewer miles traveled every day, which would be great for our health, our commute, and the health of our environment! Full implementation of the Plan would triple the number of Los Angeles residents living within a quarter mile of a Transit Enhanced Network (TEN) facility and would more than double the number of jobs located within a quarter mile of such transit facilities.

Don’t forget, on Tuesday, August 4th, the LA City Council Transportation and Planning and Land Use Management Committees will consider the decision to adopt the Mobility Plan 2035 at 2:30pm in Council Chambers. The meeting is open to the public and speaker cards will be available for those who wish to comment.

Planning for the Future of #bikeLA at Career Day

As an active transportation planner, I often think about the future: my impact on it, how I’d like to see things change, what the world will look like for the next generation, and (of course) why active transportation will help us in the future… I recently got to make a different type of impact on the future, given the opportunity to visit an elementary school and speak to young people about what I do for work!

Surveying Griffin Elementary kindergarten students on how they get to school

Once upon a time, long ago in Boyle Heights, I was an impressionable 2nd Street Elementary School student. When Career Day came around, we were introduced to a parade of civil servants including police officers, firemen, and sanitation truck drivers.  While no transportation planner ever visited my classroom to inspire me to pursue my chosen profession, I was inspired to pursue a profession where I could be of service to my city. These Career Day visitors taught me two important things: that it is important to do something I love and that I need to be prepared with the right skills for the job.

As a graduate student in Urban and Regional planning and a Student Professional Worker at the LADOT Bike Program, I have the privilege of doing something I love: encouraging Angelenos to use active transportation modes like biking and walking and making streets safer and more enjoyable for all Angelenos.

Last month I had the pleasure of reliving Career Day, this time in the role of The Professional!

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Notes from the October 2nd Bicycle Plan Implementation Team Meeting

BPIT participants discussing Neighborhood Council communication.

This past October 2nd, the Los Angeles Departments of City Planning (LADCP) and Transportation (LADOT) held their quarterly Bicycle Plan Implementation Team (BPIT) meeting. Over 20 people were in attendance, ranging from city employees from various departments, representatives from city council offices and several bicycling organizations, to many bicyclists and residents intrigued to see where bike infrastructure in Los Angeles is heading.

(Check out the meeting’s agenda to better follow along with these notes.)

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LADOT is Hiring

We hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day Weekend!

We’ve got news that moms in L.A. should be happy to hear. Our colleagues in the Pedestrian Program announced late last week that they’ll be hiring a pedestrian coordinator and assistant pedestrian coordinator very soon. We first made this announcement back in January. Since then, the City Council has decided to hire the two positions as City employees instead of as consultants. Full details on these positions are available via the down-loadable PDF links below. Applications will be due at 10am on May 25th.

Hiring announcement

Pedestrian coordinator position

Assistant pedestrian coordinator position

Hiring Safe Routes To School Coordinators

A young bicyclist heads east towards Downtown on a planned Bicycle Friendly Street.

I’m excited to let folks know that LADOT has begun the process of hiring two Safe Routes to School (SRS) Coordinators. The Department is planning on hiring one SRS Pedestrian Coordinator and at least one Assistant Coordinator position to help develop a SRS Strategic Plan. This Strategic Plan will help the Department prioritize future school serving pedestrian and bicycle facility improvements based on data-driven recommendations. The Strategic Plan will help strengthen LADOT grant applications to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to schools throughout the City.

An informational meeting for the positions will be held on Thursday, January 12th, 2012 at 10:00 am in Caltrans Conference Room 01.040A located on the first floor of the Caltrans building, 100 South Main St. Los Angeles, CA 90012.

For more information/background on the position, you can visit the City Clerk’s website. The linked webpage has links to important supporting documents, including the staff report outlining the goals and objectives of the new positions (PDF). You can also download the job announcement (PDF) we sent out last week, which includes instructions for completing the application package available on the Los Angeles Business Assistance Virtual Network, which must be received via email by 10:00 am PST Monday, February 13, 2012.

Berendo Middle School Recommended for SRTS Funding

A bicyclist heads east on 11th St. - slated to become a Bicycle Friendly Street with Federal SRTS funding recently awarded.

We’ve got some good news to share! We’ve recently received word that we’ve been awarded funding for our Berendo Middle School Federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grant application. This grant will allow us to build out a Bicycle Friendly Street (BFS) on 11th St. between Harvard Blvd. and Hoover Ave. This BFS facility will help create a safer east-west route through the heart of Pico-Union for both bicyclists and pedestrians, school children and members of the local community.

Here’s an excerpt from the email:

139 project applications were selected out of the 332 applications submitted statewide. Each District through the District Selection Committee Process selected their highest scored projects up to their funding target of $66 million.

Treatments slated for installation include a roundabout, crosswalks, bulbouts, advanced stop bars, a pedestrian crossing warning device, bike loops, signage, sharrows, bike racks, and some SRTS encouragement programming, as well. These will likely include walking/bicycling “school bus” programs, and a complementary incentive program. Many thanks go out to the Berendo Middle School community and staff who expressed their strong support for this Safe Routes to School project. Many thanks to Councilmember Ed Reyes’ staff and to Childrens’ Hospital staff for putting us in contact with the folks who knew this area and its needs firsthand. We’ll keep you posted as this project moves forward.

Bicycle Facilities and Safe Routes to School

In previous generations, the majority of school aged children either walked or biked to school. Children got more physical activity, our streets were less congested, and our air quality was better. Fast forward to 2011: less than 15 percent of children living within a two-mile radius either walk or bike to school. A vast majority are either driven by parents or taken to school by bus. Increased traffic and safety concerns have made it inhospitable for many children to bike or walk to school.

Safe Routes to School

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Programs were created to reverse these trends. SRTS can fund infrastructure and/or programs that improve safety and encourage walking and bicycling. Projects emerge through a collaborative effort between parents, schools, community members and local government. One of the key steps in determining potential partner schools is based on need.  A new mapping tool from the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC) has been a huge help this year in determining where to prioritize SRTS efforts in the City of Los Angeles. (Below is a map developed by SafeTREC of pedestrian and bicycle collisions near school sites in central LA between 2006 and 2008. )

Los Angeles, Central City pedestrian or bicycle collisions

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