Environmental Quality / 2013

Network and Nature:Identification and Implementation of Community Green Spaces within Los Angeles

Network and Nature:Identification and Implementation of Community Green Spaces within Los Angeles

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by From Lot to Spot

The first Angelenos were once referred to as "the People of the Earth". Why not return to the past? Why not implement a proven way of life that reigned and prospered for centuries while inhabited by the first, original Angelenos: The Tongva? Our goal is to create a planning and implementation tool that will assist in the realization and installation of simple landscape based interventions. When applied, will create a network of community greenspaces within Los Angeles. The manual will lay out details on how to create greenspace networks in low-income communities and how to design them with the utmost respect to the environment. With Los Angeles County being 96% developed and built out, is it even possible? Yes it is. From Lot to Spot and SWA Group would like to create a planning and implementation tool, with specific design guidelines for specific communities to create a network of community greenspaces in Los Angeles. Given the opportunity we would provide communities, city officials, friends and neighbors a tool to create needed greenspaces throughout Los Angeles.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

From Lot to Spot (FLTS) is a 501c3 non-profit founded in 2007 as a direct result of the relationship between lack of accessible greenspace and the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. FLTS’s unique approach involves grass-root, community engagement to ensure disadvantaged communities contribute their voice in developing healthy spaces in their neighborhoods. In the last five years, FLTS has worked on healthy living community engagement projects in the cities of Inglewood, Gardena, Lawndale, Hawthorne and Lynwood. 2012 was a landmark year for From Lot to Spot. FLTS constructed and opened the first ever community garden in the community of Lennox, CA. , opened the 118th/Doty Ave Pocket Park: the first community-designed pocket park in the City of Hawthorne. In collaboration with SWA, we planned, funded and constructed a 9000 sq.ft. recreation space along the Dominguez Creek that was designed and implemented by high school students and community members.

SWA projects span over 60 countries and have garnered over 700 awards. In 2005, SWA received the Landscape Architecture Firm Award, as designated by the American Society of Landscape Architects. One of the seven SWA offices is located in Downtown LA and is continually excited about the opportunity to enhance the city we live in.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

From Lot to Spot (http://fromlottospot.org/) will be partnering with SWA Group (http://www.swagroup.com/). FLTS is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving blighted, urban neighborhoods in the greater Los Angeles area one vacant lot at a time. SWA is a world leader in landscape architecture, planning and urban design with a passion to create exceptional places for people with an emphasis on natural systems and art.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

In the end, the success of our efforts will be echoed as part of a larger initiative to re-green Los Angeles. The success of our efforts will be reflected by the agencies we will inspire to adopt the ideology of this level of greenspace construction. And the benefits will be seen directly by the community members we work with. If encourage one park building agency to adopt the idea that bringing nature back to Los Angeles in the form of creating access to greenpace in low income communities does not have to cost millions and take years, then we have succeeded. This noted, we do have specific measurables that we would like to attain. The success of our efforts will be measured by the number of greenspaces created after the launch of the manual. From Lot to Spot and SWA will collect baseline information from specific communities where we will be marketing the manual to public agencies, community based organizations and any interested green space builder. From Lot to Spot has a goal to create 5, 10 and 15 interconnected greenspaces within a 2, 4, and 6 year timeframe that will create green networks in Los Angeles communities. In addition, to ensure the greenspaces are successful, we will measure the quality of the projects and their impact in the community with post-occupancy community outreach through extensive engagement.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Can you imagine, a Los Angeles with a large system of parks, gardens, micro-spaces, plazitas, parklets, pedestrian walkways that lead to and from work, play and living spaces? By taking simple ideologies of space, connectivity and landscape, Los Angeles can become a beacon for urban environments around the country.
We want the community to be involved in the planning and construction of greenspaces in their own neighborhoods, to make a deeper connection to their environment. The manual will provide communities with a guide for identifying greenspace opportunities and designing cost-effective solutions, and implementation which will help to see projects built in their communities much sooner than later. The purpose of the manual will be specifically designed for communities based on socio-economic conditions but can be used by any neighborhood throughout Los Angeles. As reported in the LA2050 report and several, recent scholarly studies, low-income, communities of color have the greatest need for access to greenspaces. The manual will take in mind specific land use opportunities or restrictions, culturally-sensitive relationships with space, and other unique community characteristics. With this framework, the manual will be able to be utilized and implemented in similar communities and cities throughout the country. By facilitating the process of creating the needed greenspace in multiple communities, the manual will directly benefit Los Angeles as a whole. These are grassroots playspaces, nature spaces, and contemplative spaces. With the implementation of these greenspaces Los Angeles will reap the benefits of planting trees and vegetation that sequester carbon emissions and improve air quality; designing permeable surfaces such as low/no mow grasses and porous paving will capture and clean stormwater; creating beautiful, clean greenspaces will spur economic investment; and providing areas where adults and youth can interact with the natural environment in their neighborhoods will create ample health and wellness opportunities by combating nature deficit disorder. In addition, the manual will create greenspaces that will revitalize neighborhoods: studies prove time and time again the more greenspace a community has, the higher the property values. The aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood due to the addition of greenspace will encourage investment into the neighborhood.

These will be greenspaces that will support communities to thrive, not just survive.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

Success would be walkable, community greenspaces linked through pedestrian and bicycle friendly pathways throughout ALL of Los Angeles. 2050 would be a year where the biggest greenspace issue is not how to create more access for low-income communities but how to maintain it. The manual has so inspired greenspace building that in the most disadvantaged communities, Los Angeles has a myriad of walkways, green alleys, streetscaped medians, pocket parks, roof-top gardens, river bicycle paths, green walls and countless other forms of green space that create interconnecting networks throughout the City. Los Angeles 2050 has surpassed greenspace benchmarks and goals, creating significant environmental impacts such as increasing carbon sequestration, stormwater catchment and the supply of clean groundwater. In addition, surge in greenspace building has significantly increased economic investment in disadvantaged communities and reduced diabetes and heart disease rates. The impacts of the network of sustainable, cost-effective greenspaces are so successful that Los Angeles 2050 is looked upon as a model city for urban centers around the globe.