play / 2014

Cypress Park Pocket Park

Cypress Park Pocket Park

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

4800 sq.ft. vacant, blighted lot in #CypressPark is no more! -reported by LA in the year 2015 #flts #parkspaceequity


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

FLTS will convert a vacant, demoralizing lot in Cypress Park into a community designed pocket park.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Northeast LA

What is your idea/project in more detail?

The idea is to not only activate vacant lots in low income communities, but create long-term solutions to blight and greenspace inequity. From Lot to Spot will convert a 4800 sq.ft vacant, blighted lot into a community-designed, pocket park in Cypress Park featuring local native plants, trees and a walking path. This project will be community designed and built. The once blighted and vacant lot will be a vibrant, active social space in Cypress Park. The pocket park will be a pilot project, to demonstrate how these small, under-utilized vacant spaces can become a network of greenspaces in park-poor areas.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

  1. Late 2015 – Early 2015: Comprehensive Community Engagement. FLTS will host two community workshops to engage community in design to ensure the park will meet their needs. Soapbox: When people contribute to a community asset, they invest themselves and derive a sense of pride that often empowers them to stay active in and care for their community.

  2. Late Winter/Early Spring 2015: Design. SWA will finalize the design based on community drawings and verbal input. Final design presented to community during a “sidewalk engagement” party which will serve as the kick off for their new space!

  3. Spring – Summer 2015: Construction.

  4. Summer 2015 - Pocket Park Opens! The vacant lot is no more – we have converted a vacant lot into an urban “spot”.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?

FLTS has a long standing belief that creating access to greenspaces in park-poor communities doesn’t need to be a process that begins in year 1 and ends with a park opening in year 9. Cypress Park Pocket Park will be a pivotal project in demonstrating that creating access to parks and greenspaces does not need to take years. This model can be easily implemented by agencies, community based organizations and non-profits to create a network of play and greenspaces in their park-poor communities. We are confident this model is a long-term, implementable solution to make LA the best place to play.

Whom will your project benefit?

For this project, the pocket park will directly benefit the community of Cypress Park in North east Los Angeles. According to the 2010 Census , Cypress Park has an estimated population of approximately 11, 000 people, among the highest densities in Los Angeles County. In addition, the household median income for the ½ mile radius of the proposed park is $39,559, well below the poverty line.

However, because this is a pilot project , this pocket park will demonstrate how these small, under-utilized vacant spaces can become a network of greenspaces in park-poor areas in all of Los Angeles. We will illustrate how this project can be replicated and implemented over and over in similar spaces across Los Angeles.

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

We believe that successful community projects need a comprehensive collaborative of stakeholders. To ensure this, this project will be a collaborative between three major partners that will provide resources that will engage a comprehensive public. We will be partnering with local community leader and business in Cypress Park - Antigua Coffee House. Yancey Quinones, owner, is a community leader and advocate of creating community-driven, multi-benefit projects that inspire youth in Cypress Park to improve Cypress Park. Antigua Coffee House - located four blocks - from the vacant lot will serve as the community space hosting design workshops.

In addition 8th grade students from Nightingale Middle School located less than ¼ from the park will be engaged a grade-level service learning project during the park’s construction. Students will be involved in assisting with community engagement and final stage plantings at the park in 2nd semester of 2015.

FLTS will be partnering with SWA Group (http://www.swagroup.com/) on design of the park. FLTS and SWA have partnered on greenspace projects in the last three years including our successful Dominguez Enhancement and Engagement Projects – which converted a vacant, blighted area of the Dominguez Creek in Gardena into a active bicycle path while restoring the natural habitat that existed along the creek. 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. SWA will bring their expertise in design to ensure these spaces are designed to specifically meet the community’s needs and assure quality design.
Lastly, in order to stay true to a community driven project, labor, materials and resources will be sourced locally.
Three factors that are critical to the success of the collaborations are:

  1. An adopted understanding that final design of the space is community driven
  2. Committed and full participation from all partners
  3. Acknowledging that an engaged community is an empowered community – and every resource partners bring are guided by this principle

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?

  • Access to open space and park facilities
  • Per capita crime rates
  • Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods
  • Residents within 1⁄4 mile of a park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric)
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Cypress Park Pocket Park will be providing access to recreation opportunities to a community that does not have currently have access. According the California Department of Parks and Recreation, there is 1.32 acres of parkspace per 1000 residents within ½ mile radius of the vacant lot. This is well below the acceptable standard of 10 acres per 1000 residents a thriving community should have.

In our work converting vacant, blighted spaces into community, active places, we have witnessed local crime activity decrease. Whereas a vacant lot provides a space for illicit criminal activity such as drug use, illegal dumping and prostitution, an active, empowered space no longer provides that “room”. Instead of drug use, community members witness children playing. Instead of parked cars by the vacant lot, they see mothers walking with strollers. There is a dramatic change in the use of the space, and thus in the potential for crime.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Tangible metrics of success at the pocket park will be measured by:

  1. number of users at the park
  2. number of police dispatch reports to the park – post construction
  3. number of informal and formal events at the park
  4. number of individuals and agencies who have utilized FLTS’s model of cost-effective, time sensitive green space building to create access in park-poor communities in Los Angeles

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

  1. The Broken Window Theory. When a vacant lot stays vacant, the whole community is demoralized on a systemic level. Everything is affected from childrens opportunity to play to local economic investment.

  2. 118th & Doty Pocket Park , Hawthorne , CA – FLTS fought hard to build a park, in a 5500 sq. ft. vacant lot. We proved to the City that it could be done quickly, economically AND with community design input.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

FLTS prides itself on ensuring communities when we come in to do engagement around a space; they will not just get a plan ,but they will get a PROJECT. We have a 5 for 5 success ratio of community engagement and greenspace projects within a 12 month timeline – it is our internal metric. We are able to do this because we hold true that creating the necessary spaces to green our communities does not have to take years and millions of dollars. With the right partnerships, resources and careful planning, we are able to build and execute projects in short time spans. This is our commitment to the community.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

  1. Development Setbacks. Every project has a timeline and sometimes contingencies occur that one cannot foresee – such as the irrigation installation is delayed because a water main broke. Or an outdoor community workshop has to be changed because it is raining. How we ensure the success of implementation is to “roll with the punches” as the saying goes. We attempt to anticipate any setbacks however when they occur, FLTS will plan accordingly to ensure the project moves forward.

  2. Authentic Community Engagement. In our work, sometimes community members are intimated to participate in any civic engagement process because of historical distrust of formal planning processes. Our job is to make them feel as comfortable as possible so they can authentically share their voice. And if we have done our job, we have captured their input and they continue to participate in the community planning process as active community members.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)