Photo courtesy of grandparkla.org
Or at least, some of the greatest. The American Planning Association has released its 2013 list of Great Places in America, a mix of streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces that (in their words), "...offer better choices for where and how people work and live. They are enjoyable, safe, and desirable. They are places where people want to be — not only to visit, but to live and work every day."
Grand Park (pictured above) is the only place in Southern California that made the cut this year, although there have been local designees in past years (the Hillcrest neighborhood in San Diego, Santa Monica Beach).
You can take a look at the criteria for becoming an officially Great Place on the website. A brief glance at the guidelines for neighborhoods gives a you a sense of the just how much needs to come together to create a truly amazing space, from road design to runoff management to retailers--in other words, all those same little details that create walkability. (It also gives you a sense of how much us planners love our jargon, but that's another story.)
Not surprisingly for an award selected by an association of planners, the list of previously-nominated great places highlights the role that urban planning plays in creating, or more often preserving, beloved urban spaces. Turns out it takes an astonishing number of laws, guidelines, and crafty funding mechanisms to nurture the country's best places--few of which would be in place without the activists (pedestrian or otherwise) who agitate for those rules to be created...something to keep in mind the next time someone asks you to participate on a committee or send a letter to your senator.