Monday, November 8, 2010

My Other Favorite Pocket Park

I've been meaning to blog about this park in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood for ages. It's been around for 10 years or so, but I doubt many people walking down India Street would realize it's there--which is maybe what I like the most about it. Here's the view from the sidewalk:

I'm sure most people passing by assume that this leads to a private building entrance or someone's office, and in part they would be right; the park is actually a "quasi public" space meant to serve as open space for some adajacent apartments, as well as a park for general use.

It's not too inviting at first, but go a few feet further and suddenly you're presented with this:
 And this!
I think it's these kind of surprises that make walking such a great mode of transportation. There's a sense of discovery that you just won't ever get with a car (because you go to fast to take in the finer details of a neighborhood) or even transit (with its set routes and rigid schedules). And in the interest of promoting that kind of exploration, I'm not going to tell you exactly where this park is. You'll just have to take a walk and find it for yourself.

Friday, November 5, 2010

This Week on Foot

This week began with another tragic, high-profile pedestrian crash involving school children. Intersection safety scrutinized after NoHo crosswalk death (and serious injury to a second child). In response, the City will "discuss the area's history of accidents." How comforting.

Perhaps LA will take advice from Springfield, MO, where children are being bussed across a busy street because the Williams Elementary Pedestrian Bridge To Be Torn Down. But let's hope not.

A better solution would be to look to places like Perth, Australia, where the Inner city speed limit may be cut to improve pedestrian safety.

And it isn't just Perth that's looking for real solutions to its pedestrian problems. In Austin, TX a Walkability audit could affect future landscape, and in Denver Bicyclists and Pedestrians to be Counted in 6 Coloardo Communities.

Stuff like this is important, particularly as the time change makes evening walking less safe. As the Austrian Committee for Traffic Safety warns us, Twilight especially dangerous for pedestrians.

And if you don't buy into any of this walkability stuff? Maybe you'd be interested in A rant over yet another crosswalk scramble

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WalkSanDiego Seeks Executive Director

I really can't say enough about the great work that WalkSanDiego does; conducting workshops and walk audits that help identify pedestrian improvements for local communities, training the planning and engineering community about walkability prinicples, leading walks through some of San Diego's most interesting neighborhoods, the list goes on and on. Over the past decade WSD has grown from a small, volunteer-only organization to a robust nonprofit with several paid staff and a $650,000 annual budget.

WSD is currently seeking qualified candidates for its executive director position. You can learn more about the job and how to apply on the WSD webpage here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Case of the Mysterious Pocket Park

When I first moved to my neighborhood, I would often pass this cactus garden on Topanga Boulevard and marvel at the creativity of the people who chose such a unique landscaping scheme for their yard. Were they industry people who had a bunch of leftover props from a Western shoot and didn't know what to do with them? Cactus lovers with a lot of spare time on their hands? Then, not too long ago, a strange thing happened.

The yard started growing.

First it moved to the median separating the parking on Topanga from the road.
Then in crept to the other side of the street and took over the bus stop.
Soon it made it all the way down the road to an adjacent parkway.

Monday, November 1, 2010

City of Los Angeles Revises Parkway Rules

Okay, let's start with the basics. A parkway is that little strip of grass, trees, or (depending on your neighbors' level of motivation) dirt and weeds between the edge of the road bed and the sidewalk. Although the parkway is technically within the public right-of-way, the adjacent property owner is responsible for its design and maintenance.

Parkways are an important part of the pedestrian landscape for two reasons. First, they provide space for streets trees and other plantings that make the pedestrian environment more comfortable and interesting for walking. Second, they act as a buffer between the sidewalk and the traveled roadway, which increases pedestrian safety.

In practice some homeowners get pretty creative with their parkways, but until last week the only things homeowners were technically allowed to plant without a permit were street trees and lawns. Yawn. With the release of Los Angeles' new Residential Parkway Landscaping Guidelines, homeowners can now plant a variety of "drought-tolerant turf substitute plants," including grasses, a handful of flowers, and even beach strawberries.