Un-Paving Paradise: Turning Parking Lots into Parks

Un-Paving Paradise: Turning Parking Lots into Parks

Raise of hands (click of the mouse in the comment section): Who is a fan of Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope in Parks & Rec?  I have to admit to only watching sporadically, but I love the idea of a woman so devoted to her community that she is personally picking slugs off a complaining neighbor’s sidewalk.

Living in the sprawl of Los Angeles, it’s easy to forget that there are people out there who foresee a greener, cleaner, pedestrian and park-friendly city.  Known as a concrete jungle, L.A. is slowly growing greener – through the creation of parklets, former parking spots transformed into café seating for reading, eating, or meeting friends, or equipped with workout gear and places to play foosball or chess, as well as the 50 Parks Initiative, that aims to green the city after the destruction of the recession, reclaiming abandoned and foreclosed places as green spaces.

Surrounding yourself with beauty can actually make us healthier.  In Krista Tippet’s “On Being” interview with Esther Sternberg, she explores how “architects are working with scientists to imbue the spaces we move through — the sights, sounds, and smells of them — with active healing properties.”

Ms. Sternberg, whose books include Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well Being and The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health & Emotions, references a well-controlled study by environmental psychologist Robert Ulrich, of hospitalized patients, that “even with all these controls where the single variable that differed between patients was the view out the window, what he found was that the patients with a view of a grove of trees left hospital on average a day sooner, needed less pain medication, and had fewer negative nurse’s notes than patients who had a view of a brick wall.”

Knowing that, how can we stop staring at brick walls, and make our city a healthier and happier place to live?  According to the L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks, “The keys to the successful implementation of this initiative are; (1) the establishment of local partnerships; (2) the use of a community driven design process; and, (3) the strict use of low maintenance design standards. Each new park created through this initiative will be developed through an incremental process as resources, and funding are identified and secured.”

Want to add more green, community, and life to your part of the city? Contact your councilperson, and ask what you can do.  A city is alive, showing the soul of the people who live there. We may not be willing to de-slug our neighbor’s sidewalk, but I have faith there’s a little Lesley Knope in all of us.

Do you have a favorite park or parklet in your community? Share photos or stories with us on Twitter @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely.

(Photo: Los Angeles Parklets, The Architect’s Newspaper Blog)