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Neighborday Communities

Neighborday Idea #5: Transform a Vacant Lot into a Pop-Up Park

by Luis Gutierrez Nat Gale

April 23, 2015

April 25 marks the fifth anniversary of Neighborday, a global block party we invented to get people talking (and partying) with the people who live around them. Leading up to the big day, we’re sharing creative ways organizations in our native Los Angeles are connecting with the folks who share their walls and fences.

Stay tuned this week for more ideas about how to celebrate. #LetsNeighbor

Neighborday 2015 Idea #5:

Transform a vacant lot into a pop-up park.

It’s often challenging for individual organizations to create large-scale change in their communities due to restraints in funding and capacity. That’s why Neighborday—or any other moment that encourages collective impact—is so important. 

On Neighborday, Great Streets Los Angeles is collaborating with Free Lots Angeles to coordinate a pop-up park in a vacant lot in South Los Angeles—at 41st Street and Central Avenue from 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Activations like this can be a challenge to pull off without additional support, but they really do demonstrate just how much a community can improve when we pay attention to areas we usually ignore.

If you want to liven up a vacant lot in your neighborhood, here’s how we’ve made it happen:

1. Lot/Neighborhood Identification  We work with community members and local officials to identify a lot that has been vacant and could be better used in a more positive, community-oriented way. In this first step, make sure to identify any barrier that might prevent you from gaining entry to your lot of choice (insurance, zoning regulations, building permits, etc.).

2. Community Workshop Engagement and Planning  We work with community members over several meetings to gather their ideas on what the vacant lot could be used for.

3. Analysis and Design After significant community engagement, our coalition works with local community leaders to design the lot activation itself using resources from local donors.

4. Construction This is where you make your awesome designs come to life. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to not only construct what you have designed, but to make sure you can get what you’ve built onto your lot, in case you have to build off-site.

5. Activation With the help of lots of community outreach and promotion, the community is invited to the lot to have a great time.

It’s true that communities and individuals tend to be resistant to change. That’s because it’s hard to imagine the potentially positive future.But by hosting a demonstration in a vacant lot, we can show that parks and public gathering spaces are fundamental to the livability of our neighborhoods, with low commitment and minimal costs. In South Los Angeles, an area of the city where there are far too few parks, there is approximately 4’ x 4’ of green space per resident—the size of a small closet. Compare that to the city average, which is 22 times greater per resident.  We hope you’ll join us this Saturday to add a bit more park space to South L.A. through our Neighborday pop-up park activation—or that you’ll get inspired to launch your own, wherever you are.

Free Lots Angeles (F.L.A.) works with communities to transform vacant lots into health-promoting neighborhood resources, organizing “pop up” events on vacant lots identified through meetings with local residents, community organizations, and city council offices. F.L.A. guides the community planning process to learn what resources residents want to bring to their community, then helps to produce the pop-up events.

Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative is a partnership with local  ouncilmembers and community leaders and stakeholders (like Free Lots Angeles) to coordinate city services to design, build, activate, and maintain streets as the centerpieces of our communities. One of the primary focus areas is Central Avenue in South Los Angeles. Great Streets is also an ethos and a vision, meant to inspire everyday Angelenos to reimagine our streets as public gathering spaces and community centers.

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Neighborday Idea #5: Transform a Vacant Lot into a Pop-Up Park