Friday, October 26, 2007

Public Space LA!

I joined developers, architects, planners, and open space advocates at Public Space LA!, a day long symposium hosted by the LA Chapter of the American Institute of Architects dedicated to examining the unique challenges and opportunities that face Los Angeles in our efforts to preserve and create open space. We need to capitalize on our open space opportunities and embrace one of the major components of civic intersection - our city parks.

In the past, we turned our back on public open space because everyone had their own private space - their backyards. As Los Angeles has changed, so too has our attitude toward our open space. Our parks are part of a much broader urban context, one that examines their impact on the environment and on our communities. They figure into our watershed, holding the potential to become catchments that clean our water rather than conveying pollutants to the LA River or Pacific Ocean. They are places for our children to play, and it is only by encouraging community participation and community ownership that we can transform our parks into places around which our neighborhoods grow. Parks stand at the crossroads of urban revitalization, giving us a place to interact while becoming an active part of our effort to clean our environment.

Marsh Street Park is a perfect example of how parks have become an active part of our environmental and communal dialogues. Next to the LA River in Elysian Valley, we have built a park that filters the water before it reaches the watershed. Right next door is a skate park that was designed by some of the young people who now skate on it. By creating a sense of environmental stewardship and community ownership of these parks, we have changed Elysian Valley’s idea of a park, and the community has changed with it.