Every Day is Park(ing) Day

Parking Day

Park(ing) Day is a verdant combination of public space awareness, land use policy discourse, transportation reform advocacy, performance and art, media spectacle, distributed culture model, playful fun and to some degree, civic subversion of the status quo.

In short, a happening after Departures' own heart.

The fifth annual Park(ing) Day LA (and seventh annual Parking Day; the happening was famously started by the San Francisco design shop, Rebar, in 2005) took place last Friday, September 16.

But based on Departures' areas of coverage, here in the Land of Sunshine, every day is parking day.

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Before we catalog some of the ways how, for folks who missed last week's substantial media coverage of the feed-the-meter-pro-green-mash-up, here's a brief summary of what Park(ing) Day is as well as a disclosure of this columnist's past Park(ing) Day participation.

"PARK(ing) Day," reads the introductory text on the international feeder web site, "is an annual, worldwide event that invites citizens everywhere to transform metered parking spots into temporary parks for the public good."

Four years ago, I was part of the team at Farmlab. The project hosted Park(ing) Day L.A. organizers at a planning session and subsequently held a parking-related Farmlab Public Salon on the big Day. That Salon panel included CLUI's Erik Knutzen, architect Ali Jeevanjee, and UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, the urban planning "rock star of parking." The following year I participated in Farmlab's Park(ing) Day contribution by penning the happily absurdist swords-to-ploughshares prose (check the bottom of the page) that accompanied the mobile palm tree-in-a-planter that group placed in a curbside spot.

[Related notes: Former Farmlab colleagues Paolo Davanzo, Lisa Marr and Autumn Rooney are among the many Angelinos who continued to be active Park(ing) Day participants. Rooney, now with Echo Park Time Bank, designed the Park(ing) Day L.A. logo, and here's what she and her colleagues did for Park(ing) Day 2010. Davanzo and Marr's Echo Park Film Center offered up a Filmmobile screening of the cycling flick, "Breaking Away," at the 2010 Park(ing) Day after-party.]

Let's now return to the "everyday" park(ing) day prowess of the people of our city. Below is a quick trip through some of Departures' offerings regarding parks, art and culture, civic activism, alternative transportation - many of Park(ing) Day's greatest advocates are also cycling and public transportation advocates - and a few other alternative uses for parking lots and parking spaces.

PARKS
Departures "LA River Field Guide" includes the section, "Parks along the River"

Not every park can be Griffith Park - with its 4,210 acres and boast of being "the largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the United States."

(This statistic is always a shock to hear and read - sort of like the stat that urban L.A. has the top population density in the nation. )

Which is why advocates and planners and landscape architects have pushed for pocket parks - sort of a cufflink as opposed to an Olmsted-style Emerald Necklace.

Departures: Parks along the River features a section on pocket parks:

"Small pocket parks - some symbolic in nature - have sprung up along the Los Angeles River, from Los Feliz to Elysian Valley and together they create the L.A. River Greenway Trail. Although generally small, these multi-purpose spaces provide areas for recreation and watershed management, offering a new direction for how to treat, rebuild and enjoy the banks of the Los Angeles River. Plans to build more parks are in the works, thanks to the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy, North East Trees and numerous other area organizations."

Below, Lynn Dwyer, landscape architect, explains what a pocket park is.













ART & CULTURE
Departures has offered deep coverage of the art and art history of Los Angeles. One ideal jumping-in point is Departures: Venice's "Arts and Beats" section featuring oral histories from John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Robbie Conal and many other leading lights. Conal's piece is here.

The longtime guerrilla political street poster artist is famous - or infamous, depending on your convictions - for turning the greater city into both a gallery and a push for change. Park(ing) Day connection, anyone?













ACTIVISM
Departures roster of oral history interviews with Los Angeles activists is legion. This is a column or two for another Monday, but to cite just a few: Here's Tom Hayden. Here's Munson Kwok. Here's Irvin Lai. And here, of course, is author, performance artist, raconteur extraordinaire and L.A. River visionary, Lewis MacAdams.













ALT TRANSPORTATION
Again, we'll just pass along a handful of Departures' many examples of non-automotive mobility. Departures LA River Field Guild includes this section, "Biking Along the LA River." The recent Departures Decathlon, Part I, points back to then-high school cyclist David Alvarez. Student producer Thomas Liu discusses the Chinatown Metro Gold Line here. Departures' Justin Cram kayaks and photographs the L.A. River here. And there's plenty of horseback riding here, in Departures: Richland Farms.













PARKING + STREET SCENES
Roy Choi - the man behind Kogi BBQ - took a Venice parking lot and turned it into a scene. This was a private space, not public the way a city street is, but Choi and company still took an asphalt stretch and turned it from temporary storage for an empty vehicle into a vibrant and popular gathering spot.

"It started when the owner of The Brig on Abbot Kinney Boulevard invited Kogi to serve tacos in the adjacent parking lot. After great reception, Kogi instantly branched out to include four trucks that circulate throughout Los Angeles. But no matter where they are parked, Chef Roy Choi, co-founder of Kogi, feels Venice is home. He refers specifically to the way people stay to eat. Rather than taking food and driving off, people hang around, order, eat, and then order some more."














Another L.A. parking lot is mentioned as part of a poem by Jerry Garcia. Titled "At the Grove," it reads:

Ghosts sell produce
from the backs of Studebakers,
phantom children race miniature cars
on an asphalt parking lot
that covers all that's left
of its former track
on 3rd and Fairfax in Los Angeles.
Fountains boogie onto cobblestones,
it's like Vegas with a trolley car.

Also, here's another student producer on a parking lot reconsidered -- the Roice Torres Digital Mural in Highland Park:

"My mural is about the things that people don't really appreciate in Highland Park, like the legal graffiti walls in the parking lots. These parking lots decrease the graffiti around the neighborhood. Instead of the kids painting on the stores and the houses, they do it on the walls of the parking lots."

Meanwhile, for asphalt-adjacent street scene coverage - involving the usual tangle of private public space issues and popular aesthetics - check Departures' Ed Fuentes' work, including here, "Roaming the 'Street' Art District."

And finally, realize this has been a long post, but for those of you still reading, we'll end with a song. In the over-the-top creative spirit and seeming ubiquity of Park(ing) Day, today's outro is a tune from someone likewise outré.

Departures: Venice features Harry Perry, famous street performer - the electric guitar playing, roller-skating musician who is as familiar at Venice Beach as the sand.














Videos via Departures. Photo Credit: The image, from 2007, accompanying this post was taken by Flickr user ubrayj02. It was used under Creative Commons license.

About the Author

Jeremy Rosenberg is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and consultant whose work has appeared in various books, magazines, newspapers, and online.
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