Northeast Los Angeles Placemaking Competition: Chichén-Itzá

Project submitted by Viviana Franco

Project designed for Cypress Park


Project Summary and Scale

From Lot to Spot would like to convert a 4800 sq.ft, vacant, blighted lot into a community-designed, culturally-inspired greenspace in Cypress Park, featuring local native plants and an interactive pyramid inspired by Chichén Itzá. We are a community-driven non-profit that creates greenspaces in low-income, communities of color.

"Cypress- Itzá" will feature a pyramid-style structure that would serve as a climbing playspace for local children, as a platform for social interaction and inspiration for all. The pyramid can be used to perform plays, spoken word events, as a platform for local community events or simply as an element to be enjoyed. Inspiration for the design is taken from the culturally rich Latino community that has lived in the Los Angeles region for hundreds of years. Chichén Itzá was a large Mayan socio-economic center in the Yucatán, Mexico rich with cultural practices, economic activities and daily social rituals - much like Cypress Park.

We propose the project to be a model for similar green and social spaces in the NELA - community-driven, time-sensitive spaces to empower residents and enhance the community.

The project from planning to construction to the grand opening would take less than 12 months; we believe it is important that projects get off the ground early and often during the NELA Placemaking initiatives.

The project is also a commitment to stay true to objective of the NELA Riverfront Collaborative initiative -- community engagement first.


Why are you committed to this project?

Because I know firsthand what it is like to grow up and live in a neighborhood without access to greenspaces, healthy food options, bike opportunities and other necessary elements to create a healthy community. As a stakeholder in the NELA, I am committed to creating healthy, community spaces.


What are the most relevant characteristics of project site and scale?

The 4800 sqft. triangular lot is adjacent to the 110 Freeway and about 500 ft south of the Arroyo Gold Line Station. The most striking element of the space is not a feature but an action: someone in the community has already attempted to revitalize the space by planting cacti around the perimeter and placing decorative white rocks as a border. It is clear that the community was empowered to reclaim the space.



Describe how this project will reinforce a sense of place or enhance the built environment.

This project will be community designed and built. A simple, yet commanding design such as a replica of a powerful structure will be act as a beacon in the community. The once blighted and vacant lot will be a vibrant, active social space in Cypress Park. The design will reinforce the cultural diversity in the area, and advocate for designing with a sense of history. Cypress-Itzá would welcome people from all walks of life in not only in NELA but from all of Los Angeles.


Provide a description of the project's necessary planning activities.

First and foremost, community engagement will have to be performed to discuss specific project features with adjacent community. FLTS would host at minimum two community workshops. Then discussions with various parties to move the project forward would be needed such as discussions with Councilmember Gil Cedillo's office in order to garner support and apply for permits, L.A. City Planning Department, Cypress Park Neighborhood Council and other relevant community based organizations.


What is a rough estimate of your project budget?

The preliminary budget, including labor, project management, and materials, is $71,540. The project timeline in order to stay true to our mission of creating time-sensitive community projects, would be realized within 12 months. We are in current talks with the owner to lease the land and/or provide a conservation easement.


How does this project leverage existing resources and efforts?

We are partnering with local community leader and business in Cypress Park -- Antigua Coffee House. Yancey Quinones, owner, is a community leader and advocate of creating community-driven, multi-benefit projects that inspire youth in Cypress Park to improve Cypress Park. The project will be a collaborative between From Lot to Spot, Antigua Coffee House, Cypress Park Chamber of Commerce and 8th grade students from Nightengale Middle School. Furthermore, in order to stay true to a community driven project, labor, materials and resources will be sourced locally.


What community need is your project serving?

Cypress Park and the surrounding NELA communities are in dire need of community-driven, neighborhood-level green space. Although Griffith, Debs, and Elysian Parks are in proximity to the area, these are regional spaces created decades ago without input and inspiration from the local community. Neighborhood level spaces are necessary to create empowered communities and strengthen community identity.


If your project is realized, what does success look like?

Cypress-Itzá would be a space never empty; couples strolling there are night, children playing in the day. Local wildlife would re-habitat the natural elements at the greenspace. Local community groups and individuals alike will host functions at the space: community members would host "kermes" (fundraisers) for various causes; students at Nightengale would perform open-air plays. Cypress- Itzá is so successful that it is the first of many similar community-driven, time-sensitive projects constructed in NELA that would go on to completely transform and enhance the social and built environment through urban design and community empowerment.

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