“Park block” model would close some LA streets to traffic

Councilman Kevin de León calls for urban “superblocks” similar to Barcelona’s

Los Angeles Councilman Kevin de León along with Barcelona's "superblocks" (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty Images)
Los Angeles Councilman Kevin de León along with Barcelona's "superblocks" (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty Images)

Drivers, stop your engines. A Los Angeles councilman wants to close off streets to cars and create pedestrian “superblocks” like those in Barcelona.

Councilman Kevin de León, who represents a district from Eagle Rock to Downtown, has proposed a similar urban design called “Park Blocks,” Urbanize Los Angeles reported.

The pilot program, introduced in a motion this week, would close streets to cars to free up space for pedestrians and bicyclists. The Park Blocks would create new open spaces, while reducing traffic noise and air pollution.

“Other parts of the world are demonstrating that big cities can be pedestrian-centric, by using portions of streets in neighborhoods for residents to make it their own and expand open space, give kids more room to play and allow cyclists safer passage on neighborhood streets,” de León said in a statement.

“It’s time for Los Angeles to be a leader in the United States by proving big American cities built around car-centric infrastructure can transform into liveable cities.”

Los Angeles, a leader of the nation’s car culture for more than a century, may face a major adjustment.

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In Barcelona, Spain, superblocks were created in 2016 by blocking off traffic within a multi-block area to allow as much as 70 percent of streets to be used as public space. This created green hubs and squares, allowing pedestrians to stroll, and local businesses to thrive.

“The goal of the Barcelona Superblock model is to break down the inertia and change the rules of the game, developing plans and projects that help us to map out a future city that is healthier, more inclusive and diverse, and more productive,” according to a city website.

For Los Angeles, de León sees the blocks as a means to create new green spaces and recreation zones in neighborhoods starved for parks. Also, they would help capture stormwater, while cutting down on pedestrian traffic deaths.

Despite the adoption of a Vision Zero plan, traffic fatalities in L.A. rose by 20 percent from 2020 to 2021, and are on pace to increase again this year.

If approved, a Los Angeles Park Block plan would be tried first in de León’s Council District 14, a crescent-shaped swath from Eagle Rock to Downtown to Boyle Heights. The proposal has been shuttled to a transportation committee for consideration.

— Dana Bartholomew

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