Barcelona's acclaimed "superblocks", first introduced in 2016, have received rave reviews as a convenient way for cities to create new open spaces in communities, while simultaneously reducing air and noise pollution. One member of the City Council hopes to bring the concept to Los Angeles.
In a motion introduced on August 10, 14th District Councilmember Kevin de León proposes a new pilot program dubbed "Park Blocks," which calls for implementing a similar program in Los Angeles, closing streets to automobiles to free up space for pedestrians and cyclists.
“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,” said de León in a news release. “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.”
In Barcelona, the superblocks were created by reconfiguring vehicle circulation within a multi-block area in a way that allows up to 70 percent of street surface area to be used as public spaces. For Los Angeles, de León sees them as a means to create new green spaces and recreation zones in neighborhoods starved for park space, while simultaneously tackling parallel goals such as stormwater capture infrastructure and reductions to traffic deaths.
The motion notes that Los Angeles, despite the adoption of a Vision Zero plan, has seen traffic deaths increase by 20 percent between 2021 and 2020, and is on pace to see another increase in 2022. The Councilmember is already touting support for the park blocks plan from both Move LA and Los Angeles Walks.
A Los Angeles pilot program for the park blocks would be first implemented somewhere within Council District 14, which includes Boyle Heights, Downtown, and other Eastside communities. The item has been referred to the City Council's Transportation Committee for consideration.