I’ve been thinking about the concept of reimagining Los Angeles lately. There’s been an explosion of development and change happening throughout the city, with new ideas and projects shifting existing spaces into culturally diverse hubs for their communities. From projects that focus on large open space parks such as the new Pershing Square redevelopment in Downtown Los Angeles, to more transit orientated mixed-use open spaces such as the Ivy Station project in Culver City, numerous public projects around the city seem to be thriving and growing alongside new developments.
But there is an area of Los Angeles that hits closer to home…one still fighting for much needed open spaces and recreational park projects to serve its community.
The neighborhood I am referring to is Koreatown, an area filled with a rich and diverse history, and also known to be one of the most dense populated districts by population in Los Angeles County. In fact, Los Angeles is home to the largest Korean population in America, beating even other large metropolitan cities such as New York. This immigrant population has infused Los Angeles with a distinct and influential presence, from Korean cuisine to the types of storefronts and developments that characterize Koreatown’s urban landscape.
Coming from a Korean background myself and growing up in Los Angeles County, Koreatown has always been a familiar neighborhood. I still visit the same traditional Korean restaurants and see the same store owner and servers I’ve known since I was a kid accompanying my parents. (Tip: I recommend the traditional menu at Yong Su San).
Koreatown is characterized by several shopping plazas and countless storefronts that have remained virtually unchanged since my childhood. Unfortunately, one aspect that I’ve also noted as a constant throughout the years is the lack of open green spaces for the community’s residents and visitors.
The only two major parks that Koreatown currently can claim are the Seoul International Park on the intersection of Normandie and Olympic Ave, and the Shatto Recreation Center on Shatto Place and 5th Street. Those two parks need to serve over 12,000 residents in Koreatown, a population desperate for community green spaces to accompany new development, but sorely lacking.
As I reimagine Koreatown, I envision a new park-friendly neighborhood, one utilizing urban infrastructures to create creative public open spaces. Pocket parks could fill in vacant lots or connecting underutilized corridors between buildings; empty or neglected parking lots would be turned into green spaces. Because as much as the community needs places to shop and eat, current and future residents of Koreatown also need open, community spaces to connect and unwind.