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Photos: Jennifer Salazar

This is the first in a series of posts examining city streets, identifying how and which landscape elements can help provide benefits to the local community. First, we begin with a general description of what many Los Angeles streets look like today. In the future, I will take a look at other street options, including some AHBE projects, and also the challenges related to improving streets, alongside looking at other options for inspiration.

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Street: noun \ˈstrēt\
1a :  a thoroughfare especially in a city, town, or village that is wider than an alley or lane and that usually includes sidewalks b :  the part of a street reserved for vehicles c :  a thoroughfare with abutting property

Elements of our typical streets today include the asphalt roadway, concrete curb and gutters, sidewalks, and sometimes tree wells (spaces in the sidewalk where trees are planted, often covered with metal tree grates). Vehicular drive lanes of varying widths, sometimes parallel parking at the curb, turn lanes, and occasionally built medians make up the roadway. On the sidewalk – besides trees – site furniture including benches, trash receptacles, bus stops, and/or shelters also exist. Signs – directional, street name, standard traffic – also inhabit space along the sidewalk.

Streets are one of the few remaining outdoor public spaces we have in our built-out cities. And in many cities, these spaces make up much, if not a majority, of the total square footage of public outdoor space in a city. Because of this significant amount of real estate, environmental mitigation by the installation of street trees can be significant, providing shade to encourage the use of more alternative modes of transportation, mitigating heat island effect, and providing habitat for insects and birds.

I think we need to be addressing and providing smart solutions for increased multi-modal uses of our streets, with increased use of trees as transportation methods change. As populations grow older and live longer, as obesity rates increase and threaten the health of so many of our population, and as environmental conditions worsen the need becomes more significant. We should re-examine what these thoroughfares should become to better serve the communities in which they exist.

So, I hope you will stay tuned as we look closer at the Landscape of Street Design over the next couple of months.