By Ted AYALA
Plans to bring a touch of greenery to downtown Glendale got a boost. Keep America Beautiful recently issued a grant for the Brand Parklet project, according to City Manager Scott Ochoa.
The Brand Parklet is part of a larger project to make parkland more accessible to residents, businesses, and visitors. The parklet concept has gained headway in recent years by cities short on available land to designate for parks by making use of small pockets of urban space, such as former parking lots, and converting them into a small, green space.
Speaking to the dais at Tuesday’s Glendale City Council meeting, a representative from Community Development stated that the projects have already found success in cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. The first of Los Angeles’ parklets opened up in nearby Highland Park in February with another one following soon after in downtown.
“[These] were spaces previously for traffic, mainly parking space, that are now converted to public open space in areas that are sparse on such space,” said the representative. “It’s a place where individuals can gather where there was no space before.”
The Brand Parklet would be funded entirely by the Keep America Beautiful grant. Daily maintenance of the site would be provided by the Downtown Glendale Association. Aside from providing a small area where people can sit and relax, a free mini library will also be installed on the site.
Ground breaking would begin next month and construction is expected to be completed by the end of July. The chosen site for the parklet is the southwest corner of California Avenue and Brand Boulevard. Four currently existing public parking spaces would be converted to make room for the parklet.
Concept designs show the parklet with a seating area surrounding an open space that would take up approximately 300 sq. ft. Plant life on the parklet would be local species that are drought resistant. The design was chosen for versatility as a multi-purpose open space.
Local business owners were said to be “ecstatic” over the project.
Councilmember Ara Najarian spoke in favor of the project, though he expressed concerns that the area would become a congregation space for local vagrants.
“Do we have any plans to make sure they don’t abuse it?” he asked. “We don’t want them camping out there.”
City staff replied by saying that members of a “Downtown Ambassadors” program would be monitoring the parklet to ensure against such problems. Additionally, ambient lighting for the site is expected to be a deterrent to homeless seeking to spend the night. It was also mentioned that local businesses have expressed their willingness to be vigilant against any problems at the parklet.
City Attorney Michael J. Garcia noted that while loitering laws are “particularly hard to enforce,” he said that there are a number of alternatives to avoiding any abuse of the parklet, including laws against overnight encampment.
Concerns over the design of the project itself were noted by Councilmember Frank Quintero. While welcoming the parklet and expressing the hope that others would be soon to follow in the city, he criticized the design as being too “spare.”
“Seems like a vast, empty space between the two places to sleep,” he said.
Montrose resident Rye Baerg who chairs the Walk Bike Glendale organization spoke in favor of the project.
“It’ll be great to activate the space in downtown,” he said.