Los Angeles to Initiate Car-Free Park Block Pilot Program
Los Angeles is taking inspiration from the success of Barcelona’s Superblock program with its own Park Block Pilot program. The initiative aims to open up city blocks for pedestrians, creating shaded recreational and green public spaces and stormwater capture systems while restricting cars.
The Los Angeles City Council recently greenlit the pilot program, which was first introduced in 2022 by Los Angeles District Councilmember Kevin de León. The Park Block Pilot will begin in Council District 14, which includes Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno and parts of northeast and downtown Los Angeles.
“Park Blocks can save lives lost to poor air quality and traffic violence,” the City Council Transportation Committee said in a report. “They can create instant public open space with substantial shade, outdoor recreation, greening and storm water capture in communities desperate for parks. And they can be accomplished using participatory and customized public processes.”
The report further noted that the pilot program should prioritize neighborhoods with the least access to public spaces, highest population densities and highest health disparities.
The program is based on the Superilla or Superblock program that started in Barcelona in 2016. The Superblock initiative’s goal is to transform traffic-congested city streets into car-free spaces for the public. These blocks restrict cars but provide more spaces for bikes and public transit, and many spaces are transformed into parks and green corridors.
The results of the program in Barcelona are evident. A report by Barcelona’s Public Health Agency (ASPB) and the Partnership for Healthy Cities Evaluated the health impacts of the Superblocks and found declines in air pollution, noise pollution and traffic-related deaths. It also estimated that expanding the program further across the city could prevent nearly 700 deaths per year.
The similar plan for Los Angeles could help alleviate the same issues, including a recent rise in traffic-related deaths. As the Los Angeles Times reported in January, traffic deaths in 2022 increased sharply, passing 300 for the first time in over 20 years.
“The Park Block Pilot recognizes that we need diverse uses of our streets and housing,” said Eli Lipmen, executive director of Move LA, as reported by NBC LA News. “It is a creative use of our city’s resources that creates safer, cleaner, and friendlier neighborhoods.”
In the next steps, the Transportation Committee will decide where in District 14 to establish the first Park Block, and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation will evaluate the funding and resources needed to expand the program as well as develop an application system for communities to apply to participate.