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Reinventing Los Angeles Alleys, Hollywood Style

There are 900 linear miles of alleys in the City of Los Angeles. This equals a lot of space in an open-space constrained city. While alleys denote images of garbage dumpsters, cars, and sometimes illicit activity, could they represent something else, to make better use of this largely hidden land resource? The story about an alley transformation in Hollywood opens our eyes to new possibilities. It is a Hollywood rags-to-riches story, in a sense. I am proud to announce the debut of the LASC report, “The East Cahuenga Alley Revitalization Project: Best Practices for Creating a Pedestrian-Friendly Urban Alley.”

LASC provided fellowships to Lila Burgos and Tamar Sarkisian, now recent alumnae of UCLA’s urban planning master’s program, to tell the story of the East Cahuenga (EaCa) Alley project in a way that could serve as inspiring case study and informative how-to guide. We wanted to answer questions ranging from budget and financing to land use, entitlement and zoning details, as well as economic development results. The researchers built upon USC’s seminal report “Transforming Alleys into Green Infrastructure for Los Angeles,” and other secondary research in addition to significant primary research that included property owner surveys and interviews with Sarah MacPherson Besley of the Hollywood Entertainment District and other driving forces of the EaCa project. 

The result is a resource that we hope will be useful to others wanting to reinvent an alley in their commercial district. We see this study as part of a growing movement that includes the greening of all types of alleys, with the Trust for Public Land’s effort in South Los Angeles as important to note.

The bottom line of this new LASC report is that the transformation of alleys in commercial areas can lead to more sustainable, pedestrian and business-friendly environments. I encourage you to check out the full story and how-do-details, and here’s why:

Financial Benefits of Commercial Alley Revitalization

(a) Once revitalized and underutilized, alleys can support economic development and increased profits for business owners.

(b) Alleys can provide easy access to a ‘second’ storefront for buildings. It bridges access between parking and commercial areas, allowing customers to park and walk to multiple locations.

(c) The alley may serve as a marketing tool that attracts new customers to the business establishments.

(d) An increase in sales for adjacent business also equates to an increase in sales tax for the local government.

(e) Alley improvements also have the potential to increase the values of the properties in the immediate vicinity, and thus increases property tax revenues for local government.

Public Safety Benefits of Commercial Alley Revitalization

(a) Alley revitalization may also be approached as a strategy to combat blight and public safety issues.

(b) If the alley renovation project provides greater economic benefits to the business owners, they are less likely to go out of business or vacate their location. With less vacated stores, the commercial district becomes less blighted.

(c) If the alley is cleaner and designed to be more visible to the public and pedestrian friendly, it is likely to draw an enhanced public presence and activity. Based on the Crime Prevention through Environmental Design theory, livable cities have a higher volume of street activity that naturally deters criminal or unsafe activities.

Environmental & Health Benefits of Commercial Alley Revitalization

(a) Alley renovation projects have the capacity to correct any previous unsustainable practices and create a healthier and greener built environment.

(b) Many different environmentally unsound activities take place in alleyways because they are not monitored. Toxic liquids are disposed of improperly and flow into storm drains, dumping and even garbage trucks making multiple garbage pick-ups. Renovated alleys have been designed to consolidate dumping and recycling stations.

(c) An alley renovation project may also allow for the use of sustainable materials that reduce the amount of resources used, such as permeable surfaces that capture excess water or drought-tolerant vegetation.

(d) Alleys that have been renovated can turn into pedestrian alley networks, such as those popular in downtown Pasadena. This encourages more walking and less driving – which can be a great thing for Angelenos! There is potential to also create revitalized alley networks near public transit hubs, providing more reasons for people to leave their cars at home or near a commuting spot. Alleys can play an important role in a balanced transportation network that encourages social and economic interactions.

One Comment

  1. Great work Lila and Tamar!