Bringing a Lively Idea to Linda Vista
About a year ago, a few residents from Linda Vista noticed “parklets” being installed in other San Diego communities. Parklets are low-cost improvements to neighborhood environments that usually involve extending sidewalks to provide amenities and green space for people using the street.
The Linda Vista residents decided they wanted to see something similar in their community, particularly to connect their farmers market with a gathering space. They presented their idea to the Linda Vista Planning Group. The librarian at the Linda Vista Library suggested converting some of the parking spaces in the library parking lot, which is across from the farmers market, into a public gathering space.
To move this idea forward, the residents joined forces with the Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention (CX3) program. CX3 is led by the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency’s North Central Region and Healthy Works initiative, under Live Well San Diego. As the partnership flourished, the residents began talking to City of San Diego planners and other city departments about the project. The idea caught the attention of the City’s Civic Innovation Lab, which helped steer the project through the city’s planning and permitting process so that the plaza could be created.
Building a Beautiful Little Plaza
With all of the needed city approvals completed, CX3 residents and others joined forces to transform the parking spaces into a community gathering space. Residents, family and friends helped paint the space and worked with a local business to secure donations for flowers. The CX3 team also helped select a name for the plaza: “Linda Placita.” “Linda” means “beautiful” in Spanish and honors the Linda Vista community; “Placita” means “little plaza” in Spanish. A local city council member provided funds for potted trees, benches and tables for the space. CX3 project staff also pitched in by engaging community partners, planning events and helping at the community builds.
On August 7, 2014, a grand opening (pictured above) was held in the plaza. A representative from the Mayor’s office, the local city council member and more than 120 residents attended the event to celebrate the creation of the plaza. This re-created community space increases access to safe environments for residents to be physically active. It is also adjacent to the farmers market so residents can enjoy the space after purchasing healthy food.
Because Linda Placita would absorb existing parking spaces, the main barrier to the creation of the plaza was ensuring that the library still met the City of San Diego’s parking requirements. CX3 project staff and a member of the Linda Vista Community Development Corporation researched the requirements for the number of spaces in the library’s parking lot by talking with City of San Diego staff. To their surprise, there were actually more parking spaces than required for the size of the library building, so this hurdle was cleared. Posing another barrier, creating the parklet called for closing one of three entrances to the library parking lot, potentially a significant concern in terms of ensuring emergency vehicles have adequate access to the location. City staff asked the head of the Community Development Corporation to seek the local fire department’s support on closing one of the entrances to the parking lot. The fire department fully supported the closure.
Linda Placita was created as a temporary space to experiment with the concept of a parklet before more permanent and costly changes are made. If the community continues to use the space, a long-term solution will be pursued, which would include installing grass and other permanent landscaping.
To become a permanent parklet, it will be important to continue hosting regular programming in the plaza so that more community members get to know, use and love the space. While the Linda Vista community has historically faced a lack of funding resources, there are strong ties between community members. Those ties grew even stronger through the process of creating the parklet, and stakeholders are confident that Linda Placita will have a positive impact on the community for many years to come.
This material was produced by the California Department of Public Health’s Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch with funding from USDA SNAP-Ed, known in California as CalFresh. These institutions are equal opportunity providers and employers. CalFresh provides assistance to low-income households and can help buy nutritious food for better health. For CalFresh information, call 2-1-1. For important nutrition information, visit www.CaChampionsForChange.net .