2014 Grants Challenge
🎉 Winner

The Trust for Public Land’s Avalon Green Alley Demonstration Project

The Trust for Public will transform trash-filled alleys in South Los Angeles into walkable, bikeable, beautiful green alleys.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

South LA

What is your idea/project in more detail?

The Avalon Green Alley Demonstration Project will create a new community green space by transforming a polluted, unsafe, and underutilized alleyway in South Los Angeles into a walkable, bikeable, safe, green alley featuring innovative stormwater best management practices (BMPs). The project will take place on a 12,000-square-foot public right-of-way “T-alley,” comprised of two sections, each 400 feet long and 15 feet wide, located on a thirty-seven-acre block in a dense and severely economically disadvantaged neighborhood in South Los Angeles. The project will serve as a demonstration project—as the first in a series of alleys—for the planned Avalon Green Alley Network, which aims to retrofit nearly a mile of alleys in the neighborhood.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

The Avalon Green Alley Network Demonstration Project is leading efforts to green the nearly 900 linear miles of alleys in the City of Los Angeles. These largely overlooked spaces represent nearly 2,400 acres of potentially open space. Project goals include demonstrating innovative and cost-effective means to improving water quality, contributing to the restoration of local ecosystems through the improvement of water quality and conservation of water resources, facilitating investment in green infrastructure through the development, implementation, and testing of new methods for urban greening, and engaging local residents in the design and development of new green spaces within their community.

The project will implement replicable low impact development stormwater management measures in a keystone alley that is included within a larger master plan for a local network of green alleys. The Avalon Green Alley Network will retrofit a network of alleys spanning 6 blocks (approximately 37 acres) of the South Los Angeles neighborhood near Avalon Boulevard for improved pedestrian connectivity and integrated stormwater management.

Within the Avalon Green Alley Network, The Trust for Public Land and partners will conduct extensive renovation and construction on two alleys (Tier 1) and will complete general improvements throughout the rest of the alleys (Tier 2). Improvements will include replacing dark, impervious pavement with porous, light-colored paving stones that reflect heat and allow water to penetrate rather than running off into sewers; planting the edges of alleys with espaliered fruit trees to make them cooler and more inviting; and adding signs, lighting, and pavement markings to encourage residents to use the alleys as green pathways through the neighborhood. Additional improvements will include native and drought tolerant plantings that will green and beautify the neighborhood, a fitness loop, and a range of techniques to capture and infiltrate stormwater from nearby residences and streets. When complete, the network of green alleys and streets will connect two parks, an elementary school, a high school, shops and businesses, bus stops, and a grocery store.

The completion of the Project will serve as a demonstration of stormwater management low impact development interventions that can be replicated in other communities throughout Los Angeles and California.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LIVE today? In 2050?

The Avalon Green Alley Network Demonstration Project presents a major opportunity to transform blighted, polluted, and overlooked spaces into walkable, bike-able, and playable green spaces, creating new recreational opportunities for residents who have few places for safe outdoor recreation in their neighborhood. The project will serve as a practical improvement to residents’ daily lives, adaptively re-using existing infrastructure to integrate green connecting corridors into the fabric of the neighborhood. The alleys will also create safe routes to school for children. These corridors will serve as vital links between homes, nearby schools, parks, and services. By encouraging walkability within the neighborhood, residents will be less likely to drive to reach nearby destinations, leading to increased opportunities for physical activity, and effectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality.

Enlivening, renovating, and greening these overlooked corridors will lead to increased usage and stewardship from residents, which will have an important impact on decreasing crime, illegal dumping, and pollution. Community art, native plantings, and natural, edible landscaping will create a welcoming community space. Interpretive signage and design-based information inlaid into the paving will highlight for residents a sense of place within the Los Angeles River Watershed, and educate residents about pollution prevention and green infrastructure benefits. A fitness path through the alley network will make this community green space a nexus for outdoor exercise, positive community interaction, and play. The integration of espaliered fruit trees along the alley walls and fences introduces an agricultural element to a heavily urbanized area. Benefits also include opportunities for residents to engage in community building activities, thus fostering community pride and a sense of ownership.

In addition to these benefits to the immediate community, the project will serve as a model for similar dense and residential low-income communities throughout California, and will break new ground in interagency collaborations for the permitting and construction of low-impact development.

Whom will your project benefit?

The South Los Angeles neighborhood where this project is located is a Severely Disadvantaged Community where the median household income (MHI) within a half-mile radius of the project site is $31,256 (53 percent of the statewide MHI), and where 6,939 people live below the poverty line. Residents of this area are disproportionately affected by poor air and water quality, and suffer from high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. According to the California State Parks Community Fact Finder, the neighborhood surrounding the project site has only one acre of open space per 1,000 people.

On a broader level, the project’s impact on water quality will benefit all of Los Angeles County. Currently, the alleys are used as dumping grounds, leading to the accumulation of various pollutants during dry months, including oil, heavy metals, nutrients, trash, total suspended solids, and bacteria. During rainy months, untreated and contaminated stormwater runoff flows through the alley into storm drains that lead to the Los Angeles River and out to the ocean. Contaminated stormwater runoff is the number one source of ocean pollution in Southern California. Cleaning up the alleys and implementing stormwater capture technologies in them will eliminate a significant source of water pollution.

The project will also impact water supply in our drought-stricken region. Los Angeles imports 89% of its water at tremendous environmental and financial cost – the large use of energy in California is pumping water south – and yet we waste almost all of our rainwater. Our city’s stormwater infrastructure was designed with the sole purpose of preventing flooding, and as a result all the rain that falls is quickly funneled into storm drains that empty into the ocean. By implementing stormwater capture elements such as permeable paving in the alleys, rainwater will be able to recharge the local aquifers and increase our local water supply. In the current drought, it is more important than ever to demonstrate sustainable solutions to our water crisis. Ongoing monitoring of the stormwater captured by the alleys will provide valuable information that will be used to inform policy at the local, regional, and state level and will benefit all Californians.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

TPL has facilitated nearly 30 community meetings, platicas and clean-ups since April 2010. Through these meetings, planning events, and alley clean-up activities, the project has engaged the support of the following groups:

o Los Angeles Conservation Corps –LACC helped TPL organize alley clean-ups at the project site Partner on the Tree Planting grant and will be helping with outreach, permitting and planting for the new street trees

o The Coalition for Responsible Community Development: a nonprofit community development organization in South Los Angeles, is working with TPL on alley clean-ups.

o Community Health Council (CHC)/ Coalition for an Active South Los Angeles: The Avalon Alleys have been highlighted by CASLA as a priority project for improving community health. TPL participates in monthly meetings with CASLA, a branch of CHC, who will continue to advocate for a network of green alleys in South L.A.

o Food for Less, the closest and largest grocery store to the project site, has assisted TPL with outreach support and has contributed food and refreshments for community meetings and alley clean-ups.

o Magnolia Missionary Baptist Church – Located on the southwest corner of the T-alley block, the church has provided free space for hosting community meetings and events.

o TreePeople, an environmental nonprofit provided support and co-facilitated monthly platicas and co-hosted community tree planting event

o Jefferson High School – Jefferson High School hosts a Green Design Academy, whose students have partnered with TPL on outreach activities.

o Maya Angelou High School- Hosts monthly platicas and important partner for outreach and student engagement. Three academies within the school participate in clean-up events and will participate in the monitoring of the alleys and on-going tree care for new street trees.

o City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation: Primary partner and support for the project. BOS will maintain the BMPs and is the key partner for designing and building the alleys

o Council for Watershed Health: Monitoring support for stormwater BMPs

o Council District 9: Important partner and supporter for project. Essential support with alley closure piece and other logistics and community relations support

o Los Angeles Police Department: Attends monthly platicas and works with residents to discuss safety and community issues

How will your project impact the LA2050 LIVE metrics?

Exposure to air toxins

Percent of imported water

Obesity rates

Walk/bike/transit score

Acres and miles of polluted waterways

Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)

Percentage of tree canopy cover (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

The Avalon Green Alleys Demonstration Project will impact LA 2050’s LIVE metrics in the following ways:

Exposure to air toxins: by increasing opportunities for residents to safely walk and bike as their primary means of transportation, car use will decrease and air quality will improve.

Percent of imported water: the alleys will capture and infiltrate stormwater, allowing it to recharge our local aquifers and thereby reducing the need for imported water.

Obesity rates: the green alleys will increase opportunities for exercise and will provide a source of fresh fruit for neighborhood residents.

Walk/bike/transit score: the neighborhood’s walk/bike/transit score will improve as residents are able to safely walk and ride bikes to school, work, and around their community.

Acres and miles of polluted waterways: by capturing stormwater and preventing pollutants from being flushed down the storm drains, Los Angeles area waterways will be cleaner.

Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric): the alleys will increase the South Los Angeles’s resilience by decreasing their reliance on cars, creating opportunities for exercise and safe routes to school and work, reducing crime, creating a more beautiful neighborhood, and strengthening community bonds.

Percentage of tree canopy cover: the project will increase tree canopy cover by planting 250 trees.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) will know that its work is making a positive difference through evidence of community involvement in the design and construction process; recognition by community members and civic leaders; positive media and press; and through the physical transformation and public use of the alleys. We will assess project progress by how well we are able to meet the following performance standards within the proposed timeline: the degree to which sustainable design elements are used; the number of community members who engage in the development process; and the number of people who use the alley. Post-occupancy evaluation will include observations and interviews with residents to determine how the elements are perceived and influence the neighborhood’s health, safety, and quality of life. Additional ways we will evaluate the project is the stormwater monitoring activities. The monitoring activities will document pre and post project water quality outcomes to provide data reference for future LID alley retrofit projects in South Los Angeles.

The Council for Watershed Health will work with TPL to conduct monitoring for project effectiveness for 6 months prior to implementation and 12 months after construction completion. TPL will seek additional funding to support up to 4 additional years of monitoring to reach a 5-year benchmark of statistical significance. The proposed 18-month pre- and post-Project monitoring plan will measure the effects of the proposed BMPs on water quality and water supply (such as reduction in peak flows and amount of water infiltrated), as well as measure additional benefits, including social and educational impacts, public health improvements, greenhouse gas reduction, and increased biological diversity resulting from changes to impervious surfaces.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

The Trust for Public Land’s work on the green alley’s project has been informed by our belief that people need green community spaces to connect with nature and that the community must play an active role designing their local parks and open spaces.

For the 80 percent of Americans who live in or near a city, neighborhood parks offer the closest connection to nature. Yet, over two-thirds of the people in Los Angeles don’t live within walking distance of a park. As a result, an entire generation is growing up disconnected from nature and the outdoors, missing out on the fun, fitness, and relaxation that parks provide. In park-poor neighborhoods, children play in streets or vacant lots instead of on grassy meadows or soccer fields. Or they simply stay inside—a national crisis of inactivity that has contributed to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, asthma, anxiety, and depression.

Research shows that parks promote public health and revitalize local economies. They make cities more energy-efficient and less vulnerable to the effects of climate change. They connect people to the great outdoors and to each other. But it’s not enough to simply build parks or create open space; the community must be involved from the very beginning for the park to truly serve local needs and for the project to be sustainable in the long run. Each of the parks that we develop represents the local community's voice. To design and construct a park, we engage neighborhoods, including nearby schools, senior centers, churches, families, and local community groups, at every level of the process. The Trust for Public Land has seen that its signature participatory design and community engagement process leads to increased neighborhood cohesion, interconnection, and pride; improved mental, physical, and spiritual health; and empowerment of individuals, who see that their voices can effect concrete change in their own communities.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Construction of the Avalon Green Alleys Demonstration Project will be complete within twelve months. In fall 2014, we will solicit bids for contractors to build the alleys. By winter 2015, we will have selected a contractor and construction will begin. By summer 2015, construction will be complete, and a community celebration will be held to celebrate the opening of the alleys. As described above, stormwater monitoring and community engagement will be ongoing.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

One of the biggest challenges the project faces is the number of partners, stakeholders, and jurisdictions involved. All of these different groups have different needs and priorities for the project which can range from social, to policy, to practical, such as sanitation and safety. We are meeting this challenge by being sensitive to all the different priorities and bringing people together to create consensus. We hold monthly meetings to ensure that the community residents who will be using the green alleys and the city agencies that will be maintaining and managing them in the future understand each other and have all of their concerns met. Clear, concise communication has been essential to pulling together the differing needs and perspectives to create a design plan that satisfies everyone.

Another challenge has been fostering collaboration between the various government agencies with an interest in the project. TPL began planning for a cohesive network of green alleys in the Avalon neighborhood in September 2009. Since that time, TPL has developed partnerships with a range of City agencies to align this project within Citywide green infrastructure development and to create strong interagency collaboration. The City of L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Engineering, the fire and police departments, and the CRA all participated in early-stage planning meetings with TPL to identify the Avalon Green Alley as a potential model project. TPL has formed a partnership with the City of L.A. Green Streets Committee, a team of experts from the City’s Departments of Planning and Public Works, and the City’s Green Alleys Subcommittee, comprised of members from the Board of Public Works; Bureau of Sanitation; CRA; Department of Planning; and USC Center for Sustainability. Planning efforts included multiple coordination meetings with agency partners and stakeholders, community workshops, and design review meetings. Through these coordination meetings, participating agencies and nonprofits have worked together to define roles and responsibilities, review the concept design, and ensure that all elements of the proposed green alley comply with the goals and regulations of each agency.