An Edible Orchard in Los Angeles

Volunteers plant fruit trees at Del Aire Fruit Park in Hawthorne, CA. Photo via Fallen Fruit

Volunteers plant fruit trees at Del Aire Fruit Park in Hawthorne, CA. Photo via Fallen Fruit.

On Saturday, January 5th, a revamped Del Aire Park in Los Angeles’ South Bay was revealed to its neighbors. The new park received $4 million dollars in upgrades to its community center, basketball court, and baseball field and in addition to these upgrades, a grant was secured through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission Civic Art Program to plant 27 fruit trees at the park and an additional 60 fruit trees around the neighborhood.

The fruit park (the first of its kind in the state) was created in collaboration with The Office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation and planted by artist collective Fallen Fruit, a group that invites “the citizens of Los Angeles to reconsider their relationship with public and urban space to explore the meaning of community through sharing and creating new and abundant resources.”

Del Aire

Volunteers plant fruit trees at Del Aire Fruit Park in Hawthorne, CA. Photo via Fallen Fruit.

At the opening of the park, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said that  “Community gardens and farmers markets are truly the town centers of our communities,” and they become spaces where the community gets to know one another. These kinds of resources can also be incredible important in neighborhoods that do not have easy access to healthy foods.

Over time, the fruit trees in the park and around the neighborhood will grow and give the community plums, pomegranates, peaches, limes, avocados, and apricots, as well as grapes and edible herbs. A wooden sign by the orchard reads: “The fruit trees in this park belong to the public. They’re for everyone, including you. Please take care of the fruit trees and when the fruit is ripe, taste it and share it with others.”

San Francisco’s Public Parklets

Parklet in front of Farm : Table cafe on Post Street in San Francisco. Photo by Anna Peccianti

“Parklets” are small pocket parks built inside of former street-side parking spaces. The idea behind parklets is that you can take a small amount of space (like one, two, or three parking spaces) and turn it in to something that can be a public amenity.

Parklets are intended to be open to the public and are usually situated in front of a restaurant or market. The design of parklets can vary widely and unfortunately, certain design elements can sometimes give the impression that the parklet is private seating specific to that restaurant or market instead of a space open to the general public. For example, crowded parklets full of bistro tables and high, dense walls can look like cafe seating while parklets with varying seating and standing options (the red parklet below has a tall bar where you can place your elbows or food and beverages) and an open design with high visibility can appear to be more welcoming and meant for anyone to relax in and enjoy.

San Francisco has been a leader in the parklets movement and their Pavement to Parks program works with businesses to build parklets in front of their shops/restaurants. When I was home for the holidays, I visited San Francisco and snapped a few photos of some parklets that seemed to be working well as approachable and accessible public spaces- even on a cold and rainy day.

Parklet in front of Farm : Table on Post Street in San Francisco

Parklet in front of Farm : Table on Post Street in San Francisco. Photo by Anna Peccianti

Parklet in front of Martin Macks on Haight Street in San Francisco. Photo by Anna Peccianti

Parklet on Haight Street in San Francisco

Parklet in front of Haight Street Market on Haight Street in San Francisco. Photo by Anna Peccianti

Yemen Women Create Safer Streets with Technology

Last May, I read about a woman from Yemen named Ghaidaa al Absi, whose organization Kefaiaa was training over 200 women to become cyber-activists and work with other cyber-activist to fight against street harassment in their country. Street harassment is a serious problem in Yemen and the country does not have any legislation protecting women from sexual harassment. While police had indicated they would step up efforts to stop harassment, those charged for harassment have received little to no punishment for their crimes.

A challenge many Yemen women face in becoming cyber-activists is access to mobile devices and inconsistent internet connection in their neighborhoods. Tactical Technology Collective, an online resource which provides open source toolkits and resources to cyber-activists gave Absi’s group a micro-grant to develop the Safe Streets website which allows women to report real-time incidences of street harassment. Absi’s organization continues to grow and expand and she recently launched an art exhibition which addressed the issue of street harassment in Yemen (check out the some of the artwork below).

For many countries across the world (and certainly for neighborhoods, and regions here in the US), lacking access to technology can be an incredible deterrent to connecting with online tools that help connect you to basic services and give you a voice. Companies like Tactical Technology Collective can help make an incredible difference in erasing these barriers and giving representation to those who most often need it the most.

Art addressing street harassment in Yemen by local artists. Via Kefaiaa

Art addressing street harassment in Yemen by local artists. Via Kefaiaa

Art addressing street harassment in Yemen by local artists. Via Kefaiaa

Art addressing street harassment in Yemen by local artists. Via Kefaiaa

Promoting Cycling for Everyone in Baltimore

Bikes2

Bicycles in Baltimore. Photo via Greater Baltimore Committee

Last month, Chris Merriam of Bikemore Inc., received a $60,000 grant from the Open Society Institute to promote biking in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bicycle advocacy groups exist across the country but what makes Bikemore special is their mission to help contribute to a more livable, healthy, accessible Baltimore by increasing the overall number of residents who ride a bike, advocating for the rights and safety of all communities in Baltimore and commitment to hold public officials accountable for improving the safety of riders across the city.

In my master’s thesis on deterrents to bicycling for women in New York City, I formed criticisms of certain bicycle advocacy organizations who have become self-congratulatory about their role in improving the conditions for bicyclists while, at the same time, failing to be inclusive of more diverse groups in their outreach, planning, organizing and data gathering processes. It made me wonder: do these groups want to improve bicycling conditions for those who are already avid bicyclists or do they want to increase the total number of people using bicycles overall? And if it’s the latter, what strategic steps are they taking to accomplish that goal?

In some cities across the country, bicycling and bicycle infrastructure (bicycle lanes, bicycle racks, etc) have become synonymous with gentrification and I think that’s because the communities where the new infrastructure is being laid down feel imposed upon and as though they were not a part of the planning process. Additionally, bicycling (which is often touted as being a universally inexpensive and convenient form of transportation) is sometimes perceived as a sport for the most privileged amongst us.  We must ask ourselves, who are our bicycling ambassadors (sport bicyclists, commuter bicyclists, bicycle messengers, cycle chic riders?) and is there diverse representation?

Bikemore wants to work to reach out to every neighborhood in Baltimore. They want all residents “across diverse cultures, races, income levels, genders, sexual orientations, political affiliations, and backgrounds– [to] feel they can cycle safely and confidently in every part of Baltimore, and that they have an important role in Bikemore.”

Bikemore’s mission statement appears to be rooted in inclusivity and I look forward to following their endeavors and learning more about their strategies for achieving this goal.

Antistress for Free!

"Antistress for Free", by Fra.Bianoshock in Milan, Italy.

“Antistress for Free”, by Fra.Biancoshock in Milan, Italy. Photo via rebelart.net.

An “antistress” art installation appeared on the side of a bus stop in Milan, Italy.

Bus stops are a wonderful location for art installations like this one. Bus stops get pedestrian traffic from those walking on the sidewalk and have an audience from those waiting to board. These kinds of  installations help create lively public realms and spark conversation. Here are some examples of equally creative and engaging art installations at bus stops in Toronto.