New program helps residents turn empty lots into community gathering spaces

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A new program will allow residents to turn vacant city-owned lots into useful community spaces.

Operated by a collective called Free Lots Angeles, the Adopt-A-Lot pilot program was approved Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council and will apply to 10 city-owned lots across the city of Los Angeles.

Residents can now work with FLA to repurpose a vacant publicly-owned lot in their neighborhood—turning the spaces into parks, gardens, or marketplaces for three months to one year.

The program will allow residents “to realize the potential of own neighborhoods,” says Lyric Kelkar of Leadership for Urban Renewal Network, one of the organizations overseeing the pilot.

Across the city, six potential properties for the pilot have already been identified in Wilmington, Watts, North Hills, Jefferson Park, El Sereno. These sites will likely be the pilot’s first six lots, if the neighborhood is on board.

“The whole point is to have community buy-in,” says Kelkar.

There are more than 22,000 vacant lots in Los Angeles, and of those, about 10 percent are owned by the city according to FLA. Left alone and untended, those properties can become magnets for trash and trouble, contributing to “neighborhood degradation and reduc[ing] overall community pride.”

The city will allowed FLA to use the properties rent-free.

The collective is made up of five organizations: Kounkuey Design Initiative, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, Leadership for Urban Renewal Network, T.R.U.S.T. South LA, and Esperanza Community Housing Corporation.

The groups started collaborating five years ago with the goal of finding a way to make blighted vacant lots work for the public good, especially in underserved neighborhoods. They’ve worked on more temporary, pop-up-style projects in vacant lots across the city.

Plans for reusing the properties will be guided by FLA and the city councilmember in whose district the lot is located. FLA will be responsible for making sure that the sites are well-maintained.

The pilot program will last 18 months with two possible six-month extensions. It is expected to launch in January 2019.

FLA’s goal is for the pilot to eventually become a permanent program for all vacant lots controlled by the city.

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