A CLIMATE TO SUPPORT CHANGE Developing a new collaboration or trying an unfamiliar project approach for a sanctioned Tactical Urbanism project is not easy. But as the parklet and plaza programs popping up across the country illustrate, many cities are finding a way to get there. Interviews of leading cities (such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia) suggest the following as conditions that support innovation in the project delivery process.
COMMUNITY/ POLITICAL SUPPORT
Whether from a Mayoral campaign promise or requests from neighbors and city councilors, the origin story of most Tactical Urbanism programs involves community and/ or political support. In launching the People St program, for example, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation had political support at multiple levels. “We had the full support of Mayor Eric Garcetti,” said Valerie Watson of LADOT. “The People St program supported the goals he set for creating livable streets in Los Angeles, and tied in closely with this Great Streets Initiative.” At the neighborhood level, the Los Angeles City Council issued directive to LADOT, asking the agency to examine the feasibility of creating pilot parklets as early as 2006. In 2008 the City Council directed the agency to create a road map for formalizing a citywide program to enable community groups to partner with the City to bring plazas, parklets and bicycle corrals to their neighborhoods. This support at the Mayoral and neighborhood level was a key driver in the creation of the People St program.
To embrace an iterative approach to project delivery, you’ll need buy-in from everyone who is impacted by the new processes or materials being introduced. The best way to do this is to pro-actively engage stakeholders as early as possible — from the community groups involved as stewardship partners to the crews installing new materials in the street. Discussing his recent work developing a streamlined catalogue of materials for pedestrian plazas in partnership with three agencies, Robin Abad of the SF Planning Department outlined the following key steps:
AGENCY LEADER SUPPORT Support from high-ranking agency officials is an essential parallel to community/political support — and often the result of it. In discussing Seattle’s Community Crosswalk Program, Civil Engineer Howard Wu noted the importance of support at the Mayoral and department head level. “Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and SDOT Department Director Scott Kubly both encourage innovation in our approach to projects. Looking to peer cities such as New York, they’ve encouraged a nimble culture, supporting use of rapid implementation tactics to rapidly deliver projects and test ideas.”
»» Catalogue what you’re doing now. Depending on the project / process change you’re trying to bring about, this could be lists of materials you’re using, event permit structures you have in place, existing vendor relationships, liability arrangements etc. »» Engage all stakeholders in a critique of the status quo, as well as potential new materials and / or processes. For example: this might be an interagency critique of how quick-build materials used to date are performing across a number of relevant categories (aesthetics, maintenance, ease of use, etc.). »» Investigate what others are doing. Look to peer cities and established how-to guides (like this one!) to learn from what others are doing well, or not. »» Use what you learn to develop a new process / approach that can be tested and evaluated. Start small and check in with stakeholders as you go, so that lessons learned can be integrated before the process / approach is scaled city or regionwide..
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The only materials and design guidance for Tactical Urbanist demonstration, pilot, and interim design projects. Funded by the James L. Knigh...