Complete and living streets are those designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. In addition to transportation infrastructure, living streets include spaces for people to interact and plants to thrive. Think mini parks in former parking spaces, and sidewalk areas where people sit, eat and play near businesses, such as cafes and restaurants. Think green infrastructure, such as landscaped rain gardens that naturally treat and manage stormwater. As a result of these strategies and more, living streets can realize significant safety, economic, and environmental benefits.

The Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) conducts analysis and creates tools to support the creation of complete, living streets in communities across the U.S.

Heat Mitigation through Streetscape-level Urban Design Intervention

Led by: Kelly Turner

A series of projects led by Dr. Kelly Turner are investigating the heat regulating benefits of urban design interventions in streetscapes. Urban design interventions studied include greening, tree planting, and solar reflecting surfaces on and near streets. The team using a combination of remote sensing, field data, and modeling. Current projects in this area include:

  • Adapting to a Hotter Future in the Transformative Climate Communities. This project investigates the heat ameliorating benefits of tree planting and other urban greening strategies in three communities—Watts, Ontario, and Fresno—selected to receive state funding via the Transformative Climate Communities Program. This microclimate heat study is funded by the Luskin Center for Innovation and the UCLA Faculty Career Award.
  • Cool Pavement: Untangling Heat Outcome Trade-offs. This study collected the first field measurements of Mean Radiant Temperature (MRT, a proxy for human thermal comfort), air and surface temperature, and incoming long wave and outgoing shortwave radiation.
  • Cool Art. Internationally renowned artist Eric Skotnes, from the art collective INDECLINE, painted the first large-scale, street art piece using solar reflective paint to raise awareness about rising temperatures in cities. The project on a 27 x 72 foot brick wall on a 1920s-era building in South Los Angeles makes a double visual impact – as an elegant eco-mural that enlivens the community and also as an infrared image documented by thermal camera. This project is a collaboration with art historian Lizy Dastin, with primary funding from LCI, paint donated by Creative Paving Solutions, wall donated by Amped Kitchens, additional funding from the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, and thermal imagery by Ariane Middel. (News story)

The work is part of the Los Angeles Integrative Nature and Design (LindA) CollaborativeLindA involves an interdisciplinary group of researchers investigating urban design interventions. The goal is to identify what local-scale interventions can best help cities address the impacts of climate change.  

Where to Locate Transit Stops to Minimize Pedestrian Exposure to Particulate Pollution

(2018 journal article)
Authors: Wonsik Choi, Dilhara Ranasinghe, J.R.De Shazo, Jae-Jin Kim, and Suzanne E. Paulson

Transit users in cities across the globe commonly spend 15 to 45 minutes or more waiting near transit stops each day, often at locations with high levels of pollution from traffic. Exposure to traffic-related pollutants increases incidence of many adverse health outcomes, as documented by a large body of research. Far less studied has been how transit users are exposed to pollution and whether or how street design could minimize exposure.

LCI Scholars Suzanne Paulson, J.R. DeShazo, and other collaborators investigated the characteristics of concentration profiles of ultrafine particles (UFP) across intersections, to determine the best place to site transit stops to minimize exposures. Findings included that UFP profiles were strongly influenced by high emissions from vehicle stops and accelerations, and that emission levels peaked within 30 meters of intersection centers and then decreased sharply. Simple time-duration exposure calculations combined with breathing rates suggest that moving a bus stop from 20 meters up to 50 meters away from the intersection can reduce substantially transit users’ exposure levels to total UFP.

Reclaiming the Right-of-Way: A Toolkit for Creating and Implementing Parklets

(2014 toolkit)
Authors: Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Madeline Brozen, and Colleen Callahan

Reclaiming the Right-of-Way — winner of  the American Planning Association Award of Excellence — is a toolkit that provides city staff and community members with practical guidance to support the development of small-scale parks, called parklets. Parklet programs and projects are spreading quickly across the nation, from San Francisco to New York. In addition to case studies of parklet programs across North America, the toolkit provides practical advice and supporting details at a micro level to help city planners and other officials select a project site and then design parklet projects based on the context, including surrounding land use, desired project duration, and project function and objectives.

The toolkit came on the heels of a Los Angeles City Council vote approving the construction of a series of parklets. The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation supported the toolkit as part of a three-phase effort. During the second phase, the UCLA team in partnership with the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council opened two active parklets in downtown in early 2013. The third phase was an evaluation of the parklets, conducted in collaboration with Parklet Studies.

The Avalon Green Alley Network Demonstration and Lessons Learned from Other Green Alley Case Studies  

(2014 report)
Authors: Rachel Lindt, Colleen Callahan, and J.R. DeShazo

Alleys are largely underutilized and understudied. Cities across the U.S. are realizing the potential for alleys to operate as more than single-function spaces for vehicle use. As such, cities are increasingly transforming alleyways into multipurpose community assets. This report provides practical information for city staff, community members, and other stakeholders interested in supporting green alley efforts. Green alleys take many different forms — ranging from one-day community events to permanent pedestrian corridors. Infrastructure elements common to most green alleys include permeable paving, vegetation, and other stormwater management techniques.

The report introduces a green alley framework and provides examples of completed alley transformations from across the U.S. Then it provides a more in-depth case study of the current Avalon Green Alley Network Demonstration Project in park-poor South Los Angeles. The report provides ideas and lessons for green alley design, funding, partnership development, community engagement, and the navigation of a complex regulatory environment. The challenges and solutions presented in this document can be transferable to communities nationwide.

Model Design Manual for Living

(2012 book)
Authors: Suzanne Bogert, Ryan Snyder, Colleen Callahan, et al.

The Model Design Manual for Living Streets — honored by the American Planning Association — is a collaborative effort by national experts in living streets concepts. The book was funded by LCI and the Department of Health and Human Services through the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The manual focuses on all users and seeks to achieve balanced street design that can accommodate cars while ensuring that pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users can travel safely and comfortably. It also incorporates features to make streets lively, beautiful, economically vibrant, and environmentally sustainable.

This model manual offers a template for local municipalities and jurisdictions, especially those with limited resources, and provides the ability to tailor manuals to meet specific needs. It includes recommendations for how to maximize benefits and minimize costs associated with street design.

Vibrant streets, innovative parking policies, and desirable neighborhoods resulting from living streets can increase revenues for cities. Research shows that cities often experience increased economic development after adopting elements of living streets.