By Adelmi Ysita
Boyle Heights Beat
Music blasts from three different directions on the heavily trafficked corner of Fourth and Gless. The crosswalk is decorated with brightly-colored luchador masks drawn with chalk on the pavement, to capture drivers’ attention. The sidewalk is lined with newly installed street signs showing the silhouettes of elderly couples, children, and adults in motion. –a warning to motorists that they are entering a residential area.
These temporary improvements to that busy Boyle Heights intersection were suggested as part of the Pico Aliso Neighborhood Project, a community-driven initiative of Proyecto Pastoral’s Comunidad en Movimiento initiative. They were on display at a May 6 community fair with the theme Luchadores Unidos for Pedestrian Safety. Pico Aliso residents were not only able to assess the proposed street improvements, but enjoy music, food, and get information on a variety of resources and services available.
Proyecto Pastoral/Comunidad en Movimiento’s Pico Aliso Neighborhood Project was one of seven chosen to have temporary pop-up installations in various Los Angeles neighborhoods as part of the city’s Great Streets Initiative. In February, Proyecto Pastoral received $10,000 as a winner in the Great Streets Challenge.
The Pico Aliso suggested improvements came as “the result of months of community outreach, organizing and fundraising to bring the community’s vision for safer streets to life,” according to a press release.
América Aceves, Community Organizer for Comunidad en Movimiento, said that community volunteers chose to focus on the 4th Street corridor because of heavy traffic increased by the construction of the Sixth Street Bridge.
“This street has interchangeable lanes, so it’s like a mini freeway,” said Aceves, who pointed out that the traffic affects the over 400 families that live in the community. The intersection of 4th and Gless was chosen because of the heavy pedestrian traffic generated by the Aliso Pico housing project, the Boyle Heights Youth Technology Center and the Aliso Pico Recreation Park.
“We have a lot of mobility that occurs in this very dense, very small part of the community of Pico Aliso,” she said.
The festival’s theme was inspired by “Peatónito,” a Mexico City luchador or wrestler who helps people cross the street while wearing his mask and drawing lines separating the cars from pedestrians in the city’s busy streets.
“This community has a long history of advocacy, they fought long and hard for the safety of the children and families that live here,” Aceves said. “Luchadores are fighters or heroes.”
Jovita Pérez González, an 81-year-old volunteer with Comunidad en Movimiento, said she liked the security enhancements as she crossed the street at 4th and Gless. “This is what we’re trying to improve,” she said. “We’ve had people run over [on this street].”
For the festival, the Aliso Pico Recreation Park was filled with chatter along the booths that range from Metrolink information to a an aguas frescas stand. There was a board where community members could mark their prefered model for future installation. Music played from a stage set up in the park, and seats filled with observers watching as the event unfolded.
In the Southwest corner of 4th and Gless, near the entrance to the Aliso Pico housing project, a volunteer from the group From Lot to Spot set up a demonstration of a “parklet,” an extension of a sidewalk with small tables and chairs on a grassy space, intended to calm traffic.
Permanent solutions to the traffic problem at 4th and Gless could be an automated sidewalk or giving pedestrians a 5-second lead to cross before the light changes to green for motorized traffic. Whatever the solution, Aceves said it most come with approval of the community.
“We want folks to get involved and identify priorities that really make it safer for people to just walk in their own neighborhood”, she said.