Since the pandemic, restaurants have taken over curbside parking for outdoor eating, and some streets have been closed to traffic. Might these changes be permanent, and what could U.S. cities look like overall post-pandemic?
In LA, the pandemic pushed a car-centric community to think of public areas as pedestrian-friendly, and even beaches had more pedestrians. That’s according to Dana Cuff, a professor of architecture and urban design at UCLA and director of cityLAB, a think tank that researches urban design.
She says areas like downtown LA might also experience a new revitalization, and points to events such as CicLAvia. “I'm optimistic that things like CicLAvia have made demonstrations that even the streets downtown can become inhabited and taken over for pleasure. Big parks, like Grand Park, show how active our downtown public spaces can be. So I think we have a good future for increasing public activity in our downtown areas.”
Katharine Lusk, co-director of the Boston University Initiative on Cities, notes that the pandemic has shined a light on how local government can help shape what spaces look like.
“We spend relatively little time thinking about how much of our city is really a truly public realm owned by government agencies,” Lusk says. “It's incredibly important to mention our unhoused neighbors … that's another area where political will really comes to the fore. And there has to be political appetite and investment to tackle that, and to really get our neighbors the services and resources and homes that they need and deserve.”