Destination: Pico grew out of the Mayor’s Great Streets Initiative. Pico between Fairfax and Cochran in Mid-City was named one of the 15 original Great Streets in 2013. We are a group of residents and business owners who came together to figure out what to do about it.
In 2016, we won the Mayor’s Great Streets Challenge, which promised the community $500,000 in improvements installed by the city on Pico if we did enough outreach to figure out what people wanted. LACBC’s Hyeran Lee gave us a ton of support as we were writing the grant application for the Challenge, and LACBC served as a co-sponsor of the application. When we won, the Mayor’s Office gave us $13,000 to support our outreach, and it was natural for us to turn to LACBC to be our fiscal receiver. LACBC took a 10% cut for this service.
Our outreach process was intense but fruitful – we hosted eight community workshops, met twice with every business in a seven-block stretch, and received about 700 survey responses. Overall we reached over 1500 people in the community. In response, the city ended up funding about $3 million in improvements on Pico, including a new traffic light, a new signalized mid-block crosswalk, curb extensions, and 6 blocks of reconstructed sidewalks with landscaped parkways.
We’ve also gotten funding from CD 10 and other sources that have led to Pico getting 50 new trees, a new plaza for kids to play in, and public art on signal boxes. It was these other funding sources that led us to pursue becoming a nonprofit ourselves.
What’s one of your most memorable lessons/experiences from this whole process?
The opening party for the Coloring Book plaza was awesome.
Any words of advice for others wanting to do similar work in their neighborhood?
Go to where people already are. We did outreach at a school fair, a neighborhood festival, and an art walk. We sent bilingual surveys home with kids in schools and in patrons’ checks in restaurants. Most people don’t have time to come to a meeting – figure out how to reach them.
Collect data. We did bike/pedestrian counts and counted “jaywalkers” in order to build the case for safer crossings of Pico. We collected surveys and interactive data that allowed us to show how much support different ideas had. The data often surprised us and led us in different directions than we expected.
Finally, build relationships with your local businesses so you can learn what they want and earn their support. They carry a lot of weight with the community and city government.
What are the organization’s goals for the immediate future? (5 years?)
To extend the safety and beautification improvements beyond the initial six-block project area to the entire stretch of Pico in our neighborhood.
What are your pie in the sky goals? If you had infinite resources and time or a magic wand, what would you change about your neighborhood?
Our neighborhood has little open space for gathering and no public playgrounds. The nearest park is a mile away. The community has told us that gathering places are a high priority. Our dream is to bring a park to our neighborhood.
What are you/your partners most proud of?
We are proud of how we were able to reach so many different people in our very diverse neighborhood. As a result, we were confident that the vision we built for Pico with the community reflects what people want, which gave us credibility and empowered us in our interactions with the city.