Sunset Triangle Revisited

The party’s over, the speeches have evaporated from their listeners’ memories, the camera crews and reporters have packed up and wandered off in search of fresher spectacles…. Only now can Sunset Triangle, that audacious bit of grace a dazed bureaucracy revealed in Silver Lake last month, begin to grow into its role as an extraordinary space for ordinary days.

In a way it’s almost pathetic that we should be so happy to receive this little gift–a neighborhood square is nothing scarce in so much of the world; even small cities will have several. LA, a world-class megalopolis, now has one.

You can’t count the disaster that is Pershing Square downtown, with its bleak concrete voids, its straitjacket of busy four-lanes, and its sidewalks cut by entrances to the underground parking garage. Nor can you count the numerous commemorative “squares” you see here and there, which are nothing more than pale feeble signs mounted high over roaring intersections, and have no meaning whatsoever.

A square is a public place where people gather–not a mall, where guards can roust you at any time, not a road where only cars are truly welcome, nor even a park, separated from the city’s life, but a commons, surrounded by life, where all have the right to linger, and no one can badger you to buy or move on. Sunset Triangle, for all that it lacks quadrilinearity, is a true square, belonging first to Silver Lake, and second to all LA.

This tiny snip of former road at the interesection of Griffith Park Boulevard and Sunset, provisional though it be for now (it’s a pilot project that will be reviewed in a year), marks a milestone in the maturing of Los Angeles. Almost all other public space in our city is reserved for cars, with only grudging accommodation to cyclists, walkers, dreamers, or kids.

But here, at the intersection of two streets, which is also the intersection of two bike lanes, we have collectively dedicated a scrap of asphalt to unarmored human beings where they may rest, sip coffee, read, or chat, and live out the valor of an ordinary day in extraordinary peace.

There’s a coffeehouse, there’s a vegan restaurant, there’s a bakery, twice a week there’s a farmers market. Sunset Junction’s just a block away; Hollywood and Downtown a pleasant bike ride or a jaunt on the Metro. But mostly there’s permission to be human here–and that is rare is our mechanical city.

So pedal on over, lock up at the bike corral–our city’s second–and grab some java…and then lean back under an umbrella and remember what it is that you were born for.

Welcome to LA!

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  1. grrlyrida
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    We locals have been calling it polka dot park. 😉 I walk my dog there nearly everyday and still walk on the sidewalk until I remember we can walk in the street.


  2. Posted April 2, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    I passed by the plaza briefly sometime last week in the middle of the day. I saw what appeared to be a father letting his daughter jump on the polka dots as he held her hand. There was a little other activity, but It wasn’t super busy. However, it’s great to know that if this becomes permanent a child can jump around safely in a busy area, enjoying life in space that never fostered such a degree of happiness in all the years it was a car-centric space.

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  1. […] forget plans to remake the South Fig corridor. Bike lanes continue to grow in NoHo. Rick Risemberg revisits L.A.’s first real public plaza, apparently before a hit-and-run diver plowed into it. A look at last weekend’s annual Feel My […]

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