Free Lots Angeles

Kounkuey Design Initiative, Los Angeles, USA

SDG 1: No povertySDG 8: Decent work and economic growthSDG 10: Reduced inequalitiesSDG 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) is a non-profit design and community development organization that partners with under- resourced communities to advance equity and activate the unrealized potential in their neighborhoods and cities. KDI has been taking experiences from working in informal settlements in the global south to other vulnerable areas globally, including to middle and high- income countries where high levels of inequality persist.

Residents in vulnerable areas in Los Angeles often lack access to many basic services. At the same time the city is struggling with an abundance of city-owned vacant lots. These lots are often located in vulnerable areas but instead of being managed by the city they are fenced off and instead used for illegal activities. In order to face these two challenges KDI started the Free Lots Angeles- coalition.

Good practices & solutions

Free Lots Angeles (FLA) is a coalition of six Los-Angeles-based organisations, with expertise in policy, planning, design, community outreach, arts and cultural production and education. Through meetings with local residents, community organisations, and public officials the vacant lots are identified. A community driven planning process is then put in place, where the residents are involved in identifying the community’s priorities and needs. The FLA collaborative then organises pop-up events to demonstrate a community led vision for how vacant and underutilised spaces can be transformed to meet the need for parks and other spaces within the community.

Outcome & opportunities

The aim of Free Lots Angeles is to allow residents of vulnerable areas to temporarily adopt the cities underutilized assets and create a much-needed space within the community. Using temporary pop-up solution is an affordable and immediate way to meet the needs of the residents, and potentially pave the way for long-term, permanent solution. The coalition is now working to pass a motion in the city to allow residents to directly adopt these vacant lots for 3-, 6- or 12-month increments.

Lessons learned & recommendations

The FLA program is not only beneficial to the local community but also the city at large. It may often cost less than to pay for the ongoing surveillance and trash clean-up of the vacant sites, as well as create positive and visible impact for politicians and residents alike to be proud of.
Involving the community in the development of productive public spaces, whether temporary or permanent, creates a sense of care and management as well as creating learning and employment opportunities for the community. It is shown here that this kind of context and human based thinking is transferrable as long as it is adapted and grounded in the particular local context. Participation, listening, questioning and close involvement with the group or community that is subject to the development should be universal.

Related SDG targets
  • 1.4 By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance
  • 8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium- sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
  • 10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
  • 11.7 By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities
  • 17.17 Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships
Further reading

Photo: © KDI

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Project: Urban Girls Movement