the alley


The alley site is located in Santa Monica, CA in the Ocean Park neighborhood. This neighborhood’s famous name is Dog Town, known as the birthplace of O.P. shorts and Zephyr surfboards. This south side of Santa Monica was considered the slums in the 70’s, filled with “deadbeats and dropouts”. Today is it a trendy tourist hotspot with over-priced rents.

The residents that live around this alley can be easily generalized as middle to upper middle class.  It is a reasonably quiet alley with nearly half of the residents owning their own property. There are about 10 families that have young children and one or two with a teenager in the home. It’s clean, but needs surface repairs.

As you can see from the image above, the Ocean Park Place alley is a boring and static place. However, it contains tremendous, hidden opportunities for a new kind of space that can bridge the gap between back doors and community activity.

me: Stephanie Leah


became concerned about my impact on the environment when I had my daughter.  Since then, I have taught myself many aspects of sustainability and community building.  My courage to divorce my car and commute by bus, bike or on foot has lead to calling myself an urban voyager and a lover of community.

I believe all the world’s problems can be solved in a garden and at the community level.  It is with delight and curiosity that I have started an edible garden in my alley and have enrolled the community to join in turning this alley space into a shared place for ideas and relationship forming.  Getting to know my neighbors has always been a vision for me.  Seeing the same neighbors and their kids, year after year, led me to think that it could be possible. Making the first of many steps seemed challenging though.

I experienced the power of community while interning at the Los Angeles Eco-Village and participating in the Place-making Convergence in Portland, Oregon.  Empowered and determined to learn about the people I have lived next to for nearly 20 years brought me to knock on everyone’s front door and ask them to a neighborhood gathering.  I was received with gratitude and relief; people wanted to do the same thing but were too worried about the outcome.  All it took was an invitation and they began to show up, time after time. I spend many days thinking of ways to make this alley a center for social well-being and friendships. So far…it’s working!

I completed my graduate studies in Urban Sustainability at Antioch University in October of 2013 and in the process of receiving a Zero-Waste certification from Santa Monica College. I have a B.A. in History from UCLA and an M.A. in Spiritual Psychology from University of Santa Monica.