Category Archives: The Alley

Transforming the Alley


This placemaking project takes place in an alley, in Santa Monica, CA. However, this alley is different. This alley is the front porch for nearly 45 people and those people cross each other’s paths on a daily basis. This alley is presently being transformed into a place of relationships, idea exchange and fun moments. This alley project is a process in dedication, vulnerability and my personal faith that my vision for my community is one that can be shared with those that live around me.

When one thinks of an alley, images of trash, drug addicts, abandoned cars and even 5ft weeds might come to light.  As you can see from the image on the following page, 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.  If the residents take advantage of the opportunity it will offer an openness that can counter the most hardened ideas of our time –– the belief that we are separate from those around us, when in fact we all desire the same thing: companionship. The simple act of changing the alley from an automobile-friendly zone to a people friendly zone would have untold positive consequences. There is a “need for stimulation”, a need to “experience people” who “offer a wealth of sensual variation” as opposed to the drudgery of experiencing only buildings and inanimate objects. We as people need other people to stimulate us and color our lives, make it more attractive, make our routine more colorful and meaningful. This need is often neglected in urban settings like this alley and I have begun here to change this fact.

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Alley Gathering #1

It was April 27th, 2013. The day was tight. I was in school that whole week and had to return right after the gathering.  I wanted it to be perfect.  I had to make a conscious effort to tell myself that it will be perfect no matter what. My heart was in it and that sealed the deal.  At the time of set up I had wished I had a couple neighbors that were into it like me and could help me with the set-up, but, that wasn’t the case. Maybe one day it might be the case. But for now, I had to hustle on my own. I put up the Neighbor Day sign. I unfolded chairs. I put up a rope across the alley that had colorful flags on it. I made ice tea and laid out the cookies. I uncorked the wine and iced the beer. Then I waited. And they came from up the alley, from down the alley…they came.

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Alley Gathering #2

The third gathering was great. New and returning neighbors had a fun time reconnecting and talking about the alley. A Backwards Beekeeper, Susan Rudnicki, came and did a presentation about urban beekeeping. She brought a live hive and the kids went bananas. The adults were pretty into as well. Another Placemaking event connecting the neighbors even closer.

Work Party Meeting

A work party is a day when neighbors get together to start a community project. Our community project is to install an ocean friendly garden in a parkway that is at the entrance to our alley. As you can see from the pictures the parkway is in need of some beautification. Not only does it improve the area it bonds neighbors in an investment everyone has a say in. It allows the kids to be a part of creative placemaking and is a prime example of learning to collaborate with people that live next door.

The work party meeting is a time to come together, usually a smaller group that can manifest into the core group, and discuss ideas about the project. During this meeting we discussed the types of plants and layout design of the parkway that we envisioned.