Adopt-A-Lot is a pilot program that enables community groups in park-poor neighborhoods to “adopt” city-owned vacant lots and transform them into community-serving public spaces. The program is a collaboration between the City of LA and the Free Lots Angeles collective, led by KDI and Inclusive Action for the City.
LA currently has more than 2,000 city-owned vacant lots sitting idle across the city. These lots contribute to insecurity and poor health in park-poor communities already hard-hit by disproportionate rates of disinvestment.
Many people walk past these lots every day and wish they could do something positive with them, but navigating the process to access these lots has, until recently, been a complex and ‘unfriendly’ process for even the most organized community groups.
The Adopt-A-Lot program is the result of years of work to advocate for a move to public management of vacant lots for the public’s benefit. Back in 2013, KDI and Free Lots Angeles partnered with communities and councils across LA to activate six lots for day-long events, engaging over 1,500 residents, and asking them what they would like to see take place more permanently on vacant lots across LA. The result was a lot of community ideas and feedback, as well as communities across LA demonstrating a willingness and ability to access and transform vacant land for community-serving purposes.
Following the one-day activations, FLA advocated at the city level and worked alongside the Mayor’s Office of Budget and Innovation and the Council Offices of Members Monica Rodriguez and Joe Buscaino to create a pathway for residents to access vacant lots for longer periods of time. In 2018 we successfully passed a City Council Motion enabling us to hand the keys to up to 10 lots over to community groups, launching the Adopt-A-Lot pilot.
The Adopt-A-Lot pilot gives community groups access to City-owned vacant lots for 3, 6, or 12 months through a simple application process and a sublease agreement with KDI.
Together with KDI, the community group leads a participatory budgeting process that allows local residents to choose the amenities they’d like to see on the lot and create a site plan for the new space.To provide these groups with the physical tools to reimagine their lot, KDI has designed a Kit of Parts with big, interlocking pieces that can be assembled into a large array of amenities and furnishings, from garden beds and play elements to a community table and benches, and more.
The North Hills Community Space and Garden was the first vacant lot transformation of the pilot, completed in February 2020. It was co-designed by community group Pacoima Beautiful, who now manage the lot and run a youth community gardening program there. The second lot, located in Watts and adopted by local group, Brillante Watts, is currently beginning it’s build out phase.
The pilot is demonstrating the potential of vacant lots to provide thousands of park-poor Angelenos with the physical, emotional, and mental benefits of public space - as well as demonstrating to City officials the commitment and capacity of LA community groups to steward these spaces. We look to a path for permanency in the Adopt-A-Lot pilot’s future - both in terms of a permanent Adopt-A-Lot program for the City of LA, as well as transforming the vacant lots of the pilot into long-term, permanent public spaces. The goal of the Adopt-A-Lot pilot is to sow the seeds for permanent systems change in how public assets like vacant land are managed and accessed.