Privatisation of public open space: the Los Angeles experience

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris

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Loukaitou-Sideris, A. (1). Privatisation of public open space: the Los Angeles experience. Town Planning Review, 64(2), 139.

Urban plazas have proliferated in American downtowns during the last decade. This paper examines the private production of open space as a form of privatisation of a public amenity. Using three case studies of plazas built by private capital in downtown Los Angeles, the study examines their development process, design and physical layout, management, control and social uses. It is found that the spaces display characteristics drastically different from those of traditional public places. Certain design cues in combination with stringent control practices are used in these settings to promote the purposes and goals of private enterprise. Characteristics such as introversion, enclosure, protection, escapism, commercialism, social filtering and exclusivity are seen as resulting in environments that are congruent with the private interests but not always beneficial to the general public.

Main finding
Evidence in these field studies shows that privatization is a threat to the connectivity and continuity of the city. The study shows that private urban plazas are not equally accessible and cannot be used by all population segments in the same manner and with the same freedom as traditional public open spaces.

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