Thursday, October 21, 2021

Council Member Paige Ellis Leads Living Streets/Block Party Effort

Austin City Council to Consider Initiatives to Activate Play Streets, Streamline Block Parties, Improve Neighborhood Safety

Council Member Paige Ellis is leading an effort to activate Austin neighborhood streets into more than just uses for cars by encouraging neighbors and kids to get outside and enjoy their community safely. Under a proposal adopted on today's City Council agenda (Item #27), the city would embrace the Living Streets concept, which seeks to facilitate resident-led play streets, healthy streets, and block parties.
 
"The Living Streets effort will create a simple process that empowers residents to take the lead on imagining fun and unique spaces for their neighborhood." said Austin City Council Member Paige Ellis, lead sponsor of the Living Streets resolution. "It has become clear that Austinites want to get to know their neighbors in a more meaningful way - from the ongoing pandemic to looking out for each other during the winter storm. Outdoor spaces for public gathering and entertainment is the perfect way to continue building community relationships."
 
Adam Greenfield, Board President of Walk Austin said, "Living Streets would be a profound step forward for Austin. By allowing communities to reshape their own streets, our city will become safer and more beautiful and socially connected than ever before."
 
The Living Streets concept is proving successful across the country in cities including Memphis, Fayetteville, Fort Worth, and some pilot projects here in Austin. The proposed program is made up of three main components:
  • Better and Easier Block Parties
  • Resident-led Healthy Streets
  • Play Streets for Kids
"Instead of clogging our streets with cars, we have the opportunity to do what cities across the country and around the world have done for centuries: Prioritize people on our streets, the connective tissue of our community," said Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison. "This equity-centered resolution will help Austinites repurpose our underutilized public space while creating stronger bonds with our neighbors."
 
Specifically, the resolution directs the City Manager to improve the Neighborhood Block Party Program, create a Play Streets Program and a Resident-Led Healthy Streets Program, and launch a one-stop-shop website where residents can learn about and apply for these Living Streets activations. The new and updated programs are expected to take shape over the next few months.
 
"As we emerge from the social isolation we've all had to endure, having room to spread out and move in places where traditionally we couldn't is inspiring," said Council Member Leslie Pool.  "Living Streets is a chance for us to reconnect and strengthen bonds with our neighbors. I'm excited about the empowerment this program will bring for our neighborhoods."
 
This resolution will allow neighbors across the city to build trust and enjoy their community safely. Christy Williams, an urban planner from Southwest Austin said, "As a resident of District 8 and a mom of two boys, I fully support the Living Streets Resolution. A person is much more likely to give a neighbor walking on the street at night the benefit of the doubt if they've shared a meal with him at a block party the week before."
 
For more background information on the Living Streets concept, please visit: https://www.austinlivingstreets.com/find-out-more

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