Re-Planning Bixby Park, Part I

To view the two park renderings, scroll through the image gallery above. Photos courtesy of Councilmember Suja Lowenthal.

This is Part I of a two-part series. For Part II, click here.

The Bixby Park Master Plan dates back to 1998—so clearly, it has been time to approach one of Long Beach’s most iconic park spaces with a more contemporary eye. Bixby Park is unique in multiple ways: separated into four parcels via Ocean, 1st, 2nd, and Broadway between Junipero and Cherry, it is home to the bluff and offers a gorgeous view of the coast—a rarity for any park.

Yet, it still has issues: residents express discomfort with shady dealings on its west side, an unwelcoming facade when facing the park from Broadway, and a lack of connectivity. And rightfully so, its citizens care about it.

Even more, what 2nd District Councilmember Suja Lowenthal said so perfectly, “The response [in regard to Bixby Park’s re-planning] is a testament to how much residents love Bixby.”

Lowenthal emphasized the need for a way to “dynamize” space in the sense that, just because one person doesn’t skate, doesn’t mean that skating—such as the vastly popular skate park at Bixby—isn’t a needed component of the park’s updated plan. In a survey of residents, the main concerns were common ones: security and safety; the needed improvement of facilities; increased comfort; better connections that provide easier access as well as contribute to the neighborhood’s safety; and a unified theme, where the four parcels seemed more fit with one another rather than disconnected.

When Melani Smith, a Long Beach designer staple and principal from Meléndrez (y’know, she’s only leading the MyFigueroa project in LA), approached Bixby Park, she noticed two major things: people wanted to play more and people desired more programming. Two separate ideals in and of themselves but intimately attached within a park.

Given this—and representatives from Meléndrez emphasized that these were proposals, not set-in-stone ideals—two different parks were presented: one which emphasized play and another which represented programming.

The playful park [the first rendering in the gallery above] played upon a greater need for sports access: 2 “flex” courts (or what would be generically be called tennis courts), the possibility of bacci (or whatever the neighborhood would want), basketball, and an expanded playground (which used the age of children to divvy up the park’s space and equipment).

Though many expressed an explicit expansion of the skate park, people did not specify precisely what they were looking for so Smith and team simply called it an “enhanced” skate park. Other notable aspects included clearer (and more) crosswalks, with the possibility of having two additional entries—one across Ocean and one across Broadway—dedicated to pedestrians.

Additionally, given the popular use of the community center and the less-than-impressive north side entrance along Broadway, those facilities would be provided a much-needed facelift as well.

The “programmatic” design [the second rendering in the gallery above] was the far more dramatic design as one can tell that the thoroughfare that is 2nd Street has been entirely closed. Not only does the park gain an additional acre of space, providing for an expanded play area, but the gaining of about 20 new parking spaces thanks to the 83-space lot on the west side where the current skate park is. The skate park will then be located more south, just above 1st.

Additionally, the park’s historic “spine”—the single pathway which connects the park as a whole and dates to the park’s original design—will be reimplemented with a seat-yourself space much like the Battery Park or Times Square in New York. The community center will be vastly expanded in nearly double the amount of space and a fitness loop will meander around nearly the entire park’s edge.

As always with these planning meetings, these designs are just that: plans—but it showcases the possibilities that will eventually become reality should we implement them into the Bixby Park Master Plan.

The next and final Bixby Park Planning Meeting will be held on May 3 at 11:30AM.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.