Harvey Milk Park: Co-creating Public Spaces to Reconnect People

8This article was originally published for elpais.com on December 7, 2016. It has been translated from Spanish to English to accommodate our readers. The full, unedited version can be found here.

Harvey MilkPromenade Park is the first park in the United States whose name pays tribute to a gay activist civil rights: Harvey Milk.

Milk was an American politician and activist, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States in 1977. A year later he was brutally murdered with the Mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone, by former councilman of San Francisco, Dan White. Milk, played by Sean Penn in the Oscar-winning film, Milk, has become not only an icon of the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) movement but of rights civilians in general.

This park, full of fruit trees, is located in the heart of the city of Long Beach, 30 kilometers south of the city of Los Angeles (California, United States). In it stands a huge mural composed of over 400,000 mosaics reminiscent of the historic struggle of the LGBT movement. Next to the mural, a rainbow colored flag symbolizes a gay pride flag of large dimensions throughout the 365 days a year in the Equality Plaza, something that local authorities consider a pioneering gesture for a public park.1

Although the city of Long Beach has an enviable climate – it can rely on 300 days per year of uninterrupted sunny days – the park’s city center remains empty during the week days, while people work in offices nearby. In order to encourage entrepreneurs and professionals to leave their offices, the mayor of Long Beach seeks to break the prevailing office culture, creating the first shared outdoor workspace in the U.S. And what better place to carry out this experiment than at the emblematic Equality Square in the center of Harvey Milk Park?

The innovative aspect of this initiative is not only the idea – to create an outdoor working space in a park public – but the process, as the mayor made an open call to the public, inviting them to propose ideas and solutions that will transform this space.

Participation in this national challenge was open to anyone with an idea, project or product to habilitate the park into a workspace, providing items such as desks, chairs, shady spots or stations to charge mobile devices or computers, among others.

Among the proposals received, the Long Beach City Council selected seven finalists who have now been invited to showcase their ideas and products in the Equality Plaza, from December 5 to 16. During this period, residents of Long Beach will vote on the initiatives they like, thus participating in the selection process of the winners, and therefore the co-designing of the square. During the days that the exhibition is open, the city will organize social events, including a food and drink social, sports competitions and activities of augmented reality, in order to attract more visitors to the square.6

“Honoring the legacy of Harvey Milk and celebrate our heroes LGBT is critical to the success of this park,” said Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez. “This showcase is a great opportunity to reimagine the use of the park and revive the legacy of Harvey Milk, gathering the community around the square.”

Among the finalists exhibiting their proposals during these days in Long Beach is James Wulf, a creator in Santa Monica that designs ping-pong tables that easily convert into meeting tables, and Soofa, a start-up from Cambridge producing urban intelligent street furniture. Also among the finalists is the company Nerei, composed by a group of architects and urban designers with offices in Bilbao and Singapore. Nerei introduced the Birloki system, an interactive urban flag pole that has a screen of data exchange that connects the municipality with citizens, and also recharges mobile devices and incorporates different environmental sensors, among other features.

“Designers from around the world competed to display their innovative products in Long Beach,” said John Keisler, director of Innovation Team of City Hall. “This is a unique opportunity to redesign the future of our public spaces in a participatory way, right here in Harvey Milk Park Promenade “.7

Long Beach is carrying out this initiative in collaboration with Citymart , a company based in New York that transforms the way that cities are facing urban and social challenges through entrepreneurship and citizen participation. The transformation of this square is expected to increase foot traffic, collaboration between entrepreneurs and residents, increased cultural and social events in the square, and promote localbusinesses in the area.

This coastal town of less than 500,000 residents in Southern California demonstrates with this initiative that it has understood that as the city develops and changes, public spaces must also evolve to reflect and meet the changing needs of the community as well. The trend is that citizens are increasingly involved in the transformation of public spaces. After all, they are the ones who end up using them.

The Innovation of the City of Long Beach is responsible for leading the project. Launched in 2015 by Mayor Robert Garcia, this atypical innovation team has the mission to deepen the urban challenges, encourage citizen empathy and work within a participatory manner to co-create solutions that deliver sustainable resultswith and for its residents.

Paula García Serna, founder of the initiative Towards The Human City and researcher of urban development initiatives.

Studio One Eleven Promotes Moiri Fleming

moiri-picStudio One Eleven is excited to announce the promotion of Moiri Fleming to Project Design Director. Moiri Fleming has been responsible for leading design efforts on various landscape studio projects including most recently The Oaks School, Paramount Blvd. Urban Revitalization, Del Mar Highlands Expansion, The Lot Ctyd and 495 Promenade, Long Beach.  She is a very talented designer with the technical ability to realize landscapes for challenging and wide-ranging project types.  Since joining Studio One Eleven in April 2015, Moiri has been instrumental in further developing landscape design standards, presentation graphics and 3D renderings. Her previous experience includes working for Tichenor & Thorp Architects, Van Atta Associates and Farmscape Gardens. Moiri received her Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from Temple University, is a registered Landscape Architect in the State of California and has over 10 years of diverse design experience.

Studio One Eleven Promotes Three of its Staff

Studio One Eleven is proud to announce the promotions of three of its dedicated staff members. Our people are committed to creating more vibrant communities. Studio One Eleven’s philosophy is to work on projects that have economic, social and environmental benefits to create a more humane and sustainable whole. We are pleased to recognize the work of these three individuals towards Studio One Eleven’s common goal, and excited for them to assist in leading the future of the studio.


Reed Suzuki, Design Manager, Associate

Reed Suzuki is a Design Manager at Studio One Eleven currently focusing on residential/mixed-use developments.  He also has experience on numerous projects types such as institutional, commercial, and adaptive reuse.

Reed’s residential experience includes recent work as a project designer/job captain for the Domain Apartments, a 166-unit mixed-use development in West Hollywood, as well as the Glendale Arts Colony, a 70-unit affordable housing project with a priority to artists.  His commercial experience includes work on La Brea, a 110,000-square-foot adaptive reuse of a former printing facility in Los Angeles. He leads many of our recruiting efforts at campuses and recently was a guest speaker at Orange Coast College.



Brad Leeds, Senior Project Manager, Associate

Brad Leeds has 17 years of broad experience in multi-family and mixed-use housing.  As a licensed architect, he knows the importance of great design and the proactive, engaged process that is required to realize it.

As Project Director, Brad led the effort to complete the construction documents and obtain the building permit for the Glendale Arts Colony Apartments project, which is currently under construction and scheduled to be complete by the end of the year.  He is also responsible for 101 Alamitos, a mixed use development in downtown Long Beach scheduled to break ground early next year. Prior to joining Studio One Eleven, he was Senior Associate and Project Manager for GMPA Architects for over six years where he specialized in housing projects for private developers.  His previous experience in retail, institutional and civic projects has helped to inform his housing experience and provide creative solutions to housing challenges.



Tobin White, Project Manager, Associate

Tobin White, AIA, is a Project Manager for Studio One Eleven with over 10 years of experience in urban design, mixed-use and community projects. Tobin is responsible for managing multiple projects, including re-use and mixed-use projects, Bay Street and Domain. He was responsible for the Roost, an adaptive re-use retail development in Santa Ana acknowledged by the Orange County ULI as one of the most creative developments in their chapter. He is also managing another adaptive reuse development for LAB Holding LLC in Anaheim called Leisure Town that will include a Modern Times Brewery. Tobin received his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from Columbia University, New York, NY. Since then he has become a registered architect in the state of California and is a member of the American Institute of Architects.

We offer our most sincere congratulations to Reed, Brad and Tobin for their exemplary work.

Analyzing Retail Streets: Second Street in Belmont Shore

By Alexandra Burkhardt, Designer and Research Analyst for Studio One Eleven

For more than five years, Studio One Eleven has been analyzing Long Beach’s Second Street in Belmont Shore to better understand what makes a thriving retail corridor. Second Street is considered the most successful retail street in Long Beach, thus making it an excellent case study for how to create and maintain a prosperous retail environment and valued shopping experience.

As opposed to present zoning regulations, much of the original zoning that helped Second Street succeed – dense structures, mixed-use development, less intensive parking standards – would be impossible to implement today. In our study, we outline how Second Street maintains its thriving retail environment, explore the challenges facing the area and offer analysis to lay the groundwork for continued successful development.

second-street-image-page-11Much of what makes Second Street so successful is its accessibility. Relatively convenient parking, frequent bus transit, newly-added bike sharrows, calm traffic speeds and synchronized lights allow those on foot, bike and car to travel safely in unison. Short block lengths and wide sidewalks help pedestrians navigate Second Street with comfort and ease, simultaneously creating an engaging pedestrian experience. Of the 154 ground floor businesses, thirty-five percent provide outdoor seating and dining areas – far more than other retail streets of its kind. Additionally, Second Street’s ground floor retailers are fifty percent neighborhood-oriented and fifty percent destination-oriented, allowing Second Street to serve the local community and the greater Southern California area equally.

The neighborhoods that surround Second Street have supported its shops for decades. While the population density is similar to the City of Long Beach, the housing density and income are significantly higher. The wealth of these neighborhoods helps support the retail environment of Second Street, and in return, many “Mom and Pop” shops on the street are invested in creating a fun and unique retail experience.



However, Second Street is not without challenges. Business owners and residents often disagree on parking – an issue both sides must work together with the City to address. Additionally, shifting economic pressures have created challenges and increased rents have made it difficult for independently-owned shops and local businesses. Therefore, maintaining a healthy balance of local and non-local retailers – and preventing syndicates from buying up buildings from local families that someday subsidize rents for popular key tenants – appears vital for the continued success of Second Street.

The street’s physical structure has accommodated changing market demands. Its character, scale, and accessibility offer locals and visitors an experience other shopping destinations lack. With the rise of discount retailing and online shopping, traditional department stores and enclosed malls will continue to decline and retail will continue to evolve into smaller high tech, high touch shops. However, the unique experience of retail destinations like Second Street will continue to thrive. Whether society is being driven by virtual and visceral shopping demands or a desire to be immersed in quality food and beverage environments, Second Street will continue to provide a shopping experience uniquely its own.

Click here to view Studio One Eleven’s full report on analyzing Second Street.

The Good, The Bad and The Monotony: Observations of CityPlace

This story was written by Studio One Eleven Senior Principal, Michael Bohn. It was originally published in the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design in 2004.

As a child, my first experience visiting downtown Long Beach was filled with danger and excitement. My mother was taking me to the YMCA building for my first swimming lesson. This structure, even from a child’s perspective, was a beautiful four-story brick edifice directly fronting Long Beach Boulevard, the City’s main north-south thoroughfare. While standing at the pool with my class listening to the instructor, I became bored and decided to jump in the deep end to start swimming on my own.

Located directly across from the old YMCA, CityPlace is a mixed-use development and a jump-start for Long Beach Plaza. Long Beach Plaza was an attempt to revitalize a declining downtown, and seized the typical modern planning cues by consolidating several existing blocks into one super block, internalizing most retail shops and transforming the exterior elevations into windowless façades. Completed approximately twenty years ago, “The Plaza” gobbled up some of the City’s best quality buildings, which were comparable to popular Old Pasadena, and was virtually an immediate failure.  During the same time period, the YMCA building I remembered followed similar cues, and was demolished to make way for a new modern structure tucked behind a bermed suburban landscape and a surface parking lot.

diagram final

CityPlace straddles both sides of Long Beach Boulevard, with the bulk of the project located on the west side, and is bounded by Pine Avenue to the west, Elm Avenue to the east, Sixth Street to the north and Third Street to the south. Currently a significant amount of the retail component, comprising close to 450,000 square feet, has been leased and is open to the public. Of 341 housing units, a large number have completed framing, and a few sites are still awaiting construction. Developers Diversified Realty or DDR is the developer of the eight-block CityPlace. In addition, DDR is the developer for The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, a 369,000 square foot retail waterfront development located just a few blocks south of CityPlace. At over 800,000 square feet of new downtown retail, the City is clamoring for precious retail sales tax dollars.

CityPlace is worthy of review from both an urban design and architectural perspective, not only for its attempt to re-urbanize the site but also for its effort to integrate conventional suburban retail tenants, such as Wal-Mart, Albertsons, Nordstrom Rack and Sav-on into an urban setting. This tenant mix is clearly not focused on the 3000-plus high-end residential units currently under construction downtown, but towards the middle-class that comprises most communities throughout the nation, including Long Beach.

The reintroduction of well-designed streets has helped weave CityPlace back into downtown

The reintroduction of well-designed streets has helped weave CityPlace back into downtown

Reintroducing streets and defining a block structure has been one of project’s strongest attempts to urbanize the site and stitch it back into the traditional street grid. These new streets, with broad sidewalks and consistent street amenities, such as trees and light standards, tie together the variety of buildings that border and define the public realm. They make for more walkable-scaled blocks for pedestrians and also assist in dispersing vehicles.


A-The historic block network, approximately 350’ x 400’, was originally laid out in the 1880’s. B-The mega block created by Long Beach Plaza erased the original street network and block structure. This configuration blocks vehicular and pedestrian circulation patterns from the surrounding street grid and increases vehicular congestion on the perimeter of the mall. C-The current re-urbanized block structure integrates some of the adjacent streets into CityPlace for pedestrian and vehicular use.

However, the site is only linked to areas that benefit the project, and some streets run through the site while others do not. Fifth Street links to the west, then shifts south solely to accommodate the ground floor area prescribed by a major tenant. Wal-Mart, in this case, is unnecessarily driving urban design, though the store’s footprint neatly fits in a 350’ x 400’ traditional downtown block. If more floor area was required, then a multi-level store similar to one recently opened in Baldwin Hills should have been executed. Multi-level big box stores do attract shoppers – a two-story Target in Pasadena is one of the chain’s top grossing stores. Similarly, the Promenade extension does not align with the existing street south of Third Street, which draws thousands of people to its Farmer’s Market, amphitheater and access to the Convention Center and shoreline.

CityPlace facing the west side of Long Beach Boulevard remains isolated due to expansive service zones

CityPlace facing the west side of Long Beach Boulevard remains isolated due to expansive service zones

Regrettably no alleys were reintroduced into CityPlace, even though an intricate alley network exists throughout downtown. Without alleys, service access for retail buildings is forced to front public streets. The west side of Long Beach Boulevard is primarily designated for back-of-house activities, thus generating hundreds of linear feet of screened loading zones, killing any pedestrian interest along the sidewalk and creating a terrible first impression for passengers disembarking the BlueLine. A much better solution is utilized within the project itself, just east of the Albertsons Grocery store, where loading is virtually concealed from view.

Liner buildings successfully conceal surface parking beyond

Liner buildings successfully conceal surface parking beyond

Most of the existing multi-level parking structures were salvaged from the previous enclosed mall. This created numerous challenges, such as concealing the structures from the sidewalk and street. This challenge is best met on Pine Avenue, once downtown’s premier retail destination, where the garages are behind ground floor retail with housing above. It is a tragedy that this approach was not consistently utilized throughout the project. Portions of the east-west streets (Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth) have hundreds of feet of exposed parking structure deterring a sense of urban vitality and safety for pedestrians. Parking garage stalls facing sidewalks could be replaced at the ground level with neighborhood related retail, as has been done in Old Pasadena. On the east side of Long Beach Boulevard a surface parking lot is fairly well concealed from the street by twenty-five foot deep retail buildings.

Hundreds of linear feet of garage are exposed to the public realm throughout the project

Hundreds of linear feet of garage are exposed to the public realm throughout the project

The worst atrocity is the public plaza located at the southwest corner of Fifth Street and the Promenade extension, which has surface parking to its south side and an exposed parking garage on the west. As Fifth curves, the terminating element for westbound travelers is the parking structure. The plaza itself is a leftover crumb of land, hard, cold and void of any water features. Since it is on soil, this space should be filled with ardent landscaping. In its current configuration, the plaza appears to be an incomplete building site rather than a public space and development may ultimately be best use of this void. Equally troubling, CityPlace fronts Sixth Street with two blocks of blank big box walls and a multi-level parking garage. The project has turned its vitality away from the northern portion of downtown, an area desperately in need of a catalyst to initiate capital investment and revitalization.

The new housing fronting Pine Avenue, south of Fourth Street, respects existing urban patterns

The new housing fronting Pine Avenue, south of Fourth Street, respects existing urban patterns

Traditional blocks in downtown Long Beach have various parcel widths at 25’ multiples, such as 25’, 50’, 75’ and 100’, with consistent depths defined by the mid-block alley network. These varying parcel sizes have generated buildings of assorted widths and heights, creating a variety of scale along the street edge. CityPlace has best executed this building pattern on Pine Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets, where new construction is integrated between two existing buildings: the eleven-story Farmers and Merchants Bank and a two-story former bank building completed in the 1960’s. This block is most representative of the eclectic structures located along the retail portion of Pine Avenue.

The massing facing Pine Avenue north of Fourth Street is a relentless monolith

The massing facing Pine Avenue north of Fourth Street is a relentless monolith

In contrast, the massing further north on Pine Avenue is far too consistent. The building between Fourth and Fifth Streets is literally a “crew cut” structure, a redundant four-story monolith with only minor variations in parapet heights. Presuming this is a response to City regulations of a four-story maximum height, a more successful approach would have been to vary the building heights, based on the City’s traditional 25’ platting module, with certain areas two or three stories high and others four or five stories, to average a four-story height.

This infill project is designed in various building styles utilizing numerous finish materials

This infill project is designed in various building styles utilizing numerous finish materials

CityPlace is a stucco behemoth, due to a lack of diversity in finish materials. A tremendous opportunity was overlooked by not introducing other materials to articulate and vary the scale of the project, and to provide greater identity to individual retail stores. A successful infill retail project is located directly south on the eastern side of Pine Avenue. Here the buildings are clad in smooth trowel plaster, glass, and metal siding accented with wood and metal storefronts. Human scaled materials such as tile and brick veneer should have been sparingly used, particularly at retail entries. The use of various signage such as blade, window, awning and cut letter signs is an improvement to the common generic Plexiglas box signs.  Successful lighting types and techniques have contributed to the variety and provided an overall perception of safety.  Paint, the most economical means of identifying individual storefronts has also been carefully utilized.  Other applicable materials include cementitious siding to create horizontal, vertical, board and batten and panelized patterns.

Building Openings

The conventional method to locating openings, particularly those in wood frame construction, is to stack them. This is the simplest approach to solve shear wall and exterior ventilation issues. Regrettably, on a development of CityPlace’s magnitude, the relentless piling of same size and type of windows augments the appearance of a monotonous project executed by a single hand. A few key buildings should have had staggered and varied window openings to increase the sense of diversity.

Corner Conditions

In the retail component of the project, buildings at street intersections have been executed reasonably by locating detailed entrances at corners. As the housing continues to complete the framing stages, there is no indication, other than minor parapet pop-ups, of elements such as towers or other architectural devices to accent corner conditions. This is another lost opportunity to vary the appearance of buildings.

Building Style

Downtown Long Beach is composed of an eclectic mix of historic and modern buildings spanning every decade of the last century. Architectural styles include Spanish Revival, Craftsman, Victorian, Streamline Moderne, Art Deco and Modern. Sadly the retail component of CityPlace has adopted an abstract Deco design motif throughout, and though the residential component is still under construction, deco details are also emerging. This continuous repetition of style is out of character with the rest of downtown and not only detaches itself from adjacent urban fabric but also identifies CityPlace as an isolated mega project.

Density and Building (Housing) Types

CityPlace will have 341 units of housing, with approximately eighty percent dedicated as rental and the remainder “for sale”. The downtown is in dire need of ownership opportunities to increase a populace of stakeholders dedicated to improving the entire urban core, which is currently experiencing an urban renaissance. Coupled with the thousands of office workers already within walking distance, the introduction of housing into this vast area will support retail, especially during the evenings and on the weekends, by activating and providing a sense of security at the street level for pedestrians, ultimately transforming this neighborhood into a 24/7 environment. However, the single-loaded stacked flat appears to be the only housing type currently utilized for the project. Though the density of the project is reasonable for downtown, greater density could have easily been absorbed into the site. This could have been achieved by continuing the housing form used to conceal parking garages and blank big box retail walls. These liners could have fronted sidewalks, with direct access to the ground floor units via stoops, similar in approach to the brownstones that permeate cities located in the eastern portion of the United States.  The introduction of thirty-eight lofts, a typology already popular downtown, should have been implemented at a much greater scale, particularly at the street level where it can accommodate live/work opportunities with the potential for ground floor retail. Other downtowns have buildings with expansive ground floors that are temporarily partitioned for lofts and later converted to retail. Other housing typologies such as town homes and courtyard housing should have been integrated into CityPlace to entice a variety of urban dwellers.


Converting the Long Beach Plaza Mall into a mixed-use project consisting of retail and housing is a dramatic improvement. Regrettably many opportunities have been lost, sadly with solutions clearly executed in other portions of the project. Who is to blame? The developer and team of consultants ultimately respond to market forces and at times prefer to proceed with the least common denominator. Concern should be focused on the City of Long Beach, for its failure to understand the downtown’s fundamental and complex characteristics and to apply appropriate solutions consistently throughout the project. Municipalities must serve as visionaries and guardians of the overall quality and nature of downtown, while still spurring economic development. Where and how the process failed are questions that remain unanswered.

Excellent urban form is about cogent public open space structure comprising of streets, parks and plazas, and serves as a constant as building use and form evolves over time. When such urbanism is established, as in downtown Long Beach, its pattern must unequivocally be reintegrated to best serve the public and it’s future. This process of integration has started to occur at CityPlace but unfortunately is not complete.  Good urbanism is also about a diverse architecture with a multilingual approach to building style and a strong sense of permanence that can allow quality structures to adapt into many uses over it’s lifetime. CityPlace has from this perspective been the most disappointing. The majority of the project has been executed by a single firm, which has contributed to tremendous monotony.

Fortunately, the opportunity also exists to surgically improve sections in the future. Urbanism is not static but evolves over time. However change should not take the unsustainable approach of scrape and build every twenty years. As the downtown continues to develop and mature as a 24/7 environment, the community and market forces will hopefully drive incremental improvements to CityPlace. Opportunity exists to incorporate additional retail and housing, not only to conceal parking and bland facades, but also over some of the big box stores. If executed by different design hands these changes will add a needed layer of diversity, breaking the project into a smaller scale. The next evolution will need not be as dramatic, and hopefully, when the time arises, City officials will get it right.

The original YMCA brick structure remains only a fond childhood memory; subsequently, the YMCA has recently retreated to a significantly smaller facility on the north side of Sixth Street fronting directly on to CityPlace. Sadly it is facing a dead two-block long blank wall and exposed multilevel parking garage. I wonder what impressions my four-year-old son will formulate while walking with me through CityPlace.

Image Credits: Photographs by author. Graphics by Juan Gomez-Novy.

The Story of Our Move.


Studio One Eleven is excited to announce the relocation of our Long Beach office. On October 17th, 2016 our studio will bring our 44 staff to 245 East Third Street.

Our new office.

On October 17th, 2016 our Studio brought our 44 staff to 245 East Third Street. We have spent the last year repositioning a former commercial store space, designing not only our office within, but also enhancing the district as a whole. This move reinforces our dedication to creating more livable and sustainable cities through an integrated practice of architecture, landscape, and urban design.

Our firm has been rooted in Long Beach since our founding in 2000, and we are excited by the opportunity to catalyze this part of Downtown.

So, why move?

You may be wondering why we would decide to move from a high-rise with amazing city-wide views to a previous storefront at the street level.

Studio One Eleven is dedicated to revitalizing communities one city block at a time. To catalyze redevelopment and spur urban vitality, we are relocating to become a key tenant at the corner of Third Street and The Promenade. Inspired by the vibrancy which is developing around this location, we are excited by the opportunity to aid in the transition of an aging retail center into a vibrant district of the city.

The new space allows us to be closer to the community physically, directly connecting with the people who utilize the urbanism we are helping to shape. Our large conference room will double as a community room, providing gathering space for community members and organizations.

We have also collaborated with local artists to help curate the interior and exterior surfaces of our office, creating art pieces which reflect our community.


And the journey continues…

This move will spur what is to become a vibrant district in the core of Downtown Long Beach.

Be sure to stop by and see our new office at 245 East Third Street, Long Beach, CA 90802. We look forward to seeing you there.