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University Park Slow Jams

Public Matters

Social enterprise or B-corps

Every year LA’s streets are becoming less safe for people who walk, especially children. University Park Slow Jams is a creative call to action for safer streets. The project builds a network of local advocates—groups, schools, parents, youth—to draw attention to traffic violence, build capacity, and propose solutions. Slow Jams are a multifaceted education, engagement, and leadership development strategy that enable local stakeholders to participate in creative public acts; document safety conditions; and take action to achieve street safety.



Has your proposal changed due to COVID-19?

Our proposal remains vitally important. Traffic safety is an essential challenge for University Park and has in fact become more urgent due to the pandemic. Local pedestrians and cyclists are at increased danger since we submitted our proposal. In 2019, roughly 11 Los Angeles pedestrians were killed a month (128 total). In May 2020 alone, 21 pedestrians were killed (LA Times, 14 May 2020). The primary reason is drivers are driving much faster due to reduced traffic under the stay-at-home order. Driver behavior has changed; unfortunately, not for the better. People who walk, bike and roll are also using streets differently due to COVID-19, for physical distancing and outdoor recreation. Traffic safety will remain a serious problem.

We propose these changes:

  • Social distancing for many has meant social isolation. We will enhance the project’s digital mapping and communication products for community mobilization, education, training, and to promote social cohesion.
  • We will train participants to use technology in new ways. This builds the capacity of parents and children, while addressing the digital divide exposed by COVID-19.
  • The public spectacle component of Slow Jams is part of a larger effort to build community capacity to advocate for safe streets. We will adapt public performances and events, practicing safe distancing. These may resemble the proposed choreography, or may require more static props, such as yard signs and human billboards along the sides of streets.

Please describe the mission of your organization.

Public Matters believes the arts and creativity are levers for social change. We aim to bridge the trust gap between institutions and marginalized communities of color by designing strategies that transform the culture, practice and experience of civic participation, making it accessible to all.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • South LA

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

  • Los Angeles Walks
  • USC Kid Watch
  • Individual Faculty at the University of Southern California

If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.

Public Matters will lead the design and implementation of all elements, managing partnerships and the delivery of project objectives.

LA Walks is a design partner and co-facilitator. They will train and supervise walk auditors and work with parent groups to train them on traffic safety techniques, behaviors, and avenues for advocacy.

USC Kid Watch, our neighborhood experts, will link the team with parents and partners schools. They will play a critical role in establishing trust between partners and residents, and convening Community Conversations, Slow Jams and Walk Audits.

Professors Francois Bar, David Sloane, additional faculty and student groups, will assist with external partnerships and coordinate USC involvement in all aspects of the project.

What is the need you’re responding to?

Western. Normandie. Vermont. Hoover. Figueroa. In the University Park area these streets all have something in common: they are the sites of far too many tragic, preventable deaths. Between 2015-19, according to LADOT seven people died walking, one person died biking, and five people died driving in the area. All these streets are part of the High Injury Network: streets where a disproportionate number of injuries and fatalities occur.

The danger is particularly acute for children ages 5-14, for whom motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death. In an area where there are more than 10 schools, and 6,000 students use these roadways daily, building awareness and advocacy for safer streets is a matter of life and death. Municipal resources have been sorely lacking. Language and cultural barriers, a lack of understanding how to navigate systems, and time limitations inhibit action. Without intervention, training and network building, more lives are at unnecessary risk.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?

Transforming the culture of traffic safety in University Park requires a special kind of alchemy. Public Matters possesses a unique skill set to meet the challenge: art, civic engagement, education, community building, project design and implementation. We are fluent across sectors, disciplines, languages, cultures and generations. We have a strong record of collaborating with residents, agencies and decision-makers, bringing together institutions and informal groups of varied scale. Our partners LA Walks, USC Kid Watch and USC faculty strengthen our engagement ecosystem. Slow Jams, created by Public Matters in 2017, are more than just the street spectacle of giant props, music and playful messaging about a serious issue. They tap into human impulses for creative expression and collaboration, and transform the effort into meaningful, hands-on exchange & idea generation among participants of different backgrounds and expertise. They build a collective capacity to create change together.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

505
Direct impact
30,350
Indirect impact

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Creating safer streets requires behavioral change, education, advocacy, and changes to the built environment. No one element is sufficient by itself. The broader impact of Slow Jams is the human architecture that can carry work forward over the long term.

This flexible network of 100 parents, 375 students, and 30 teachers/administrators from multiple schools has the possibility to create a local multiplier effect. Each student, parent, participant becomes a traffic safety advocate, sharing their learning with others—family members, friends, neighbors—influencing these individuals’ ability to shape policy, or to simply be aware of their behavior on the area’s shared roads: roads that more than 27,000 drivers use daily.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

To improve students’ sense of safety and improve opportunities for walking and biking, the project needs to provide concrete opportunities for constructive critique and improvements to the built environment. Moreover, residents need to develop the skills, acumen and political agency to effect change. This requires creating meaningful opportunities for local stakeholders to learn about and inform traffic safety conversations in their neighborhood through direct interactions with decision-makers.

To achieve this, we will:

Increase participants’ knowledge of traffic safety, with the goal of improving participants’ safety. Gather and aggregate data rich stories and maps through qualitative and quantitative methods to communicate the area’s safety conditions.
Train parents, students, and partners in methods used by traffic engineers and transportation planners to improve streets and intersections through workshops and community conversations. Build relationships among project partners that can support increased advocacy beyond the grant period. Create opportunities for parents and students to engage in dialogue with transportation officials, decision-makers, or elected representatives, regarding traffic safety conditions and the impact of current street conditions.

We will conduct initial and end-of-project surveys and build relationships throughout the project that lead to constructive, sustained dialogue, problem-solving, and opportunities for emergent leadership.

Which of the play metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Walking and biking
  • Prevalence of trauma and adverse childhood experiences
  • Students' sense of safety at and on the way to school

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?

  • LA is the best place to CREATE
  • LA is the best place to CONNECT
  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?

  • Access to the LA2050 community
  • Communications support
  • Office space for meetings, events, or for staff
  • Network building

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