Margot Ocañas: Walking the walk


Some of my favorite assignments, hands down, are for the LA Weekly’s People Issue, the annual glossy-covered edition featuring the city’s most fascinating Angelenos. This year I wrote two profiles, and they’re both such special People (with a capital P) that I’ll reveal who they are in two separate posts. My first subject was the great Margot Ocañas, the city’s first-ever pedestrian coordinator, looking like a DKNY model in this shot.

Sunset Triangle

Of course I was thrilled when the city decided to create two pedestrian coordinator positions last year. But I feel like the funny thing about government jobs is that it’s often very difficult to see evidence of what that person actually does. Luckily I’ve been able to give some pretty great examples in Margot’s case. I first met Margot right here, in Sunset Triangle, the street-to-plaza conversion that’s just down the block from my house. Who did this? Margot did this, when she was working with the county health department.


Oh, and these parklets, or street porches, you’re seeing popping up all over the city? That’s Margot, too, with a ton of hard work from Valerie Watson, the assistant pedestrian coordinator, who set downtown’s Spring Street parklets (above) in motion before she took the job. This is part of a citywide effort to help neighborhoods reclaim public space for pedestrians across the city, something Margot also talked about when I interviewed her for my Studio 360 piece on walking in LA.

Continental crosswalks press conference

The most stunning change to LA’s pedestrian life is actually happening incrementally, in intersections across the city. New high-visibility crosswalks (or zebra, or Continental crosswalks) are being painted all over LA. These not only make intersections safer for all Angelenos, but they’re also a small graphic gesture that helps walkers feel like they’re more welcome on the streets. (That’s Margot in the heels above, doing her best Abbey Road pose). These may all seem like small things, but as Margot says in my article, they really do start to add up. Especially on Spring Street, which is maybe the first place in LA where you can finally experience something I thought we’d never see in LA:  that streets are not just for cars, they’re for people. You can read the entire story here.

And you can meet Margot! Los Angeles Walks is running a Kickstarter to launch the first-ever campaign to celebrate pedestrians in LA. If you pledge $100, you’ll get tickets to a dinner we’re hosting June 1 to honor Margot and Valerie. There’s no better way to show your support for walking in LA. Even if you can’t make it to the dinner, you can still back our campaign for cool walking merchandise. Thanks for your support!

Amazing top image by the awesome photographer (and my neighbor) Kevin Scanlon who shoots all the people for the People Issue every year. Hire him! Hire him! And stay tuned tomorrow to see the other interesting Angeleno I wrote about…

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