Saturday, February 11, 2012

What is a Public Space?

In the last post I talked about how Santa Monica Pier acts as a public space. However, what exactly is a public space?

A public space can be described as any place that promotes social interaction by welcoming all members of the community regardless of class or ethnicity. The space should be easy to access and should be safe without prohibiting or preventing people from entering. Additionally, the interests of the overall public should be represented in the public space. Obviously, the public may not agree as to how the space can best serve the community. In such a case, a resolution in which the majority of the public is left satisfied should be reached.

Public spaces should be as welcoming to the public as possible. Therefore, things such as proper facilities, public performances, benches (if outdoors), etc. should be included. There would be no purpose to a public space if it did not attract people to the area.

The problem of safety versus accessibility should also be addressed in a way that satisfies the majority of the public. There have been some instances where, in the interest of safety, certain citizens have been excluded from using a public space. For example, charging people to use a public space would exclude lower class residents from making use of the area. Rather than exclude these citizens, a more effective way to maintain safety while simultaneously welcoming all members of the public would be to hire public security to patrol the area. In fact, such security could even be a part of the attraction of a space.

Recent events have called into question the legitimacy of some public spaces and how "public" they truly are. Specifically, the Occupy movement has sparked debate as to whether or not protesters truly have the right to "occupy" spaces that are considered public. Many protesters have been arrested for occupying spaces that were / are considered public, including those in OccupyLA (which I witnessed firsthand). To my readers, I ask what your opinion is of the issue. Please note that I am only asking for your opinion as to whether or not the protesters have a right to the space; I would like to avoid any political arguments about the 99% versus the 1%. I simply find the debate over the rights of people to public spaces both interesting and relevant.

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