The Coachella Valley sits just two hours outside of the metropolitan region of Los Angeles and is one of the most fertile agricultural growing areas in California. Yet, the Coachella Valley region has extreme income disparity.
A lack of affordable housing has led to more than 120 un-permitted mobile home parks serving as this community's primary means of low-income housing. These parks are in varying degrees of degradation, but all face poor access to sanitation, water, nutritious food, public transportation and electricity.
Due to a lack of oversight and regulation, trailer park communities face challenges in securing access to quality water and sanitation systems. There is often a lack of potable water; available water frequently contains unacceptable levels of arsenic. Although trailer park grounds have plenty of space, extreme weather conditions don't permit residents to spend much time outdoors. Therefore, there are no safe and sheltered public spaces for community gatherings or outdoor recreation.
Lastly, over-salinated soil, which hinders in-ground gardening, compounded with a lack of public transportation and ped-bike infrastructure, contributes to residents' inability to access affordable and healthy food.
Adjacent to the 111 Highway and near the town of Mecca, CA, St. Anthony Trailer Park is home to an estimated 570 people (approximately 400 under the age of 18). Residents of St. Anthony had previously organized through their community group La Union Hace la Fuerza around water and sanitation, issues that were not addressed by the previous owner.
A partnership with Pueblo Unido Community Development Corporation and the community of St. Anthony Trailer Park led to KDI's first US-based site.
In February 2011, KDI conducted several community workshops at St. Anthony to understand the community's most pressing needs - residents identified three: improved access to affordable food, a central gathering space to facilitate community organization and education and a safe, climate-appropriate recreation area for youth. In March and April, 2011 KDI held youth art and gardening days to engage residents and introduce the possibilities for a Productive Public Space. Throughout that fall KDI worked with community members in a number of design charrettes to establish components for a Productive Public Space that would provide solutions for identified community needs.
The final design of the St. Anthony PPS creates a community hub in the center of the trailer park - currently an underutilized open space.
Completed in 2013, the Productive Public Space includes a sheltered meeting space, stage, playground, community garden, and improved landscaping. The sheltered meeting area with benches, tables, and new landscaping allow residents to take advantage of their community's open space by providing protection from harsh weather conditions.
The meeting space will serve to foster a more active and unified community by creating an area in which the residents can mobilize and incubate entrepreneurial endeavors. The playground creates a space for safe play and recreation while enabling youth to engage in organized physical activity. The community garden provides a productive space where growing healthy food is used for nutrition education and food security. To accompany physical site improvements, KDI provided gardening and nutrition classes, small business training, and arts workshops to residents.