In Mount Washington, you can find a small triangle of land so beloved by the neighborhood, it was given its own name.
I first saw Jessica Triangle on Open Street Map. I had been doing some mapping research of the notoriously confusing streets in Mount Washington when this little number caught my eye. Not only was the name Jessica Triangle enticing, but its appearance — a small triangle marking the oddly shaped intersection of Cleland Avenue and Jessica Drive — intrigued me. What was it? And why was it there? So I drove over to pay this mysterious spot a visit.
Jessica Triangle is a pocket park in Mount Washington. At first glance, there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the place. It’s just a slightly overgrown median strip, something of a proto-roundabout, at a low-traffic intersection. On a closer look, though, it’s marked by two official City of Los Angeles landmark signs, so clearly something was up with this place.
As it turns out, Jessica Triangle is a testament to the power of a community working together to build something from nothing.
Birth of a Landmark
Back in the 1990s, this roughly triangular-shaped traffic median was just another concrete-and-macadam construct that seemed to be a magnet for trash and debris. By all accounts, it was pretty ugly. The residents of the Mount Washington neighborhood around the spot were fed up with its unsightliness. So an enterprising group of horticulturally minded citizens set out to beautify the small spot.
Starting in 1997, the hardworking neighbors broke up and cleared out enough concrete to plant a trio of Coast Live Oaks. It wasn’t long after that other residents joined in and started ripping out the rest of the asphalt to replace it with soil and mulch. Then the neighborhood started planting drought-tolerant native plants throughout the small space, and chunks of the original asphalt were repurposed as a walkway through the tiny park.
For more than ten years, this group of guerilla gardeners dutifully cultivated this green space, maintaining it as a small urban oasis. Everything was great. Until …
The City Gets Involved
One day people in the neighborhood noticed a group of men wearing day-glo vests placing small orange flags in the ground and spray-painting marks on the street around the beloved triangle. Residents became distraught when they learned the city had plans to destroy the median — and all the hard work that went into beautifying it — to build a sewer line.
But Jessica Triangle found an unlikely savior — Jose Huizar, the former city council member (and known supporter of big development projects). When Huizar learned what this now well-groomed median meant to the people of the neighborhood, he did something a bit out of character — he protected it. In 2011, under Huizar’s watch, Council District 14 planted two landmark signs — thereby granting the space an official landmark designation — and officially christened the park “Jessica Triangle.” (Thankfully, Mr. Huizar left his name off this one).
It’s been nearly 25 years since the neighborhood first started working to beautify what was an eyesore. Today, Jessica Triangle is a pocket park much-loved by the entire community. It’s even served as the inspiration for the songs “Jessica Triangle” by Jonny Kosmo and “Jessica Triangle” by Frieda’s Roses, both released in 2019.
- 4716 Jessica Drive, Los Angeles
- GPS: 34.112199, -118.215074 [ Google Maps ]
- what3words: ///wink.ritual.traps