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Long Beach Hopes Food Trucks Will Bring Voters To The Polls

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A visual rendering of a City Fabrick "Place-make the Vote" pop-up space. (Image courtesy of City Fabrick)
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Could transforming polling places into pop-up social spaces actually get people to show up on Election Day? The Southern California design studio behind "Place-make the Vote" thinks so.City Fabrick announced Tuesday that their nonprofit design studio had been awarded more than $150,000 through the Knight Cities Challenge for plans to create temporary social spaces around polling places. According to the Long Beach Post, the Long Beach-based studio will use the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant to develop a kit for creating pop-up social plazas at polling places with the aim of attracting voters and increasing civic engagement. City Fabrick's executive director Brian Ulaszewski told KPCC that the spaces will be designed to look like places where people would want to hang out, "including outdoor seating, string lights, food and entertainment."

The term "placemaking" originated in the 1970s, though it has its roots in the '60s-era writings of people-centric urbanists like Jane Jacobs and William H. Whyte. The design philosophy places a premium on creating interesting, inviting spaces that prioritize the physical, cultural, and social identities of a location and foster a "sense of place."

California voter turnout hit a record low in 2014, and recent data suggests that younger voters are more likely to stay home due to busy schedules and a lack of interest in voting, rather than distrust in government. The long history of trying to make voting sexy is littered with bold-faced names (along with free concerts, viral videos, and even WWE wrestlers), but there has yet to be any systematic effort to transform polling places into social spaces as a means of increasing voter engagement.

The Post reports that the first pop-up plazas will appear during the June primary election, followed by a wider rollout for the November general election. City Fabrick with collaborate with the Long Beach City Clerk and a coalition of community groups to identify Long Beach polling sites that could work as potential locations, with an emphasis on low voter turnout areas.

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"We're hoping this is something that could be adapted to other communities," Ulaszewski told KPCC.