On-Street Pedestrian Parking, or, Parklets
June 10, 2014 6:57 PM   Subscribe

Parklets! Parklets are popping up everywhere! Parklets are beautiful! A brief history tells of how parklets started in San Francisco with PARKing Day, a topic previously covered.

Here is a comprehensive toolkit for creating and implementing parklets, published by the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative Luskin School of Public Affairs and archived by the wayback machine.

A few links to parklet cities: San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, BC, Adelaide, South Australia, NYC, Portland, OR.

posted by aniola (19 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting. If I saw most of those, I'd assume they were seating areas that belonged to a cafe. Even if I couldn't see the cafe, I'd think I wasn't looking hard enough. So it would never occur to me to sit down at them.
posted by lollusc at 8:43 PM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Actually in SF/Oakland they are required to be "sponsored" by a business (almost always a cafe of some kind) and that is who the permit for them is issued to. However they are technically public spaces and anyone can sit down and do whatever they want at them without being a patron. I always thought this was a weird system, but I guess someone has to be responsible for maintaining the space and take the initiative to make it happen.
posted by bradbane at 8:52 PM on June 10, 2014

lollusc: For just that reason, the ones in SF have very clear signage that anyone can use them. (That said, like 90% of the people using them are buying food from the store that sponsored the parklet.)
posted by aspo at 9:01 PM on June 10, 2014

They triedthus in Omaha. They were called trugs here, for some reason. I had a feeling the idea had been lifted from somewhere else and implimented without asking why it worked elsewhere. I presume when it works it is because theses are in a high-foor-traffic area with little public seating, so it is answering a need.

That's not how it was implemented here. They were put in places with little foot traffic, and went mostly unused. There was one a half block down from me that went unused for a half year. The people who did this closed up shop and moved elsewhere, which was no surprise to me. They had absorbed all the langauge of community development and none of the actual working methodology, and I wasn't surprised to discover they didn't actually have any long-term committment to the communities that they paid themselves out of local donor money and grants to develop.

I learned a valuable lesson from this, and extension from something i have been learning since i moved back here. You can't see a community as a collection of problems, but instead must see it as a collection of opportunities. If you decide for yourself what their problems are, and superimpose a solution on it, you're wasting that opportunity, and it likely won't stick. Respect your community, and be on hand to support them when they take advantage of their own opportunities, and you wind up with parklets instead of trugs.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:14 PM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Heh. From the actual Seattle.gov parklet faq:

"Now that it is legal, can I smoke marijuana in a parklet?

Nice try."
posted by kprincehouse at 10:26 PM on June 10, 2014

We recently interviewed Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who developed this concept, for our podcast. Very interested to learn her intention was that these be temporary installations intended to symbolically kickstart the engaged use of public space of the sort that is normal in Europe and Latin America but has been legislated out of existence in the U.S. (Loitering, they call it.) Parklets are not the end game--though the political entities that erect them don't seem to realize this.
posted by Scram at 11:50 PM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Interesting. If I saw most of those, I'd assume they were seating areas that belonged to a cafe.

Indeed, a lot of the controversy revolved around the idea that this was "privatizing" a formerly "public" space. Even if that "public" space was being used to store someone's Studebaker for days at a time, and the "private" space was a hangout for dozens of people who may or may not have bought a coffee.
posted by alexei at 12:25 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Alexei, do you have a citation for that? As far as I can recall, as soon as parklets came on the scene it seemed generally understood that it was an effort to reclaim public space for public use.

The idea that tax funded public space was being used as publicly subsidized private space (long term parking spots for the automobiled class), and that it could potentially be put to better use, was very much the up front idea of "parking day."

Basically, I disagree that the generally consensus when parking day launched was more or less "oh no now all the non-car owners are free loading on what used to be spots for the general community to share."
posted by toofuture at 12:45 AM on June 11, 2014

Meanwhile, here in Poland the cars park on the sidewalks. We call it On-Pedestrian Parking.
posted by pracowity at 1:39 AM on June 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

I like the idea of parklets and anything to get rid of the cars that didn't bring me but in practice they seem more like "outdoor seating for in front of the local establishment" as opposed to a tiny little park. I'm in favor of parklets. I'm especially in favor of them if they are in front of Gino & Carlo's on a sunny late weekend morning with a bloody mary to hand and people watching to be had.

I don't know what the name should be but it seems something like "oh, look it's not a bunch of similarly colored Toyota's but plants instead" would be a more accurate description of the appeal for most of the north american continent where there are two weeks of spring and one week of fall sandwiched between too damn hot and Oh Jesus it's cold.

But again, I'm in favor of parklets.
posted by vapidave at 4:34 AM on June 11, 2014

My hometown has one of these and as far as I can tell it works well. They park it on a street that gets a lot of foot traffic but doesn't have public seating. It doesn't look like it belongs to a particular business. I've seen a lot of people use it while it's out.

The reason the street doesn't have public seating, though, is that a while back all of it was removed to get rid of undesirables who used it too much. I wonder what's going to happen to the parklet.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:03 AM on June 11, 2014

Business owners have tended to defend on street parking tooth and nail, insisting that it is needed for their customers. I wonder how many would give that up in exchange for having that parking space for seating or outdoor display?
posted by Dip Flash at 5:59 AM on June 11, 2014

I work with landscape architects and urban planners, I wonder if any of them have proposed these?

I know we do a lot of designs for "pocket parks" as part of neighborhood improvements, because even a tiny park close to your house raises its value, and they're also pretty (so long as they are maintained). Money aside, there's a surprising amount of interest in greening things up in this part of Texas, even formally connecting walk trails along "informal" (read: made by poor people who have to walk) routes around property boundaries. Which keeps people from walking on the street, and prevents accidents, as well as encouraging joggers and strollers. We even have the rental bikes now in Fort Worth. As politically red as this place is, and as full of tea-party blowhards, turns out that lots of people like parks and green things around them, and even not having to use their car, if they get the chance.
posted by emjaybee at 8:04 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Business owners have tended to defend on street parking tooth and nail, insisting that it is needed for their customers. I wonder how many would give that up in exchange for having that parking space for seating or outdoor display?

That's the beauty of this little stunt. These pocket demonstrations are temporary, and so it's easier to get businesses to go along for a day and see what happens.
posted by ocschwar at 9:00 AM on June 11, 2014

Oooh, Minneapolis is getting these really soon. I think they're a great idea. Part of the goal here is to have them act as a public space, not as a private one.
posted by antonymous at 10:23 AM on June 11, 2014

My town has a parklet. It's nice. Bupkis to do with the whole idea of parking bicycles, but it's a nice couple of tables and benches that they plunk down outside a variety of town businesses. (It's mobile and moves every 6 weeks or so.) They currently have it in front of the Italian Ice place and we took our daughter down there for an ice cream treat. It's a fun little public space.
posted by graymouser at 10:43 AM on June 11, 2014

Two great parklets in SF are at Four Barrel on Valencia and in front of Haight Street Market. Both have qualities William Whyte and Christopher Alexander would praise— people watching, varied modes of interaction, and even bike parking. But they both feel like an extension of the adjacent storefront rather than an independent gathering place.

Part of this is due to the way we consider the convenient parking space that used to be there as a means to the goal of visiting that shop. There's also a history of bistro tables on the sidewalk outside restaurants, some with a defined boundary, others without.

The more parklets and interstitial public spaces we have, the more they will feel like natural parts of cities, like the vest pocket parks that are such gems in Manhattan.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:19 AM on June 11, 2014

Farley's parklet is the best / in the east or the west
posted by jcruelty at 11:23 AM on June 11, 2014

There are a few tiny parks (but bigger than parklets) in the middle of built-up Wellington that seem to work really well. Office workers crowd them at lunch time and just generally there are people sitting there enjoying the sun.

Midland Park is one.
Te Aro Park is another.

I think the key is that there is at least some small patch of grass, which seems to be sufficient to code the spaces as "park" rather than "cafe seating".
posted by lollusc at 4:33 PM on June 11, 2014

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