Mayor Newsom Announces 12 New Pavement to Parks Projects for 2010

Showplace_triangle.gifPhoto of Showplace Triangle Plaza, formerly a street and parking lot. Photo: Captin Nod
San Francisco’s two newest Pavement to Parks plazas got an official launch ceremony this afternoon after several months of public use, along with a promise from the Mayor to build twelve more public spaces like them before the end of the year. The twelve new locations will include a new plaza at the intersection of 24th Street and Noe Street in Noe Valley and Parklets, or wooden sidewalk extensions, on Divisadero Street in Nopa, 22nd Street in the Mission, Columbus Avenue in North Beach, and Clement Street in the Richmond.

Speaking before a crowd of about 100 people at Showplace Triangle Plaza, which was officially opened today, along with Guerrero Park, Mayor Newsom praised the Pavement to Parks plazas as examples of the kind of reclamation of space that could dramatically improve San Francisco’s livability.

"It’s an idea that really comes from all of you, from the community, because you’ve been demanding that we begin to democratize our streets in a little different way," he said, prompting loud cheers from the crowd. "Who said that every single street that’s paved has to be a street that has a priority exclusively for automobiles? I mean, who decided that? And when was that decided? And why not take a look at that and reconsider those decisions?"

Showplace Triangle, located at 8th Street between 16th and Irwin Streets, and Guerrero Park, at San Jose and Guerrero Streets, are the city’s second and third Pavement to Parks projects, following the Castro Commons park at 17th and Market Streets, which has quickly become a popular addition to the neighborhood. Each project was designed by different landscape architects with input by the communities where they are situated.

Since their opening, the trial street reclamations have proven very popular among the public. In Showplace Triangle, data collected by the Great Streets Project show a 29 percent increase in pedestrians walking through the plaza, a 40 percent increase in the number of survey respondents who had a positive perception of the neighborhood, 
and a 61 percent increase among people who considered Showplace Triangle a good place to stop, relax and socialize. The number of users who felt a sense of community character in the area rose 39 percent.

JB_Newsom_Rahaim_Showplace.gifRebar's John Bela at the press conference. Mayor Gavin Newsom and Planning Director John Rahaim speak to each other in the background. Photo: Bryan Goebel.
According to John Bela of Rebar, the designers of Showplace Triangle, the art and architecture collective wanted to get involved with the project because of their history of public space reclamation, such as Park(ing) Day and the Civic Center Victory Garden. After thanking the Planning Department’s Andres Power, who is manager for all the Pavement to Parks projects, Bela elaborated on their vision for the space, which includes creating "a sense of enclosure" and defining "a place where people would feel comfortable entering."

By using found objects and extra materials from Department of Public Works supply yards, Rebar turned old dumpsters into planters and beautiful granite slabs into benches and enclosures for small grass hillocks planted with citrus and fig trees. Rebar donated its time and design, while further funding was provided by AT&T.

“AT&T has a long history of supporting the communities where we live and work and that includes taking meaningful steps towards improving our environment," Ken McNeely, President of AT&T California, said in a statement. "The 'Pavement to Parks' initiative is truly a model program, and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to work with Mayor Newsom to help provide new green spaces for San Francisco families to enjoy."

Sophie Maxwell, District 10 Supervisor, praised the city’s efforts to increase public space and improve the quality of life for her constituents. "As you look around, it doesn’t take a lot of space, just well-used space," she said.

Showplace_triangle_hollero.gifThe author communing with a tree in Showplace Triangle. Photo: Myleen Hollero.
In addition to celebrating the Showplace Triangle Plaza, Mayor Newsom praised the design and execution of Guerrero Park and Shift Design Studio for providing design services free of charge, as well as  California Pacific Medical Center and Safeway for providing contributions for the construction effort. The only costs borne by the city were the labor-hours of DPW workers, according to the Mayor’s Office.

Though local resident and Greening Guerrero director Gillian Gillett had told Streetsblog some of her neighbors were upset with the loss of parking spaces at the Guerrero Park, the community around the plaza has been using it and caring for the plants and trees that fill the space.

"Please, do more of these. These are really so incredibly meaningful for San Francisco," Gillett said at the press conference. "We’re very delighted."

22nd Street and Bartlett "Parklet"

Rebar_22nd_St_4.gifClick to enlarge, photo simulation of the new Rebar 22nd Street Parklet. Images: Rebar.

Mayor Newsom admitted he was initially concerned that “maybe five or six people would pay attention” to the plaza announcement at 17th and Castro last year, but explained with contentment that 17th Street and those following it were so popular he and his agency staff started looking for smaller interventions in parking spaces.

As Streetsblog reported, the first of the Parklets, or wooden sidewalk extensions in parking spaces, will be implemented at Mojo Café on Divisadero Street, with a second to follow on 22nd Street near Bartlett Street, in front of Revolution Café, Escape From New York Pizza, and Loló Restaurant.

Newsom said the purpose of these Parklets was "to slow down the day and allow people to pause and reflect and connect with one another. It’s about bringing community together, bringing people together, and slowing down the pace of life in this frenetic urban environment we call home."

The 22nd Street Parklet will be built by Rebar and the design is intended to be "modular, portable, elegant, durable, and clearly a step above the standard streetscape," said Rebar's Bela. The Parklet will take up three parking spaces, or approximately 60 feet in all. The seating elements will vary along the length of the platform, with different sizes, shapes, and vertical orientations. As with the Mojo Café project, the restaurants will be responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the space, though it will be open to everyone whether or not they frequent the establishments.

According to the Planning Department's Andres Power, the total budget for the project will be $15,000, none of which will come from city coffers. The primary donation for the project comes from Streetsblog San Francisco principal supporter Jonathan Weiner, as well as some funds from the restaurants it will front. Planners still need to get approval from all the agencies responsible for street closures and special events, and the duration of the trial is expected to be six months initially, with extensions if the space is successful. The project will likely be built in late spring, or early summer.

"Widening sidewalks costs millions," Bela said, adding that Rebar was trying to answer the question: "How do you get safety and place-making without moving underground utilities" and at a cost that is reasonable?

Mayor Newsom also acknowledged the work that Rebar and other designers were doing was donated, for which he was grateful. "We’re taking the creativity of the city and all the talented folks, and they’re stepping up and helping support the city," said Newsom. "In this economic environment, we can’t write big checks, so we’ve got designers that are providing the design and the artistic expression, and they’re doing it pro bono."

Michael Rhodes contributed reporting for this story.

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