San Francisco’s Newest Public Space is in the Parking Lane in The Mission

22nd_Parklet3.jpgInstallation began yesterday on the 22nd Street and Bartlett "parklet." Photos: Matthew Roth.

After the tremendous success of the trial sidewalk extension, or "parklet," on Divisadero in front of the Mojo Bicycle Cafe, San Francisco planners set their eyes on 22nd Street near Bartlett Street in The Mission, where they have re-purposed three parking spaces in front of Revolution Cafe, Escape from New York Pizza, and Loló Restaurant to be the city’s newest public space.

"It basically acts as a relatively inexpensive way to transform parking spaces into spaces for people," said project manager Blaine Merker of Rebar, an artist collaborative best known for instigating the annual Park(ing) Day temporary parking space reclamations.

"We’re
taking this relatively narrow sidewalk and taking out three pretty
superfluous parking spots and we’re increasing the value of the
streetscape by making it a place for people to hang out, to enjoy
themselves and use an informal public space," Merker said.

The sixty foot linear parklet (Rebar uses the term
"Walklet") is composed of pre-fabricated modular sections, each three
feet wide by 6 1/2 feet deep. The module foundations are welded steel frames with bamboo decking, each affixed to the curb edge. The modules have different components, some simple
flat sidewalk extensions, others with seating. One variation has seating
with a planter built into it; another is a high bar 40 inches above the
platform. Two modules have two bike racks each and several modules will
be deep benches that allow reclining.

"The idea was to have a
magic carpet of bamboo," said Merker, describing the aesthetic. "It
creates a sense of prospect and refuge for people who want to
inhabit the street."

Children_sitting.jpgA group of school children waited for their bus this morning on the new parklet.

The parklet addresses the crowding concern at this corner, where Revolution Cafe customers often crowd the narrow sidewalk and occasionally spill into the street. In addition to providing more space and more seating, the parklet moves some of the bicycle parking off of the curb and into the former parking spaces.

In exchange for locating the parklet in front of the businesses on 22nd Street, all three have committed to maintenance and upkeep. All three businesses also made financial contributions for construction and installation. The total cost of the project is $15,000, or $5,000 per parking spot, though Rebar donated their design services to the city.

San Francisco planners acknowledged that the new space blurred the line between public and private, but insisted that the development was a net positive for public space. 

"Instead of thinking of that
space as a service area for the restaurant, it has been thought of in
an innovative way which is expanding the sidewalk for public seating," said Ilaria Salvadore of the Planning Department, who oversaw the installation yesterday afternoon.

Merker highlighted the trajectory from the first Park(ing) Day in 2005, which were guerrilla installations, to the semi-institutionalized parklets, which have the blessing of Mayor Gavin Newsom as part of the Pavement to Parks program.

"Now the City of San Francisco has
come around from the regulatory side," said Merker. "They’ve created a full-fledged permit
now to allow, basically, Park(ing) Day to happen 365 days a year."

Andres Power, the Planning Department’s Pavement to Parks manager, said the program had always been conceived of as a trial, but that if the plazas and parklets were welcomed by the public, the city would work to formalize a process to streamline installation.

"The intent has been through the pilot projects to develop a system where an entity can apply for the improvements in front of their properties," said Power, who noted the city has developed parklet design specifications and has written the legal language for the permit, though they are still considering guidelines for aggregate installation on a commercial corridor.

"There could be such a thing as too many [parklets]," said Power.

22nd_Parklet9.jpgThe before shot, taken yesterday.
22nd_Parklet10.jpgA similar view taken this morning.
22nd_Parklet5.jpgOne of the bike rack modules and two planter seating modules behind.
22nd_Parklet7.jpgRebar’s Blaine Merker demonstrates the high-bar lean.
Tree_kid_small.jpgOne of the school children waiting for his bus does his impression of a tree, which will be planted in this module when he leaves.

  • taomom – about that “cars over sex” study – did the question include the conditions that bicycling, walking, and transit would be easier and more dependable? Of course no one will give up their car when their cities are built for them to rely on them… I believe the American car culture is a result of the infrastructure investment, and that if you change one, you can change the other.

  • Aaron, exactly. That is why so many people are afraid of a post car world, they can imagine a place designed in a way that a car isn’t necessary to survive. Though I would argue SF is already set up beautifully to function as a car-free place (at least car-light) and we are cheating ourselves if we don’t take advantage of such a rare experience (rare in the US at least).

    But on the note of “us” saying there is only one way to live – I take offense. For the last 60-80 yrs this country has been built in a way that only the automobile will provide reasonable means of transportation. I say it is the car culture that has forced this country to be one dimensional. We are just asking for some public space to be devoted to means other then a car so that we can all have a choice as to which mode we most prefer to use. Continue to drive if you’d like, but don’t make it a dangerous option for me to choose to bike or walk.

    And like was stated earlier, these parklets are small small percent of the overall available parking so it’s not like we are demanding the removal of all the cars, just a more equitable use of a very small portion of our limited space.

    And I’ve extended the olive branch to you bmwlover by trying to see life from your point of view but you continue to fail to see that there is view from my side. If I can live car free, why wouldn’t you encourage that for no reason other then selfishness. My one less car means that the roads are less crowded and there is a better chance at an open parking spot. I’m doing you a bigger favor then you car to admit.

  • I meant ” they can’t imagine a place designed in a way that a car isn’t necessary to survive.”.

  • mikesonn – Here, here, to that. And for what it’s worth, I’ve lived in the Outer Sunset car-free my whole time in SF, which isn’t really the first place you’d think of being the easiest to do it (compared to a place like North Beach or Noe Valley). But it is easy. Just saying (bmwlover).

    and mike, lol @ your (probably accidental) pun: “I’m doing you a bigger favor then you CAR to admit.”

  • Ha, I saw that. Hard to type out a long response on the train via iPhone. But it seemed to work out just fine.

    Aaron, totally agree that I have it pretty easy doing the car-free thing in North Beach. But then again, doesn’t that mean I SHOULD be doing the car-free thing because it is so easy. Yeah, there are some hick-ups here and there, like my bike axle is currently busted in half and my bike is so old I can’t find a replacement, but it is a hell of a lot better then having my transmission drop ($10-20 vs $2k? Ha, I don’t even remember what a transmission is worth). And it can be difficult to get out of the city for a weekend excursion, but we are learning more options every day – bus, train, car pool, or car rental.

    I also wanted to say, I never once advocated for removing private garages. I was just commenting on the fact that drivers are railing against these parklets, but what about curb cuts? Not to mention all the curb cuts that leave 2 ft between them so there is extra wasted space along the curb. And that private garage might take a car off the street, but what happens when that person is a work for the day or on a trip for the weekend? That spot on the street sits open and is wasted.

    So if that homeowner was parking on the street and had an in-law unit instead of a parking garage then: they could have an extra income from the renter, the sidewalk would be safer and more pleasant, the on-street parking could be used 24/7 instead of just when the car is parked in the garage, possibly the surround rents would be lower because there are more units on the market, and the cost of the home would significantly less because there isn’t the huge cost of converting the garage space.

  • tNOB

    I am a little hesitant to approve of the design for this parklet. I have visited the one at the Mojo Cafe, and given that is provides more seating is more successful. It should be highly efficient in its amount of seating per parking space taken if that metric helps to appease detractors.

    However, I am still amazed that the City (and other funding sources) are spending money on these constructions. It makes the City a target for people that don’t want to lose their precious parking.

    Instead, this should be a revenue generator for the City as it is in most European cities. Create a process in which business owners along certain streets in the city are allowed to apply for a permit to occupy the parking spaces in front of their business. If a business owner wants to attract more customers, he pays the fee (per month/per season) for that space. People who are upset with this business owner will not participate. If enough people do not, they will see it was a bad business decision and return it to parking. Everyone, in theory, will be happy, right?

    On the more optimistic side, if it is successful, the business owner next door may join in the effort, and on down the street. It will be proven that outdoor parking (for people) is more popular, and better business. Detractors will go elsewhere, and good riddance.

    Does this make sense to anyone else? How do a few scattered (highly-design) parklets start a trend in highlighting to people that the future of cities is people, not cars. I don’t want to mention it, but putting them in front of established hipster hangouts makes them even more of a lightning rod for haters. Just sayin’

  • ywhynot

    For all the comments, and all the contradictions, and all the point of views, all the generalities, and all the different people, I have to say that this is the best blog comment field that I have ever seen hands down! I only had a couple things to add:

    1. I encourage everyone to actually go see and a hang out at the new parklet this weekend and come back with what you actually observe. This is includes the drivers, cyclers, and the walkers. From what I have seen it is exactly what that corner needed.

    2. Anything that encourages this type of fruitful, thoughtful discussion is a great thing. We are at a crossroads here at the kinds of lifestyles that will be sustainable in the future versus those of the pass. A transition that will definitely be tumultuous. The thing is I would rather have everyone person who contributed to this blog as part of the solution. Most seem to at least care and think critically about the new public (public private spaces)

    3. The “us” “them” points are only used to polarize an otherwise even spectrum of the usefulness vs wastefulness of the automobile in our current sociological culture. I think the point is that, the automobile is great invention and has down America a world of good. It is one of the most useful pieces of technology ever. But it is also one of the most wasteful appliances this earth has ever known. We have find a way to put it in the middle instead of letting it lead the charge.

    Happy Thursday! See you at the parklet!

  • tNOB, your last paragraph could carry some weight, but give it a couple months. The businesses in North Beach that will be applying aren’t “established hipster hangouts” so hopefully it will quell that fear.

    And these businesses are paying a fee and maintaining the property. So if it isn’t profitable, they will disappear.

  • ywhynot

    sorry about that. Really have to start using more spell check.

  • tNOB

    Mike,

    I agree with the North Beach comment. I actually live close by and frequent Caffe Greco, and have been waiting for them to start that work. I would even propose that Starbucks try participate with their various locations. A lightning rod for sure in this city, but it might be one instance where their saturation in the city works for the public good.

    I am still ultimately surprised at all of the fanfare for these spaces. Having lived in Europe, this seems very commonplace. SF, as a city that often touts itself as a “european”-like city, putting people on sidewalk eating al fresco shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

  • Mikesonn, thanks for the hat tip. I agree with ywhynot that it is heartening to see people on this board care so much about livable streets issues. It is actually one of the things that make me think San Francisco will make it through the next decade as a relatively intact social/economic entity. I don’t expect all places to fare as well.

    Aaron, here’s a link to the write up of the study.

    http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Canadians-Choose-Driving-Over-Sex-and-Candy-1262976.htm

    They don’t talk about infrastructure per se, but 75% of respondents say they are not likely to give up their vehicles even when other options (walking, bike or take public transit) are easily available.

    “The driving paradox: more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of Canadians know their driving has a negative environmental impact, but they are not likely to give up their vehicles even when they could easily use other forms of transportation (75 per cent). In fact, Canadians are more willing to give up their cell phones, TVs, Internet access, coffee, junk food, credit cards and for some, even sex, before they set aside their car keys.”

    The thing about cars is that they are more than just a mode of transportation or an economic decision. Through fifty years of creative marketing and ceaseless advertising, they are now an extension of our psyches and our personas. Which will make the upcoming necessary transition away from the private auto even more difficult because it will take first and foremost a psychological shift, secondarily a physical one. But already young people in both the US and Japan are less interested in car ownership than previous generations, so it is beginning.

  • tNOB, I look forward to having a coffee with you in Caffe Greco’s new space.

  • taomom, I also wanted to comment that it was nice to hear your experience coming into North Beach. Columbus sucks – no way to put it nicely. Cars are flying, trying to beat the lights, and the road condition is a hazard. Sharrows are nice and all, but with door zone, you pretty much have to ride the middle of the lane anyway.

    Hopefully we’ll have some more pedestrian space sooner then later, but the opposition is strong in North Beach. As demonstrated here, the prevailing thought is that only more space for cars will save North Beach.

  • Brian

    Just like Sunday Streets, the car-pushers don’t like these demonstration projects because it presents a different vision of what our public streets can be. When you allow streets to be opened up on weekends to bikes, walkers, families, dogs, and kids paying soccer, when you build parklets, or replace street two parking spaces with bike parking for 24 vehicles, it threatens the dominance of cars. As more of these projects go up, more people come experience improved civic space for themselves. The fears of change being pushed by the car people start to melt away as the reality of an improved built environment becomes familiar. Neighbors embrace the improvements and defend the new spaces over the old arrangement – streets as dangerous, traffic sewers, unsafe for families. I think in Latino neighborhoods, which are very family-based, these improvements will be a gigantic hit. Now let’s get them installed beyond the hipster enclaves.

  • bmwlover

    I’m selling my car today. taomom just told us the age of the auto is over. Actually, while she’s busy telling us the entire history of the universe and all of it’s many problems, I’m going out to look at a new SUV.

    Then I think I’ll drive over to the new parklet and take a look.

    Seriously, people.

    Lighten.

    Up.

  • bmwlover, JohnB?

    You aren’t listening. You can still drive, you’ll just be a smaller part of the population. Cars will still be here (she did say that) and they will still be used (she said that also). However, we need to start making improvements towards a place where cars aren’t needed to be a productive member of society. The changes will start small – a few bike lanes and parklets – but as the shift becomes more palatable, you will see bigger changes to the way our city is arranged and how people get around. And like I said before, you should be thankful that, as a driver, less people want to drive.

  • patrick

    @bmwlover

    It’s interesting how you can insult somebody and in the same post ask others to lighten up, all while ignoring the interesting debate going on.

    You are welcome to partake in the discussion, but trolling is not so welcome.

  • I don’t think he’s trolling. I’d place it more along the lines of selective reading.

  • bmwlover

    oh, ok. lol.

  • See what I mean. bmwlover, I’ve made several points that you haven’t responded to, but once I say a little one line knock, you come running back to post a comment that adds nothing to the discussion. I’m trying to defend you here, but you aren’t doing yourself any favors.

  • patrick

    @mikesonn, I don’t mean to say he has only been trolling, he started with some valid points/opinions, even though I may disagree with them. but his more recent comments meet my definition of trolling.

    Anyways, back on the discussion. I’m excited about this, even though I will probably never use it. It’s just another of the small movements we are making in the right direction in this city.

  • patrick, yeah, I get what you are saying. Along with several of the past comments too.

    I don’t think I’ll use it, but if I pass by, I’ll definitely stop and have a sit. But the more these are successful, the better the chance one will end up somewhere I frequent.

  • Yeah I gave up with bmwlover, it’s not worth the effort. You can see where the discussion is (not) going.

  • the greasybear

    When our support here on Streetsblog for installing a little parklet induces shrill cries of intolerance and extremism, mockery and insults, then you know something important is happening. It’s not just about the parklet on 22nd, or all of the parklets even–it’s the nascent paradigm shift in how the urban public sees and experiences our public spaces.

    Every experiment in more complete and livable streets, no matter how small or incremental, forever changes minds. It is this change in thinking that threatens those most invested in an ideology that values three parking spaces over a small urban park, and drives them to troll Streetsblog and sfgate and wherever else.

    We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact opposition like this is really a compliment to the power of our ideas, and the reality that we are–slowly–winning the day.

  • bmwlover

    So, let me get this right Aaron…you give up when the discussion is (not) going…

    Your……………………………………………..way?

    I thought, and still hoping, this is an open minded blog dealing with livable cities and living healthy.

    But, honestly, you and others are in danger of making this a closed club. There are plenty of good, diverse opinions..Some are certainly way out there, some are reflective. Some are dogmatic. I assumed that all are welcome.

    But seriously, when someone starts to present alternate view points, some of you begin to say he (or she) is trolling? Seriously? That’s just plain rude and immature.

    How do we learn from each other? How do we make sense of living side by side in this dense urban environment, when things start to heat up a little..some of you get all spineless and want to run away? or worse yet, start the name calling.

    I’m not going anywhere. I have a pretty thick skin. I enjoy dialogue. I also enjoy playing devil’s advocate at times. It’s healthy. It’s me.

    I also sometimes like being sarcastic, sometimes I throw in humor, or snark-ism.

    BTW, I didn’t insult taomom. If anything I made fun of her long winded rant on a multitude of global scale issues.

    If you want this to be a closed minded club of all like minded people, then tell that to Streetsblog. See if they agree.

    Otherwise, open your minds a little.

  • bmwlover

    @greasybear……..please, give me a break. A makeshift little pile of wood and planter boxes is suddenly a “small urban park”…

    jeezussssssssss..you’re full of big expensive words….but guess what, that little urban park, while cute and trendy and oh so hipster, is not going to solve some of the more serious issues in The City. I really don’t think most people are that concerned about losing 3 or so parking spaces. Doesn’t bother me.

    The parklets are fine, although a waste of money, in my opinion. Let’s use the money to plant more trees, more sidewalk greening, cleaner streets, solving the homeless problems and drug problems and of course fixing perhaps the worst public transit system in the country.

    BTW, haven’t seen you here before..you trolling too?:)

  • James Figone

    bmwlover says: The discussion would be much more productive if we all worked together to create a great, safe, dependable transit system, create a safe, compatible way for bikes and cars to co-exist.

    I agree. Can we really look people like bmwlover in the eye and tell them to take Muni given its indignity or to ride a bike in an unsafe environment?

    By the same token, bmwlover and his ilk should not complain when we ask them to support measures to improve transit such as reducing parking, creating transit lanes, stricter parking enforcement, extended meter hours and so on. By allowing these changes, we move further toward making transit a viable alternative to driving. Once we have that, we can make a stronger case to bmwlover and realistically ask him to consider transportation without a car. That means we need to create superb, not merely adequate, transit and bike infrastructure. Perhaps we can agree on that.

  • ywhynot

    @bmwlover… Let’s all just relax a bit. I agree that Streetsblog is an open dialog about the built urban environment. I also agree that there are many different opinions that need to be exposed exactly for the purpose of imagining the city as a constantly changing entity of often warring interests. I agree with you about a host of other “money wasting” activities put forth by this city. and I think EVERYONE agrees that the SF MTA and MUNI definitely need to come up with something better, what they have provided is very inadequate for the city.

    But, realize that the larger picture items that need to be fixed are often more complex and take a lot more political will and plain old blood-sweat-and-tears to battle the systemized resistance to change built into the local (and global) political arenas.

    Also, I will say that this is one of the better ideas that the city has come up with. I agree we need to fix the parks we do have, but for who? No one wants to hang out at the park. No one really talks about this but many of us in the urban environment generally want to remain there. A few out of the way parks full of grass (that consumes more gallons of water per day than many chip manufacturing plants) and large tress (often unhealthy and dangerous) are not really the key to balancing a city’s livability. The parklet is a compromise to many different interest including those of the stores who pay for them and maintain them and do all the upkeep.

    Again everyone should also realize these things are temporary. They are specifically set up so that if they don’t work or attract the business that associated stores like, they will be torn down, used in a museum or at the REbar facility and everyone will get their parking back.

    Let’s just see how it works out. Yes this is part of a larger paradigm shift but it is a compromised solution as it is.

  • No bmwlover, because we can continue back and forth, and I can put in the effort to contradict your arguments which you seem not to really be open to listening to (as others said, you just ignore things), and it really just comes down to a lot that you seem to not have learned yet, being apparently a new reader here. Check back at the grocery store article, for instance, where Matthew linked a couple of very important past articles for you.

    In contrast to your narrative that we’re “close-minded”, most of us, if not all, were already brought up with unquestioned automobile-centric ideology and have learned enough now to break through it with resources like Streetsblog. I grew up in a suburb, pretty much only drove a car around, and didn’t think much farther of it than trying to save gas. Basically, years ago, I might have came in and said a lot of the same arguments you are now (except I’d read up first before talking). But seriously, go back and do research on what Streetsblog’s covered in the past year and a half and then come in and try to “challenge” our supposedly “stubborn” viewpoints.

    Maybe it’s not that we’re closed to other’s opinions, but that we’ve already past these notions which we might’ve already held ourselves previously. I said I gave up because I don’t feel like trying to teach you. You act like you’ve got it all figured out, yet there is so much contradictory information and strong arguments which I don’t feel like doing the leg-work of writing out for you. Essentially, you’re coming into this community brandishing loudly your colors as a newcomer.

  • Actually, let me sort of revise a bit. Not everything you’re saying is so completely wrong. It’s just that you’ve made tons of polarizing, exaggerated generalizations about us and what we advocate, it’s quite annoying, if not insulting. It’s just a lot of work to argue back when we have to step so far back and explain that what you’ve just plainly assumed is wrong. You’re doing a whole lot of “straw-man” arguing.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Isn’t it odd that the people with the windshield perspective are calling North Beach a dying district, when the Times named it on of the best neighborhoods in the entire USA?

  • patrick

    @bmwlover, I called your post 65 a troll post, and I stand by it. It added nothing to the discussion.

    In my opinion saying that somebody is ranting is an insult.

    I think you’d be a better devil’s advocate if you actually had some substance behind your statements, or if it were at least something that hasn’t been said many times over.

  • I owns a BMW and love to drive it. Yes, I really enjoy driving my car (even in the city, though I try to take transit and, especially, walk as much as possible).

    I also think that these mini-parks are awesome. Sure, they’re not going to save the city, but they’re a small step in the right direction and can only help make living here more pleasant. ‘

    Just wanted to share that in light of the current conversation.

  • bmwlover – I don’t care if you stay or go. I just won’t respond to you anymore, for the reasons others have clearly stated. Sooner or later everyone will come to the same conclusion, you will be in the corner of the sandbox and get bored, then you’ll leave.

    It is always thus.

  • the greasybear

    Streetsblog is a community formed around shared principles thta helps connect people and channel energy toward more complete, livable streets. We’re but one part of a larger movement nationally and internationally. Constructive dissent has always enlivened our vigorous debates, while trolling has done nothing constructive for anyone, ever.

    What to make of one who shows up via SFGate and promptly ignores our real ideas in favor of knocking over straw men, belittles and smears the community and its members as ‘intolerant’ and ‘closed-minded’ only because we won’t abandon our values, who literally sneers at all comers? If there must be collaboration with the Chronicle, then Streetsblog must better handle the inevitable trolls. Nothing bmwlover has written–nothing–is novel, constructive, informative or enlightening. Is there an end to this kind of hit-and-run toxicity, or will this site eventually become an ancillary SFGate trollfest?

  • “What to make of one who shows up via SFGate and promptly ignores our real ideas in favor of knocking over straw men, belittles and smears the community and its members as ‘intolerant’ and ‘closed-minded’ only because we won’t abandon our values, who literally sneers at all comers?”

    Hit the nail on the head.

  • i visited this parklet earlier this week. i really like the materials and design. i wonder if the bike parking wouldn’t be better served with more seating, especially since there’s all these additional bike parking spaces on valencia now.

    but overall, i love the concept and the execution. looks great. would love to see more elsewhere in the city!

  • icarus12

    A late comment here. I am glad my initial comment about needing parking garages in North Beach and comparing North Beach to Valencia Street helped spark discussion. I certainly learned from it — about NB’s history, the variety of problems that contribute to its commercial decline, etc.

    But I do think the dissenters (very much in the minority) here have a point. If you want a blog that initiates lively and conflicting discussions, everybody has to avoid the snark. Otherwise, this blog will go the way of so many others — preaching to the choir. I don’t think Streetsblog wants that future.

  • icarus12

    Oh, and I forgot to add that when a majority of opinionators pile on a dissenter like BMWlover it’s worse than when a dissenter is sarcastic or a bit snarky. That’s because the majority, without meaning to, sends a message that expressing such dissent will be an unpleasant experience. Few people, especially women I’ve found, have a thick enough skin to withstand that post after post. Dissenters go away and the forum suffers.

  • jerboa

    Parklets are nice. I always pack my own lunch. I save $4,698 per year over what I’d spend at venues these parklets are in front of. It used to be I’d have to sit/lie on the sidewalk. Parklets offer an alternative.

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