Proposed Parklets on Valencia and Post Streets Draw Praise at SFDPW Hearing

This temporary park in front of Ritual Roasters is expected to be transformed into a permanent parklet. Photo: Bryan Goebel
This temporary park done for PARK(ing) Day in front of Ritual Roasters is an example of how a permanent parklet could enliven the street. Photo: Bryan Goebel

An enthusiastic audience of supporters who lamented the lack of public space in their neighborhoods attended a San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW) hearing at City Hall this morning on proposed parklets in front Ritual Coffee Roasters on Valencia Street and farm:table coffee on Post Street. Supporters of the parklets testified that converting a few parking spots into vibrant spaces for people will enliven their streets and benefit their neighborhoods.

Eileen Hassi, the owner of Ritual, told the hearing officer that she has been trying to establish a park in front of her business at 1026 Valencia Street since it first opened in 2005. She said Ritual has been a strong supporter and participant in PARK(ing) Day and that the only complaints she’s heard from neighbors are that there are too many people on the sidewalks and that bicycles often clutter the area.

“Personally, I think these are good problems to have and the parklet is a great solution to both of these problems,” said Hassi, who added that many neighbors who aren’t Ritual customers have enjoyed the transformation of the parking spaces on PARK(ing) Day and would benefit from a permanent parklet because it would be public space. In addition, on-street bicycle parking would be added.

“I’m not a customer but they have been an excellent neighbor,” said Amandeep Jawa, a resident in the neighborhood and livable streets advocate. “Fundamentally, the problem on Valencia is not successful businesses. The problem on Valencia is that we have very narrow sidewalks and Valencia Street is a pedestrian street in spite of itself.”

Nearly 20 people showed up at the hearing to support the Ritual parklet and not one person spoke out against it. The Great Streets Project, and other supporters, sent letters and emails from neighbors and businesses to SFDPW that far outweighed the few letters opposing it.

A parklet will soon grace the front of Farm:Table on Post Street. Photo: Luke Stewart
A parklet will soon grace the front of farm:table on Post Street. Photo: Luke Stewart

A number of people also showed up to testify in support of a proposed parklet [pdf] in front of farm:table on Post Street between Leavenworth and Jones, a dense neighborhood where a majority of residents do not own cars. A coffee shop with chairs and tables on the sidewalk has fronted the building at 754 Post Street since 1989, according to Jonathan Lowell, who manages the property and supports the installation of the parklet.

Lowell explained that it’s a place “where neighbors have gathered for the past 20 plus years” but “the streets themselves serve the motoring public.” Indeed, Post Street is a one-way arterial along with many other streets in the neighborhood that have seen a number of crashes over the years involving drivers and pedestrians.

“Pedestrian conditions are far from optimal. There was a fatal collision a couple of blocks away and we believe we should do as much as possible to improve conditions in the area. We believe this parklet will be a major improvement,” Elizabeth Stampe, the executive director of Walk San Francisco, told the hearing officer.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who represents the area, sent a letter of support [pdf] and also pointed out that the existing pedestrian amenities in the neighborhood are scarce.

Image: Luke Stewart
The proposed layout for the Post Street parklet. Image: Luke Stewart

“Perhaps because of the great need for the space and the public benefits that the parklet would provide, the parklet design for 754 Post Street has generated a very positive response from the surrounding neighborhood and local businesses,” Chiu wrote. “In a dense mixed-use neighborhood such as this one, providing a safe space for neighbors to gather is a vital function of the public realm — a function that the existing conditions on this block do not adequately address.”

The owners of farm:table said the parklet’s street furniture would be present during business hours from 7am-4pm and the owners of the building would take responsibility for being the stewards of the space. They stressed that it wouldn’t have the feel that it was part of farm:table, but would be public space designed for anyone to use.

An SFDPW representative said the letters of support for the project overshadowed those opposed to it by a 4-to-1 ratio. The only two people who testified against the parklet, both residents of the building, complained about the difficulty of parking in the neighborhood.

“We do have a park three blocks down,” one of the opponents testified. “It’s called Union Square.”

A decision on whether to grant permits for both of the parklets is expected in about two weeks. The earliest they could be installed is sometime in late January. The two proposed parklets were among 23 parklet projects recently selected by SFDPW as part of the city’s Pavement to Parks program.

  • LarryWilson

    I am not sure how having people and bikes blocking the sidewalk in front of Ritual is in anyway a “good” problem. I doubt that this parklet will solve the problem — it only got worse on Parking days. I am not opposed to parklets, but if Ritual is going to claim some public space in order to expand their seating (which is what is happening here, even if non-customers can use the space), then they should be putting more effort into ensuring that those who want to use the sidewalk are able to.

  • nimby

    The City really needs to work on outreach and actually enforce and improve their guidelines/processes. I don’t know if you’re selectively quoting, but usually people complain about noise more than parking. It’s pretty simple to craft a sign/notice that clarifies the seating is not late night and in so doing piss off fewer immediate neighbors — I believe chairs are required to be removed before 10 for these parklets. The guidelines also recommend signatures from immediate neighbors.

    There are clear noise impacts in the day and evening that are introduced with widened sidewalks and outdoor seating in areas that didn’t have those impacts before. To my knowledge, those impacts are not mentioned or mitigated in the new streets plan or the general permitting of street use. It’s a shame that they’ve been ignored, but good that the parklet process recommends immediate neighbor signatures — it would be great to reduce the gang mentality/politics around some of these impacts. Planning shouldnt be a popularity contest.

  • I went by to the North Beach parklet in front of Greco cafe the other day. I think every cafe owner is going to become an enthusiastic backers of parklets. They have added 4 tables in that space, not a big increase in the total amount of tables i nthe grand scheme. What it does is it complete liven up the atmosphere of that part of side walk. It give certain vibe that clearly established Greco cafe as the place to be. I also enjoy the scene very much as a customer.

  • Larry and nimby – if these concerns were real, they would have manifested themselves in the current locations. They haven’t.

    Personally, I think that claiming Ritual is claiming public space for private business here means that Dolores Park Cafe is claiming Dolores Park as private.

    What’s amusing in nimby’s description is that whatever extra foot traffic is brought to this location by a parklet is substantially less than the noise that has been removed from the street by the overall streetscape changes Valencia has seen over the past decades – removal of large amounts of traffic.

    And frankly, having talked to some Mission Retailers recently about their Xmas business, we need to do everything we can for all of those businesses or Valencia will get a lot more quiet.

  • Nick

    Oh shucks, now I won’t be able to idle my car at an unpaid meter while drinking Ritual coffee with the windows rolled up anymore. Installing a parklet is totally using public space for private business.

  • This is super awesome. Whole hearted support from me, and the N Judah Chronicles! I love Valencia Street’s rebirth and it makes me want to return there via the 22 or the 24th St. BART. It’s way walkable and people there are just really nice. I love it.

    I’d love to see the same support from the community for the parklet for Arizmendi/Inner Sunset and the other at Trouble Coffee/Outer Sunset!

    Not holding my breath, since of course, y’all aren’t cool with us. We in the bleak outerlands are “conservative” and “bad.” EVERYONE has a stereotype about the westside. Which I’m sick of.

    But prove me wrong, and show the same support for our projects, and we can have baguette pieces and breadsticks at Arizemendi, on me. (Provolone/Olive rolls and Cheese rolls for non vegans)

    Cool?

  • Greg – you had everyone at hello, then you went and ruined it!

  • disco burritos

    It seems to me that the sidewalks on Valencia are much too marrow for the amount of foot traffic that street is getting nowadays. I was out recently on a friday night and ended up walking on the street for at least a few carlwngths on every block just to get around people. It’s been more bearable in the day time, but I’d love to see the sidewalks widen up over there.

    Additionally, as somebody who cycles along Valencia pretty regularly, I wouldn’t mind seeing the cars parked on the street diverted into garage parking so that I could actually ride the entire length of those new bike lanes without having get around all those bad parallel parkers.

  • gibraltar

    On the one hand I’m for it of course, but only in the sense I would vote for Obama over a Republican. That doesn’t make Obama not the deeply flawed and ineffectual “leader” that he turned out to be.

    Sure, we should reclaim space from automobiles. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not offended by the word “parklet”, and that the picture above of Ritual’s “parklet” is not revoltingly ugly to my senses, and that it does not make an embarrassing farce of the idea of public space. A few scraggly shrubs in muddy 10 gallon nursery containers, and a few square feet of turf from Home Depot… give me a break.

    We keep hearing that this is the way to change the way our city looks and works and thinks, but even one shred of evidence for this has yet to materialize. Whose idea is this? It makes the city look uglier in my opinion. Granted, it takes away parking. But on the other hand, is this really the most efficient way to fight parking?

    And of course, as a district 11 resident, I sympathize with Greg. You all enjoy sipping your cappuccinos on the “wooden bench” in front of the “reclaimed fence”. How cool.

    This all reminds me of JHK’s “nature band-aids”:

    “Urbanism per se is in still in complete discredit in the United States. The only solution that we tend to bring to our failures of urbanism are what I refer to as nature Band-Aids—the landscaping fantasias, the bark mulch, the juniper beds, intended to hide the blank walls of the post-modern buildings, the berms, the buffers, and all the rest of the tricks from the landscaping industry. Now in a way it seems to me that this comes from the Garden City idea—that somewhere in the early twentieth century we decided that the city just wasn’t any good and that we basically had to replace it with the country.” ~ James Howard Kunstler

  • dHard

    Jesus christ people… GUESS WHAT. People own cars and, you know, drive them and need to find a place to park them. Parkets are such a F*cking stupid idea. Sitting on some janky ass pavers with potted plants RIGHT next to where cars are tearing past (presumably because the driver is pissed that they can’t find a goddam parking spot) isn’t something I would consider to be a pleasant experience.
    ALSO I HATE HATE HATE Ritual and all it’s smug little D-bag followers. “Ooooh Look at us fighting those evil car drivers!” How quickly their tune changes when they can’t find a parking spot themselves.

  • dHard – people own cars. “smug” people own bikes.

    If you hate Ritual, you probably won’t miss these spots. Have a nice day.

  • yimby

    @dHard – on 1 point I wholeheartedly agree with you: sitting outside in a parklet as you describe sounds horrible and dangerous. but not because of the “janky-ass” pavers or the potted plants. Nope, it’s the part about “cars tearing by” that sounds like a problem.

    As for why you might rant and rave about how awful plants and pavers and parklets are, while in the same breath defending reckless driving on our streets… I’ll leave that for the “D-bags” over at Ritual to figure out.

    These are city streets we’re talking about. Not parking lots, not highways. If you need to drive around the City in a car, go for it. But recognize that SF’s public rights-of-way are not wholly devoted to private cars and car-storage.

  • The photograph is of a PARK(ing) Day installation, not the as yet non-existant parklet. I suppose the diagram sucks because it’s not an expensive 3D environment, too.

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