Parklets Begin Sprouting Up on Polk Street

The new parklet in front of Crepe House on Polk Street and Washington. Photo: Bryan Goebel

A parklet movement is springing to life along Polk Street. An installation completed last week in front of Crepe House near Washington has already been buzzing with activity while a second parklet began construction this week in front of Quetzal, a popular cafe with sidewalk seating on Polk Street between Sutter and Bush.

Although it’s surrounded by some of the densest neighborhoods on the West Coast, Polk Street lacks adequate public space. It’s also a major north-south bicycling corridor.

“I’ve been complaining all semester that there’s no place to sit down on the terrace. I’m ecstatic that this is here. I’ll be coming more,” said Claire Toussaint, who lives a block away from Crepe House, and was enjoying her lunch in the new parklet today with friends and fellow students from the Academy of Art.

“It’s great in any neighborhood,” said Lorris Williams, who was sitting alongside Toussaint. “Cars aren’t exactly beautiful on the side of a street. The less cars can park on the street is generally better for the street.”

The view of the Crepe House parklet from across the street. Photo: Bryan Goebel

“I think it’s exciting,” said Steve Black, the owner of Lush Lounge on lower Polk Street, who is trying to bring a farmer’s market to the alley adjacent to his bar where a new mural is going to be painted soon.

“When I first opened my business on the corner of Post and Polk and I saw somebody running down the street, they were running from somebody. Now, when I see somebody running it’s joggers and people enjoying the neighborhood,” said Black, who added that the parklets are long overdue and he would like to see more.

A new parklet begins construction in front of Quetzal on Polk Street. Photo: Bryan Goebel
A rendering of the Quetzal parklet.

Research conducted by interns for the Great Streets Project shows a demand for parklets on Polk Street. They spent some time talking to people on the stretch of Polk Street where Quetzal’s parklet is being installed:

  • Of the 31 people surveyed, 77 percent of people came to the area by foot. The majority of people (74 percent) lived nearby in the same or another neighborhood, but only 61 percent  agreed the area has a strong positive community character.  For a similar survey along Divisadero Street, 80 percent thought the area had a strong positive community character before a parklet was installed, and this increased to 90 percent after.
  • 67 percent said they would come more often or much more often if the area had more public places to sit, 55 percent said they would come more often or much more often it it were easier to come and go by walking.
  • When asked what would make the street a better place to spend time, the majority of comments related to increasing police presence and addressing problems with drugs and homelessness. Other comments included more types of businesses, cleaner overall and street improvements such as fixed potholes, better crosswalks, and more places to sit.

District 3 Supervisor and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who represents Polk Street, said he is happy to see the parklets being installed.

“New public spaces will make this vibrant street even more active. We also have the opportunity to create one of the first protected bike lanes in the city on Polk, and I’m actively working to help make it happen,” said Chiu.

  • doomer

     I love the parklets and I want to see more

  • mikesonn

     Thanks for the story Bryan. Now, can we add a couple bike corrals into the Polk mix?

  • Anonymous

    Removing parking – LOVE THEM!  🙂

  • First protected bike lanes in the city on Polk?  When?  How will they be configured?

    Favorite quotes:
    “Cars aren’t exactly beautiful on the side of a street. The less cars
    can park on the street is generally better for the street.”

    “For a similar survey along Divisadero Street, 80 percent thought the
    area had a strong positive community character before a parklet was
    installed, and this increased to 90 percent after.”

    I think it can’t be emphasized enough that these small things that get people out into their community, interested in their community, less alienated from their community are vital to the health of that community.

    What if for the summer Polk (between, say, Eddy and Union) became a bus, bike and pedestrian only street? It’d be an interesting experiment.

  • EL

    This photo of the parklet in front of the Crepe House demonstrates how this public space is being monopolized as an extension of Crepe House’s retail space.  There aren’t any fixed seats for non-customers to enjoy.  Heck, there aren’t even enough seats to fill half the parklet!

     

  • Guest

     anyone is welcome to hang out in the parklet near the crepe house. it is not only for patrons of that restaurant.

  • mikesonn

    On that note, ALL parklets are public space.

  • mikesonn

     Non-customers can enjoy non-fixed seats. This one includes bike parking, which I think should be moved to the parking spot just to the north with a corral.

  • EL

    You mean they are welcome to enjoy a space with no tables or chairs or amenities for non-customers?  Look at the photos yourself.  I already know what the parklet is SUPPOSED to be.  It obviously isn’t that in practice.

  • mikesonn

    The business is busy and the people who are there are customers. If a table opens up and you happen to be walking by, then sit down. The point is that they won’t (and can’t) kick you out. Also, it appears that the group took all the tables and moved them together so that is not the usual set up for the parklet. When I walk by next, I’ll snap a picture.

    Question, what happens when all the tables are taken by people not using the business? Nothing, it’s the same as when all tables are taken by people who are using the business.

  • mikesonn

    “demonstrates how this public space is being monopolized as an extension of Crepe House’s retail space.”

    I’d love to hear you comment on on-street parking.

  • EL

    mikesonn – When you check it out, can you see where they installed signs (if any) that state that the parklet is publicly accessible?  It’s one of the parklet requirements and doesn’t appear readily visible in the photos.  Another “strong recommendation” of parklet design (according to the Pavements to Parks website) is the installation of FIXED benches and seats to avoid the monopoly you see in the photos.  Obviously, there aren’t any at Crepe House.

    I wonder why the Planning Department overlooked it, especially when there are already plenty of parklet applications that have been submitted.

  • EL

    mikesonn – I found some photos of the Crepe House parklet online.  See this link:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/geekstinkbreath/sets/72157626688678816/

    You can see the forks, napkins, tabasco bottles, etc. on UNOCCUPIED tables.  Now does that look like publicly accessible space to you, or is that retail space?

  • mikesonn

    @aab6d03eb78119ada48b049629f44938:disqus This looks like a posed picture.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/geekstinkbreath/5712589272/in/set-72157626688678816/

    I’m confused, are you just against this design, against parklets in general, or just ones in front of cafes? Even if it is as bad as you say it is (which I disagree, but for the sake of argument), isn’t this still a better use of space than parking? Isn’t parking the very definition of private use of public space? Maybe, instead of parklets, we allow people to sit on the hoods of cars that park on the street?
     

  • EL

     I have no problem with parklets as public space – like this one in Noe Valley.

    http://sf.streetsblog.org/2011/05/05/businesses-eager-to-apply-for-parklets-as-new-request-for-proposals-issued/

    The one in front of the Crepe House isn’t even close to public space.  If it’s retail space, then they should pay the City retail rates for the square footage occupied – not the pathetically low $221 annual fee.

    Now doesn’t that sound like market based pricing?  That’s my take on on-street parking.

  • @aab6d03eb78119ada48b049629f44938:disqus  I’m in the East Bay, I visited SF recently and walked by a parklet. While it was mostly occupied by people that appeared to be dining outdoor the adjacent restaurant there was a sign stating that the parklet was public space.

  • mikesonn

    Since we are complaining about the parklet in front of The Crepe House, is there a way to move that bike rack? I’m still thinking that a bike corral in that parking space between the parklet and the intersection would be perfect.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/geekstinkbreath/5712028047/in/set-72157626688678816

  • EL

     mikesonn – I’m against this particular design at Crepe House, not parklets in general.

    I have no problem with parklets as public space, like this one:

    http://sf.streetsblog.org/2011/05/05/businesses-eager-to-apply-for-parklets-as-new-request-for-proposals-issued/

    The
    one in front of the Crepe House isn’t even close to public space.  If
    it’s retail space, then they should pay the City retail rates for the
    square footage occupied – not the pathetically low $221 annual fee.

    Now doesn’t that sound like market based pricing?  That’s my take on on-street parking by the way.

    And this does this look like a posed picture (same set by the way)?

  • mikesonn

    I saw your other response. I agree the design could use some tweeking and brings up the issue of private vs public use of the space. However, my argument, that even if this isn’t the “ideal” design, it is still a positive because it removes the ALWAYS private use of public space that is parking.

  • EL

     And my argument is that this design is only marginally positive because “it removes the ALWAYS private use of public spaces that is parking” and replaces it with “the NEARLY ALWAYS private use of public space by the sponsoring business’ customers and ALWAYS USELESS public space when the tables/chairs are packed away during non-business hours”.

  • Cavan

    Who in their RIGHT mind sits outside in San Francisco’s climate, or bikes in it either 🙂 

  • mikesonn

    Then you and I won’t find common ground. Maybe someone else can chime in.

  • guest

    No one else is chiming in because EL’s gripe is utterly baseless. People believe what they want to believe, and in EL’s case, first-come, first-served tables can’t exist outside a restaurant. Never mind that if this were a park with grass, with picnic tables, no one would be having this discussion. So really, what else can one say? 

  • guest

    Maybe I’m just a grouch who can’t understand irony, but is SFGate-type humor really worth your time to post here?  

  • EL

    Utterly baseless?  I already said I don’t have a problem with parklets, like the one in Noe Valley with fixed benches and furniture where it’s blatently obvious (in addition to a sign) that shows that it’s public space.  I have a problem with parklets where all the furniture is movable, all of “public space amenities” disappear during non-business hours, and the business implies that the space is for retail purposes by setting Tabasco sauce bottles on the tables.

  • Anonymous

    @EL – funny how you call it “The one in front of Crepe House” and the other one is “this one”, when everyone in Noe Valley calls it “The Martha’s Parklet”. I don’t see a lot of Happy Donuts Coffee being sipped at the one in front of Martha’s.

  • Anonymous

    @EL – funny how you call it “The one in front of Crepe House” and the other one is “this one”, when everyone in Noe Valley calls it “The Martha’s Parklet”. I don’t see a lot of Happy Donuts Coffee being sipped at the one in front of Martha’s.

  • Anonymous

    @EL – funny how you call it “The one in front of Crepe House” and the other one is “this one”, when everyone in Noe Valley calls it “The Martha’s Parklet”. I don’t see a lot of Happy Donuts Coffee being sipped at the one in front of Martha’s.

  • mikesonn

    @aab6d03eb78119ada48b049629f44938:disqus I don’t think your complaint is utterly baseless. And if an establishment chooses to have this design of a parklet, then they should pay the city a higher fee (or maybe even a monthly fee) that is at least comparative to the revenue of the parking meters. However, to say this is any worse than using the space for parking is far-fetched. If this space was still parking, cars would be parked for free well before this business closes and for the entire day on Sunday when I’m sure this parklet is busiest.

  • EL

    Not if there’s nighttime meters and Sunday meters, which I think is inevitable since the research clearly proves that it’s justified.  Isn’t it Interesting that the subject hasn’t come up again, even though there are 2 new MTA board members, Gavin has already left the City, and the current mayor has no desire to run for office?

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